I have for long thought of myself as a feminist, partly as the result of growing up in a matrilineal Kerala family; and to this day I marvel at how much more solicitous Kerala men are about their womenfolk as compared to the experiences of my female friends from other parts of the country. That is not, by any means, to claim that all is wonderful in Kerala for women, but let’s defer that for a moment.
What startles me is how the official feminist movement seems to have deteriorated sharply over the last few years, to the extent that I now hesitate to count myself among them. In essence, I believe that the movement has been infiltrated and hijacked by vested interests, so that it is a travesty of the legitimate struggle for women’s empowerment that it once was.
It is also the case that, despite much propaganda, it is the Western woman who has always had the need for empowerment and agency. There is a telling statistic. The Bible suggests that a woman is worth 72 shekels to 100 for a man. The latest data I have found suggests that, after decades of struggle, a Western woman now earns 82 per cent of what a man earns. That is not much progress in 2,000 years for white women. I suspect in India, at least in professional positions, there is less of a wage gap.
Furthermore, the problems of white women are different from those of Indian women. It comes from societal attitudes. A white woman is defined by her sexual attractiveness, so she is at her most powerful in her twenties, with an unlined face and firm breasts and cellulite-free thighs. Many fortyish women are abandoned by their husbands for their 25-year-old secretaries. All this is in contrast with how women gain power as they age and become matriarchs in India. So it’s facile and false to assume that there’s a ‘white woman’s burden’ to ‘civilise’ Indian women, or that their solutions are appropriate in our context.
The ‘mother’ meme is much more important in India as compared to the West. This can be seen in the very positioning of Christianity: in the West, the Madonna is a relatively unimportant figure, and it is the males that are key. In India, however, to appeal to the mother figure, the Velankanni Madonna cult is brought to the forefront, and it does work.
Nevertheless, it was the recent Woman’s March against Trump that brought some of these contradictions to the forefront. It was supremely paradoxical to note that for people who have consistently asked not to be defined by their bodies, it was specifically their bodies, and in particular their vulvas, that were up front and centre in the demonstration.
In addition, there were the ‘pussy hats’ (two-cornered, preferably pink knitted hats) that many wore, and also, rather startlingly, the wearing of the American flag as a hijab (a Muslim head-covering for women). It appears as though doctrinaire Lefties and Muslims have taken over the feminist movement. As an example, one of the leaders of the march was Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American, seen elsewhere berating Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a prominent ex-Muslim activist and victim of Female Genital Mutilation, suggesting that she (Ayaan) didn’t deserve a vagina!
Similarly, in India, the real problems of women (and God knows there are many) don’t seem to concern the so-called feminists such as one Trupti Desai (whose main concern is the breaking of Hindu traditions) or the folks behind the legal assault on the Sabarimala tradition of women waiting till menopause to make their pilgrimage (intriguingly, these people are not even Hindu or female). The #ReadyToWait campaign by ordinary Hindu women exposed these ‘feminists’ as agents provocateurs. They are leading a proxy assault on Hinduism.
It was startling to see that there was silence from feminists in India over the extremely brutal murder of a Scheduled Caste law student, Jisha. And over the horrifying and brutal rape and murder of Sowmya, who was chased around a train, pushed on to the tracks, raped and then had her head bashed in with a stone. And about the murder of Pallavi Purkayastha by a security guard in her building. Not one of these excited them, although it is true that Jyoti Singh Pandey’s tragic end did get attention, but that was from the general public, not necessarily from the feminist crowd.
But what did excite them was the controversy over Rani Padmini. Here’s a tweet from an obscure journalist:
It is interesting that she casually downplays the kind of ‘life’ that awaited Rani Padmini and the other Rajput women if they were captured by Allauddin Khiji’s army. Many would have ended up in the slave markets of Teheran and Kabul. A plausible example of that ‘life’ is what is happening today to Yazidi sex-slaves. They are violently gang-raped multiple times daily in all their orifices, leaving them bleeding continuously, and often picking up terrible diseases as well. This is ‘life’? Many Yazidi women have killed themselves, unable to endure.
I was reading about the life of Deval Devi, a Gujarati princess, who was captured by Khilji for his son, Khizr Khan, to whom she was married after converting. Shortly, someone murdered Khizr Khan, and abducted Deval Devi into his harem. In turn, he was murdered by his slave lover, who, of course, abducted Deval Devi into his own harem. Some ‘life’, indeed.
It is also paradoxical because feminists often thunder that they have the right to choice, and to have control over their bodies, which is absolutely true. But here is a woman, Rani Padmini, exercising her right to choose. She chooses not to be raped by a barbarian. Furthermore, knowing that even her dead body may not be safe from necrophiliacs, she chooses to burn herself. Why is Rani Padmini denied that choice? Why should a modern woman, in presumably different circumstances, decide what was ‘appropriate’ to a Rajput Rani in 1300 CE? In fact, the journalist is guilty of the very thing she accuses others of: she is deciding what the Rani should do, based on her own standards.
In addition, I have just noticed another case in which feminists betrayed one of their own. Lakshmi Nair, incidentally a Lefist, has been running the Kerala Law Academy, as well as being a popular TV personality in travel and cookery shows. An agitation has started, alleging mismanagement, casteism, torture, financial hanky-panky, and so on. Most of these are probably gross exaggerations or fabrications. But not a single feminist opened her mouth to suggest that this was an assault by the patriarchy on a successful woman manager, who has been humiliated. Not even though she was one of the Left.
In sum, the feminist movement that started with such hope in the US in the 1960s with personalities like Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem has now metamorphosed into something altogether different. And as for those brown sepoys bearing the white woman’s burden, they are driven by other, less noble agendas.
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