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Of Femininity And Feminism January 18, 2010

Posted by Gomathi Reddy in Desi Indian, Love and Life, Personal.
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13th January, 2010

Sometime last week, I was waiting outside of an ATM – There was another person waiting in tow, as the ATM was getting experimented and tortured by a newbie. I was patient, because I had no other choice. Then, there comes this burly middle-aged man, walks past me, barges into the ATM room, and waits for the newbie to complete his workings with his play toy…er the ATM.

I was in one of those impertinent moods not to put up with such brazen and callous attitude. I walked in, and politely asked him to queue up. He throws me a dirty look and says, “What’s your problem?” I am aghast! Is there any chivalry left in men – Is there any civility left in the human race? “I am sorry, It would be good for you to take the queue. We are waiting too.” He just gives one more of his dirty looks, sizes me up and with blatant aggression asks, “What will you do? Ha?” Arre…whats wrong with this guy? This is my reaction. But I back off.

Is there any point talking sense to such folks? And then I hear a few more men, supporting this guy! Can you believe it – they got close to being a brothers-in-arms against a woman – Rattling off in Telugu, they were saying that women should know their place in the society. So what if he has barged in?. They said all this, assuming that I do not understand Telugu. I do, and I had this silly pleasure of wanting to listen to all that they had to say in Telugu, and give them the shock of their lives. Then I gave up – This is such an audacious community that femininity is often “described” and “handled” with pseudo respect, because it has always been controlled and contrived to suit the male domain – Femininity is never about challenging a male  intellectually, never to compliment the male, never to be respected in spirit – but only to be subjugated.

The ATM incident is only one of the many, that I observe, that the average Indian middle class woman puts up with.  It all starts at home, across the road, across relationships and across day-to-day activities. Everything ends up making you, wanting to stand up for yourself, that you eventually get branded as a feminist (and a chauvinist at that) and then some introspection makes you wonder if this is what  your gender imposes on you.

Is this an issue of gender or of culture?

Is this a perception of the average, educated woman or is this a problem that pervades the society, so much so that there is no time to keep raising flags?

Is the notion of ‘Bharatiya Naari’ a myth that is kept alive, so that woman can benchmark their behavior to this image, and end up feeling more guilty?

Does education and economic independence allow a woman to question these dogmas or are they a bane on the natural ability of a woman to stay feminine?

I know women who are absolute homemakers, not well-educated or endowed(in any sphere), but know how to wrap their men around their little fingers – I must say they are lot more peaceful and secure, as women, and seem to know the rightful place of things – including the men in their lives.  In contrast, an independent woman constantly faces the task of having to explain, in words, deeds and actions as to why her independence is never a threat to anybody, but only an expression of her place in the Universe. But, believe me, in my society, it is one hard job!  But if you have a man who can go with the tag  “Father” or  “Husband” the society assumes you have a place to go back to and that it cannot take any chances with you – The fact that these men could be the real abusers of the woman at home, is a different issue altogether.  It is almost like a silent pact among men that ensures that each man has at least one target board (read woman) of his choice and the rest would not threaten him, even on that!

Right from foetal tests that castigate a girl baby, and well up to the grave, a woman in India goes through a lot of acrimony that she has no other choice, than to be a survivor at any cost.  And if you have chosen to live your life on your terms, then your different phases in life can teach you some valuable lessons on survival – this is almost akin to becoming a samurai warrior in penance.

The inequality of gender starts right from language. Even languages subjugate women.  For instance, while in English you have a masculine form for widow – i.e. widower, in Tamil, the equivalent word for a widow is ‘Vidhavi‘, but there is none for a widower.  In some sections of the Tamil society, he is referred to as a ‘pudu mappillai‘ meaning they are new grooms, ready to get married.   In such a situation, in a society that is in transition, when women believe in empowering themselves, what happens to the femininity in a woman?  Is she ready to sacrifice this basic trait of hers towards empowering herself, and be a samurai survivor? She does, sometimes.

In my opinion, feminism is the opposite of femininity and poses a challenge to a women in respecting her own natural desires and basic essence of life.  But nevertheless, she chooses to be a feminist and stands up for herself, despite this awareness, because she is AWARE not just of her own femininity, but of every thing around her – including the men in her life, and their attitudes.

But, most often than not, it is the man in a woman’s life  who makes her feminine – It is his chivalry which brings the feminine nature of a woman to the fore.

And, to me, there is only one man in my life who brings the femininity in me – He allows me to be his companion, cherishes my inputs, knows when to listen and when to offer inputs, gives me the pleasure of being empathetic of his turmoil in his turbulent world and just lets me be, and still never ever judges me.  He makes me laugh, he makes me cry, he makes me lose the meaning of the word ‘ego’ and allows me to do all that to him – We are equals. We are soul mates.

To everyone else I am a feminist and I wear this attitude on my sleeve.

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