Look I know that I am wading into dangerous territory talking about feminism but please bear/beer/bare (choose as applicable) with me.
By nature, I am anti “-ism”…in fact the only ‘ism’ I support is prism (geometry and optics not NSA). However, I do understand the need for feminism, especially in a country like India, where female infanticide is still prevalent and domestic violence is as common as breakfast.
What I do find weird is the execution.
A few cases in point
The clamour for 33.3% reservation in parliament. Just what exactly will that achieve? The idea behind it about empowering women is good, no doubt about that. The voiceless need a voice, especially in a country like India, where in many places cattle have more value than women.
But will merely handling out reservation help the cause?
India already has some of the strongest female politicians in the world – Sonia Gandhi, Maneka Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, Jayalalitha, Mayawati, Didi, Brinda Karat to name a few (am deliberately living out the likes of Supriya Sule, the Munde sisters, Kavitha etc who joined politics because of their fathers). With the possible exception for Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, none of them were handed anything, they fought and struggled from the lowest level to reach the heights that they have reached.
On the other hand, we have the likes of Rabri Devi, Prathibha Patil, Shikha Mitra (Somen’s wife), YSR’s widow etc. Its quite clear to everyone, even to those of the lowest intellect with IQs below 50…or in other words Arsenal fans….that these ladies are nothing but political puppets at the hands of their husbands or sons.
And unfortunately, the majority of the women Councillors and MLAs fall into this category. So what is going to happen when we have that reservation? We will have more than 100 women MPs who will have all the responsibilities and liabilities but none of the power.
So how does that help anyone, least of all the women representatives?
Look we already have examples of reservations not really working. For example, we have had reservations in schools, colleges and in government workforce for scheduled castes and tribes. It has definitely improved the conditions of some.
But the Dalits are still being maltreated everywhere in India, the tribes, especially the ones in central India are being massacred and their homes and livelihoods are getting destroyed.
So have the reservations really helped them?
You may argue that it has helped some of them and I will agree. That brings me to another issue, I agree that due to historic exploitation, certain backward sections of the society deserve some special privileges, but the question is for how long?
Say person A, a backward, gets privileges in his school and college and get a government job. Fair enough, his son or daughter also gets the same. His grandkids will get them, so will his great grandkids….but why? What crime has your great granddaughter or son done that she or he will have to suffer when compared to a girl or boy of the same age who come from a privileged background?
The point I am making is that blanket reservations do not really help, especially in the long term. It hasnt helped in the matter of castes and tribes and will likely not work in the matter of genders.
[The reservation will only make sense if we have a complete overhaul of the political system, especially when its about parliament elections. Universal franchise is needed when ti comes to councillor or panchayat elections or even for the state assemblies, but when it comes to matters on national interest, it is stupid. We are basically trusting the judgments of illiterates, idiots, insanes, inebriateds and Arsenal fans (in Arsene they trust) to know what is best for the country. There should be a rule that you have to be a post-graduate or at least a graduate to be eligible to vote in parliamentary elections.]
Now lets talk about those Havell’s Ads. The message here is Respect Women. So far so good – though I am of the opinion that you can’t give respect willynilly; respect has to be earned through your actions, that’s why people like Jyotika Khullar deserve all the respect in the world whereas Mr. Are You Serious Vadra or Mr Kejriwal deserve none.
Should I respect the woman who killed her babies or the one who strapped bombs to herself and blew up schoolchildren or all those morons who are flocking to join the Islamists in Syria or the hunters/poachers or all the mom in laws who torture their daughter in laws for dowry or for that matter Arsenal fans (in Arsene they trust) or the women who all went and supported the murderer of Jimbo, because its only a dog?
The answer is a resounding no. And I stand by this even though you may call me a chauvinist or a sicko or a pervert or a douchebag (most of you have already called me these, so nothing new).
But still, there is nothing inherently wrong in the message Respect Women.
The problem I have is in the way the message is being conveyed, especially in the case of the Havell’s Ads.
In 1 ad, we see a man getting ready for office, looks like he is late, and there is something wrong with his tie or shirt and thus he requests his wife to iron it. He does not demand or order, he makes a request. The wife angrily hands him the iron and informs him that she is the stree (wife), not the istiree (iron).
Now, I am not suggesting in any way, shape, size or form, that ironing is a wifely duty, far from it. I just think that if two people are together and if one asks the other for some help, and if the other can do it, why not do it? And what exactly is so degrading about ironing anyway? How is this disrespectful to women?
In another ad, we see a man wistfully reminiscing about his mom’s chutney. This angers the wife. fair enough….but where is the disrespect? How is it demeaning to the wife if the husband prefers his mother’s chutney? Why is this a respect women issue? Was the man’s mother not a woman?
I just feel that these stupid half-arsed ads do more harm than good (kinda like the Arsenal doctors) and give people a very wrong idea about what feminism is.
All of which bring me to the final ad – the Madhuri Dixit starred Start with the Boys. In fact, I should not call it an ad, its more of a campaign/infotainment. And in my personal opinion, its quite a good and effective one as far as the message goes (irrespective of production qualities or the impact on the male ego)
My only issue, a tiny issue, with it is that for a long time it looked like a campaign about depression in boys, and as a perennially depressed man who, on many days, goes off to sleep crying, it attracted my interest.
However, the message is that we all need to teach the boys that hitting girls is a strict no no. And self-defense aside, there is no excuse, no justification. None.
It is one of the first lessons my father taught me (along with never do drugs and never support East Bengal) and in fact it is the duty of every father worldwide to drill that into their children’s minds.
Now I know that most of you consider me an irritant, a nuisance, a pervert and a douchebag (I still don’t know what a douchebag looks like btw) but can you recall even one instance where I have hit a woman or have verbally abused a woman? Of course I have argued, quarreled and debated but have any of you ever heard me use an abusive term towards a woman?
I am not beating my own drum, am just making the point that if a loser like me can be like this, then so can be the rest. All it needs is the proper education – and no I don’t mean (a+b)2 kind of education but actual education about what it means to be a human being.
Education is the only panacea available and feminism should look into this rather than fight for women’s reservation.
There was a time feminism fought for the right to vote – now everyone can vote.
There was a time when feminism fought for equality in the eyes of law as well as in the public sphere and workspace – more or less achieved (I mean if we apply for the same position, nobody will pick me over Jyotika, Runa or Pallavi even though we are all similarly educated and have the same background and I am the man.)
So basically feminism fought for the truly important issues and made the world a better place.
Well know, for some reason, feminists in Toronto and New York fought for the right to be topless in public – and they got that right as well – anybody can be legally topless anywhere in these two cities.
And feminists in India are fighting for women’s quota in parliament.
Just off the top of my head, I can think of 10 other areas where feminists can focus more on….
- Compulsory education for the girl child, at least till graduation
- Toilets in all houses
- Ban on dowry (social, not only legal)
- Training the mothers to be better trainers of boys and girls so that they can grow up and be better human beings
- Ban on the caste system
- Equality in pay
- Enabling all women to be financially independent
- Boycott of all media which encourage stuff like the recent deepika padukone controversy
- Boycott of films which have item numbers
- Abolition of East Bengal football club
But hey, what do I know