Feminism India

Feminism of Contradiction: To be or not to be?

We live in a society where being a woman is a feat in its own merit. With the drastic increase in discussions about feminism and gender issues today, a million opinions of individuals all over the world have emerged. There are those who are concerned about the state of society. Among them, there are those who call themselves ‘feminists’: men and women who try to find solutions to the challenges that women face. Some of them are learned scholars, people with degrees in anthropology and social sciences. Some are self-taught and self-proclaimed. Within these groups, there are sects: from mild sympathizers to radical revolutionaries to straight up man-haters. Naturally, when so many people spend time talking about one issue, a unanimous solution is a near-impossibility. And in the case of gender in society, the conflicts of opinions are straight up bonkers.

Without getting into what is right and what is not, it is worth comparing the contradictions. There are dilemmas that society presents to us today, that have no ‘correct’ outcome, as far as the ‘women-empowerment’ angle is concerned. What do you think is the correct stand to take in these rather confusing times?

1. Item Numbers in our favorite films:

A jarring breach of culture and civilized sensibility, or a confident woman making her own choices? It is impossible to take an absolute stand on a successful film actress gracing a movie with her thumkas in skimpy clothes.

“It’s objectification!” says the learned feminist. “They are using a woman’s body as a USP! Corrupting minds. Sending the wrong message to young girls.” The actress shrugs her well-toned shoulders. “I decide my fees. I am a great dancer. I wear what I please. Don’t shame,” she says. Who is right?

2. The Selfie-Craze:

A young girl takes 20 pictures of her face. She puts them up on social media, and feels great.

The caption says: “Self-love is the best! It’s my face and my life, and I shall do with it what I please! Selfies make me feel confident and good about how I look!”

“You are seeking approval!” say the comments. “you are a victim of the narcissism and low self-esteem that capitalism has induced! Is your appearance the only thing that defines you?” Should the girl re-think?

3. Chivalry:

There is a thin line between being delicately well-mannered, and being patronizing.

The man reaches for the check on their first date. “I’m perfectly capable of paying my share of the bill!” says the woman indignantly. She takes the bus back home. Her heels are killing her in the crowded bus. All the seats are taken. “Can’t you offer a lady your seat?” she demands from firmly seated young man. Should he get up in embarrassment?

4. Being a home-maker:

A well-to-do young girl from an influential family falls in love right after law-school, and decides to get married. She has wanted a family, and she decides to focus on the work at home instead of taking up a job.

“Is this why we sent you to college?” Ask her parents. “Women can do so much more than sit at home and cook! Set a better example!” says a forward-thinking society. Is it her choice or subconscious conditioning?

5. Reservations:

Women’s interests, especially in India, are protected through reservation. From bogeys in local trains, to seats in colleges and administrative bodies, representation is reserved.

“If men and women are equal, why do women have the right to the easy way in?” says the boy who didn’t get into college despite better grades. “It is compensation for years of oppression and lack of opportunity!” say the feminists. “Was I the oppressor?” says the boy.

6. Before and After pictures:

A 70kg woman gets loud applause on social media after she sheds 20kgs and uploads a picture of her body, before and after. “What great determination! What a challenge to overcome!” people say.

“What was the matter with her body before?” says her plump friend. “Was she ugly before that she wanted to change? She is so happy now. Should I be aiming towards that too?” Are before-after pictures evidences of achievement, or attempts at conformity?

7. Plastic Surgery:

“Kim Kardashian’s curves are fake!” the haters comment on Instagram. “Her body, her choice.” Says the supporter. “She’s setting beauty standards for young women all over the world. What about the self-esteem of those who cannot afford to pay for their looks? What does it say about the body-type she chose to reject?” says the feminist.

Should people in a position of influence hide these things about their own lives?

These cases, are picked and chosen from millions of scenarios that occur around us each day. They vary in scale and complexity and may perplex some, while appearing relatively straightforward to some others. We cannot help our biases. All we can do is acknowledge the fact that our truth may not be the only truth out there.

I'm an aspiring architect, an occasional traveller, a maker of compulsive doodles, and a taker of notes. A curious girl in a confusing city, and voicing opinions is my means of getting some clarity.