Let me begin by stating that I am absolutely for women’s rights and their liberation, because I strongly support the view that a society cannot grow until its women are liberated. However, the thoughts of certain women I’ve encountered have been largely counterproductive, as what they’ve been exposed to has filled them with bizarre ideas that connect women’s liberation with feminism and ultimately with misandry. These are just some thoughts regarding the urban issues that men and women might face, and I can’t stress this anymore, this is NOT MY ONLY VIEW on the subject. The problems are manifold and thus, so are the hypotheses and remedies. This article is merely meant to display a small part of the flip side of the concept.
What many feminists (at least the ones from my generation, whom I have access to) don’t know, or don’t realize because of lack of information, is that feminism has it’s roots in Marxist thought. The premise is that “all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Now although this is a great thought and true to some extent, it can have dangerous consequences when put into action. The problem doesn’t arise from women demanding equal rights (which the law does give them, sociologically, it might be a different story), but from the two things that demolished Socialism in the first place,
1. A lack of understanding, or misrepresentation of the facts, and
2. An absolute impossibility of dialogue or debate.
Nobody in the right frame of mind can dispute that there is an immense dualism in India, a great divide between, to keep it simple, the rural and urban sections of Indian society, and until this is taken into consideration, no just laws or rights can be issued. Take, for instance, section 498-A of the IPC (which happens to be a criminal law, not a civil one). “Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also beliable to fine. The offence is Cognizable, noncompoundable and non-bailable.” There isn’t a shred of a doubt that this law has been very effective in targeting the genuine problems of a large section of the society. However, we can’t run away from two adversities of this particular section. Firstly, a large number of rural Indian women aren’t aware of the law at all, leaving them to the mercy of their husbands. Secondly, the part that pertains to us urban folk, the misuse of the law by urban women, which has been accepted time and again by the High Courts and the Supreme Court. In the Sushil Kumar Sharma v/s Union of India case (2005), the Supreme Court declared 498-A as ‘legal terrorism.’ The swinish irony remains that while less educated and less aware women continue to be harassed, a section of women use the law to settle scores or negotiate large settlements from their rueful husbands. The fact remains that handing out unjust liberties to one section of the society isn’t a cure for the perils of another, and this can’t be more true than it is in India.
I believe greatly in individuality and equality in society, however, the rights of one person can’t be issued by the suppression of the rights of another. Misogyny can’t be combated with Misandry, just as chauvinism can’t be combated with feminism. Well, feminism in its present form at least. This brings me to the anti-rape bill that was passed recently by the parliament. While everything in the act is genuine and needed, there is one problem I have with the bill. The word has been replaced by sexual assault and is no longer gender neutral. This means that under the law, only a man can perform a sexual offence against a woman. Even the act of forceful sodomy committed by one man against another is overlooked, and I don’t have to tell you how prevalent that is in society. Not only that, even offences like stalking and voyeurism aren’t gender neutral anymore. Is this what we call equal rights?
Now it might be argued that the proportion of women assaulting men sexually is far less than that of men’s attacks on women, but does that justify their voice going unheard? By that standard, the minorities in this country shouldn’t have a voice simply because they’re small in number. With the growing number of women in the urban workforce, and hence, in superior positions, can the sexual assaults committed by women be entirely ignored? For example, the Protection of Women in the Workplace bill (2010), as the name suggests, caters to women who get harassed in the workplace, which is prevalent and has to be dealt with. But does that amount to disregarding the fact that men might face such problems as well?
There is a constant demonisation of men in the media and other spaces of public interaction, which is unhealthy. The patriarchy model of societal studies endorses the idea that all of history has revolved around the superiority of men and the degradation of women. The history of mankind (and I know some women will have a problem with the word mankind) has been so because of evolutionary and circumstantial reasons. Women were caregivers because of the biological reasons that made them caregivers. Men were hunters because they had a physical edge, not because they wanted to suppress women! As we’ve moved from the subsistence level to the intellectual fora, women have had the chance to shed that skin and move towards a different type of contribution to the world.
That still doesn’t put out of practice the disposability of men. Millions of men died in the many wars we’ve had in order to protect women and children, was that patriarchal? There is definitely a bias against women in backward sections of the society, clearly because they still haven’t been struck by the age of enlightenment. Offcourse, it’s difficult for someone
like me to comprehend their plight because of my socioeconomic position, but my little knowledge of the world compels me to take the view that while women face some discrimination, the patriarchal theory takes things too far. In my mind, especially considering the section of people who advocate it, it is a persecution complex.
I’ll mirror this with the ridiculousness of the Civil Code in India. While Hindus (the broad section including Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains) are governed by ordinary civil law, Muslims and Christians are allowed to have their own laws. The Muslims, for instance, follow the Sharia. The explanation is twofold, cultural differences and suppression. The fact remains that Muslims and Christians together ruled over India for a thousand years, and they still enjoy special provisions! The state of reservations in the country is another parallel.
The Dalits deserved a certain amount of reservations due to the imposed social disability they had to deal with. Where did the rest of the provisions come from? Political gain. Reservations without quality primary and secondary education can only do one thing, promote incompetence. Is that really what women want? To be liberated, but incompetent? (In reference to the women’s reservation bill) Now before anyone accuses me of being a misogynist product of a patriarchal society, let me make it clear that I do not hate women. How could I possibly hate women? In this respect, I simply look at them as an oppressed class, just as there are other classes that are oppressed socially, economically and culturally. My plea to women, and the new wave of feminists in particular, is to not let this movement turn into a joke or a session of reverse discrimination. I know that reverse discrimination is a long way off, if it’s a possibility at all, but if that’s the goal, it can be nothing but damaging to our already damaged society.