Who owns feminism anyway?

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This is an exclusive excerpt from Sindhu Rajasekaran’s latest book “Break the patriarchy. “


It is a time and space where women discursively produce contradictory meanings through their mixed ideologies. They make deceptive choices, as we saw above. To pursue their real goals, women today associate with the Patriarchs when it suits their interests and resist them when necessary. A horde of educated women choose not to work outside the home and become hyper-domestic goddesses who use their husband / father / brother’s capital to live their best life without any guilt. Those who work outside the home (on their laptops in coffee shops or in the office) happily socialize with peers of their economy class, language, race, religion and caste, using often network with family / friends to find opportunities. The awakened ones among them admit these privileges, but retain them nonetheless. Capitalist and socialist ideologies unexpectedly intertwine in the minds of many women, as do tradition and modernity. They can take a liberal stance on one issue but become conservative on another. Some are nationalists, others are not. They take what they like from feminist jargon (when it serves to boost their self-esteem) and dismiss what doesn’t work for them. Post-feminist women are therefore self-defined, maximizing and ambitious subjects who practice a pragmatic idealism suited to such a morally blasé era.

The ideological purists among us will say that the time has come to be dogmatic. The idea of ​​India is in the doldrums. Liberal democracy is washed away at the edges. Hindutva eclipses the secular ethics of the nation. Islamophobia and caste fanaticism are on the rise. Dissent is crushed with an iron fist. Feminism, as always, should be [an]… An ideology that unites women against the evils of patriarchy, capitalism, neoliberalism, castes, globalization, ecofascism, religious fundamentalism and all kinds of hegemonies to create a truly fair world. Except that the woman is not a monolithic entity, especially in the “new India” where opinions are super polarized and where identity politics and ideological warfare are rife. There are powerful women on the left, on the right and in the center. Nothing here forces all women to fight for the same type of social or political revolution, because identities are plural and each woman espouses causes that are essential to her position. At the same time, feminism is also not impervious to… prejudices. In such a scenario, it is unrealistic to expect women to come together under a rigid feminist umbrella that is theoretically for all women, but actually excludes many based on their political loyalty or femininity.

Am I then suggesting that feminists stop questioning the motives of incendiary women in the name of solidarity? Of course, how on earth can feminists not disagree with those like Sunita Singh Gaur, leader of the women’s wing of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), who has called on Hindu men to form gangs and rape muslim women? Clearly, Gaur is not just a victim of regressive thinking. If anything, she’s an empowered woman. Except her words were held against her – she faced intense criticism, not only from the left and center, but also from the right. Even though the men who let Muslim women get raped under their watch sit comfortably in their royal seats sipping wine storehouse, Gaur was fired. Patriarchy works in a convoluted way.

Academics and activists have always referred to women’s movements on the subcontinent as Indian feminisms, emphasizing the plural, as not all women’s movements identify with Western-inspired feminism. Islamic women’s groups have disagreed with secular feminists, as secular feminists often refuse to recognize the agency of the former even when lobbying on their behalf. As Shaheen Bagh’s protests show, Muslim women have always been able to defend themselves when they saw fit. The idea that every veiled woman is oppressed is absurd, but it is the idea that most Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) and All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board (AIMWPLB) oppose Muslim orthodoxy and seek to reinterpret the Quran in more gender equal terms, because they believe the Quran is essentially egalitarian. Meanwhile, secular feminist groups have grappled with issues such as the abolition of the triple talaq (which the government has put in place) and the introduction of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) – including the BMMA and AIMWPLB. be careful. A large part of Hindu women, on the other hand, do not adhere to the language of feminism because it positions itself as anti-Hindu (and since the start of the Hindu Rashtra project, a chasm has widened between the Hindu nationalist and the secular woman. ). Women of other religions are also wary of feminism as it is often confused with atheism.

Meanwhile, inside the fortress of feminism, not all versions have the closeness of power. Currents of dissent have always existed. Various groups compete to build competing ideological frameworks for discourse on gender development within academia. Resident Indian feminists are wary of expatriate feminists. Marxist feminists are suspicious of liberal feminists. Members of the LGBTQIA + community have expressed cis-het feminism’s unease with trans identities (have you ever heard of TERF, the acronym for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist?) Skepticism is everywhere. And since 2017, the flaws in Indian feminism have become glaring. It was then that law student Raya Sarkar circulated a Google spreadsheet that named seventy-two men in academia for various forms of sexual harassment. Kafila feminists (so called because they signed a statement posted on Kafila’s website, requesting the removal of said spreadsheet), including a number of academics and senior activists known to be anti- establishment, argued that appointing and humiliating men without due process was not acceptable. The young women did not agree.

Anthropologist Rama Srinivasan called it a generational conflict between pioneering feminists and endless millennials. But this is not the only perceived fault line. Raya Sarkar also happens to be a Dalit, and the invalidation of her list by feminists in Savarna has been viewed by the Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi (DBA) women as a stark example of caste prejudice. This sentiment echoed across the country among young DBA women in various movements. Many DBA feminists have left the Pinjra Tod women’s collective writing, “Savarna feminists… we will no longer be fascinated by your sorority circles and symbolic inclusiveness. Your time is up too.

And just like that, the idea of ​​feminist sisterhood collapsed in the public eye, yet again.

So, in such a time, when everyone is walking on ideological eggs, it may seem that it is better to choose the safest feminist identity: that of intersectional feminist. Sorry to say, every waking woman’s new favorite word is already outdated in the West where it came from (all hi Westeros). Sure, it seems like the right thing to do, but what does it actually do for us? Having empathy for the struggle of others is great, but can it be put into practice beyond solidarity, especially when the person concerned does not care about (your) savior complex? On the other hand, when (your) identities are those that have been historically denied in social justice, do we find solidarity with other women by radically denying them the right to talk about us, thus denying us the right to talk about others ?


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