Feminism ought to die.
Now if the title makes most of you uncomfortable, I am not sorry. I like to believe I have been a feminist even before I knew the vocabulary for it. For most of my childhood, I recall being mad at my nana for questioning my choice of clothes. The obviousness of that intrusion rarely daunts men, but the fact an eight-year-old figured the plainness of that argument behind it was odd. Anyway, let me clarify. It’s the white feminism that I refer to, or maybe the corporate kind. The feminism that refuses to see nuances of a movement that has seen decades of hard work and revolutions in every corner of every house cannot be dictated by set rules of upper caste privileged women, myself included.
Now white feminism merely draws its name from the privilege that the white population comes with. That’s it, that’s where the resemblance ends. The idea is to spell out that feminism like all revolutions has its pitfalls and trajectories. No one segment, privileged being the least, can dictate what it should mean for anyone. We all can agree on the end goal of such a movement (equal opportunities for all) but the means can vary from door to door.
For all my allegiance to the movement, I have found myself disappointed by its flag bearers from time to time. Especially in the deeply convoluted India of today where basic rights are put into question by a government that is fanning suppressed biases, it’s a shame that feminism (in its plain meaning) which could have been a gatekeeper of some kind, is the perpetrator for some of this violence, emotional or otherwise. If Karnataka’s baffling affairs are any testimony, we have failed enough Muslim women in this country. The absolute freedom to wear what represents their faith and their haven cannot be questioned by feminists who view the hijab as a symbol of oppression. Funny thing, did you even ask any lady in question if they share your view about THEM?
Amitav Ghosh writes a line in his book “The Glass palace” that I can’t bring myself to truly break down but here goes a loose translation: the only person who holds a right to judge a flag bearer is the one for whom the flag was raised. So if Hindu feminists around the country continue to pat their backs for liberating Muslim women from their CHOSEN hijabs, I see a very weak argument.
My friend and I spent a couple of phone calls discussing the #HijabRow some weeks ago. We talked that when pictured, a student in a hijab would make us uncomfortable despite all the “each to his own” belief system. I wrecked my brain on it. It would make me notice the said student yes, but would the discomfort continue or would it be replaced by curiosity? I only hope that I would have the depth to see through an ingrained bias of a privileged Hindu family which creates the discomfort in the first place. Even more, in a world where everyone wants to blend in and be a part of the community, some are okay standing out for their faith, for something that makes them feel safe. What is a bigger revolution in the bigoted world of feminism than that?
I have always seen how the oppressed are expected to hold more grace than the oppressor in this country. You don’t retaliate lest you be killed, you don’t abuse because that’s all they will remember, and you don’t lose your grace lest you be blotted for that and not your hours and days of silent patience.