What is Sauce for the Gander must be Sauce for the Goose, right? Wrong.
“But sauce is sauce, it has to be the same for everybody. Isn’t that what you feminists say when you want equality? Here we are trying to help you by giving you rights and making lovely unisex washing machines and you are still not happy? What more do you want?!”
It is as if those standing for ‘women’s rights’ are on another planet. Probably well meaning but so totally clueless. For example, if you stand for equality, as every rational human being must, then you cannot say things like – ‘give them rights’. Giving is an act of charity, or at best a transfer from the haves to the have nots. If you say ‘give’, then you have self identified as one who believes in this power hierarchy. You do not ‘give’ rights to correct the current imbalance, you acknowledge balance and equality to be the truth. Similar to ‘make’ and other such words that rob a woman of her own agency. She will make herself, thank you very much. Now please will you just get out of the way?
There will be those who will ask for reparations, for concessions – not as a favour or as charity – but as an apology for the wrongs of the past. It is like saying, you threw us into this well and now it really is your moral obligation to throw us a rope so that we can climb out of it. Even here, I do not think anyone is asking to be pulled out of the well. Everyone is willing to climb out with their own effort. No self respecting human would like to live on handouts and a series of obligations – in fact that is precisely the cycle one is trying to break – the cycle of obligations. Externally imposed obligations deny choice and freedom.
To add that bonded labour and slavery were forms of imposed obligations may be to carry the argument too far. To some these arguments will be too mild. I will even concede that like many others I wanted to demur and say – this is not an article about feminism. But then most of us do not truly know what feminism is – in theory, in tradition and in practice. From extreme feminism, to being the ‘neck that turns the head’, to being the ‘way to the heart is via the stomach’, there are many forms of feminism. Those who vilify it, fear it, speak for it or against it often have no idea what they are fighting other than the fact that it challenges the way they view the world. But the challenge is akin to the rope one throws to those stuck in the deep well of their singular world view. It is neither an attack, nor an act of charity or ‘teaching’. It is simply an invitation to make the effort to see more, and maybe redefine what they thought as true but was and is merely selfish, dishonest and unfair(which makes it wrong).
There are so many overt forms of anti feminism, then why am I picking on those who are trying to help? Because I recognise, as to many others, that this is not help. Here we speak of the do-gooders who really try very hard, but not hard enough. It is not helping because it is not enough. It is not enough because it does not come from the truth within their hearts. It does not come from their hearts because their hearts are still stuck in the old well. They can only see from the old well because they started envisioning the world there and change is slow. Change is slow because it is the unknown, the risky. And those who have not made the leap from the skewed received mindset will never manage to make their shallow words ring true.
So when someone says we must empower women, they automatically arrogate the power to themselves and the right to distribute such power as they deem fit. The statement automatically strips women of power. When someone says respect women because they are (like) your mothers, wives and sisters they are really saying that these roles sustain them and they would like to sustain the wifery, the motherhood and the sisterdom that has nurtured them – in that sentence there is not a whiff of a thought to the person behind these roles. It is callous and uncaring at the least, certainly selfish. This is not a feminist statement at all, not egalitarian in the least. Examples abound. One more: “I let my wife have all the freedom she wants”. Let and Freedom in the same sentence? Do listen to yourself please. A little honesty helps.
So when an overtly feminist advertisement tries too hard, but if it does not come from an honestly egalitarian heart one ends up with the mishmash that receives much backlash. The poor guys that tried to create the unisex washing machine – where the kid and the grandfather who supposedly came from the ‘old’ way of thinking when men were kept in dependance by women taking charge of the daily needs try very hard to emulate the ‘mummy ke haath ki safai’. What went wrong here? They were trying their best were they not? They even praised the mom, who glowing as she returns from her office (in broad daylight, lucky woman) beams upon them with approval. I think, and correct me if I am wrong here, there will be many who will just not get why this advertisement does not ‘empower’ women, or help to ‘liberate’ them. They will be shaking their heads in wonder and asking – ‘What do these women want? Whatever we do is not enough for them’. If you are one of those who is still saying this, do please, slowly, and maybe a few times, re-read the paragraphs above. You are right, it wasn’t enough, and I am glad, even thankful that you are trying. It’s okay if we did not get it in this iteration – let’s try one more time. We are getting there, together.