My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

My ebook
Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
this link

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taking stock of feminism

It’s always risky for a male to write about feminism or women issues. Whatever stance one, takes, he is likely to offend everyone. But has the feminist movement ever been so close to its goals? Sarah Palin has filled the airwaves around the world after taking the baton from Hillary Clinton and Segolene Royal. Tizipi Livni is well set to become the prime minister of Israel while Gloria Macapagal Aroyo has held on to her post in the Philippines. In India, Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Bannerjee and Mayawati are the people defining the political landscape while even at grassroots level, elected female candidates are playing a greater role in local government (despite unsubstantiated claims of benefits only accruing to wives or daughters of the powerful males). Norway has passed a law asking companies to have 40% representation by women in their boards. Around the world, women are well on course to perform better than boys particularly when it comes to higher education. Women in Saudi Arabia can now drive cars. Middle class women worldwide are having what from the outside seems to be their greatest time ever with freedom to shop, freedom to leisure, and freedom to use botox.

Indeed, while feminism has come a long way from the suffragate era of the Pankhursts to stand today for a woman's right to have orgasm first, are all these signs of real emancipation? Political emancipation has been only experienced by a handful of women and has not translated into any benefits for the majority, especially in developing countries. Women are still near to absent in the lists of top management in corporations, or institutes of higher education (especially in countries like India). Worldwide, women still marry a male who is older and at a better stage in terms of economic status, thus continuing the female’s status as the inferior partner. The institution of family, described by Engels as the key barrier to emancipation of women, continues to put chains on her career progression (despite availability of long maternity breaks and child care centers). And even after significant advances in the area of medicine, women have to continue with the disadvantage of being physically weaker than men and the emotional and physical stress of menstruation. Porn, the industry that split apart the feminist movement during the 1980s, continues as the most successful industry of the internet age. Female infanticide continues rampant in the northern states of India resulting in astonishing sex ratios. Despite widespread availability of IVF methods, ideological lesbianism continues to remain at the fringes of society. Women in Turkey face limitations if they choose to wear a veil while those in Saudi Arabia can still venture outdoors only in company of male relatives. Rape of women, as always, continues to remain the favorite method to demoralize the vanquished, as seen in recent events in Congo.

Feminist movements have lost the high decibel power of the movement because of ageing or death of the legends of the feminist movement like Robin Morgan or Simone Beauvoir. But, feminism or women centered activism continues to remain relevant. This is because as Francisco Ferrer had observed, the conservative nature of women is a strong stabilizing force in society. So if any progressive idea, that could potentially improve the lot of human beings, has to be successful, it has to be instilled in women to gain the required mass and inertia . This has been proven time and again; case in point being recent studies in India that have shown that the key to better health for kids and higher school enrolment lies in educating their mothers first (source EPW). So any progress for mankind has to go hand in hand with emancipation of women.

So what’s the future for feminism? As science advances, it will become morally imperative to develop testosterone suppressants so that women don’t have to adorn veils. Physical differences, attributable to sex, would become more a matter of choice. All the same, development in cloning, stem cell research and incubation technology will eventually make sex irrelevant.

No comments: