Before I begin, I will admit that feminism has a dark (no racism intended) side (see my post about it here). But what feminism has given us is invaluable. I’m indebted to feminists who fought for equality. Without them, I wouldn’t be writing here and if you are a woman, maybe, you wouldn’t be reading this either.
Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik defines love as voluntary renunciation of power. I realized that if we look at the essence of feminism, it is basically choosing love over power. Let’s imagine a scenario: let’s say that you see a child with a decent amount of money. He is just roaming on the streets. There is nobody except you on the street. You are physically more powerful than the child so you can easily snatch the money and run away. You don’t even have to do this. You can just say something to deceive the child and he might end up giving the money to you. How many of us will do this? Maybe, not many. Let’s add a little twist: You need some money because you are broke. Would you deceive that child? Maybe not. My question is: why didn’t you use your power? I’m sure that your choice was not just a religious choice. Sure, you might get brownie points to go to heaven but there is something else as well. Maybe you didn’t (ab)use your power because even though we all are designed to take care of our self-interest, we are also designed to feel compassion. IMHO, those who quote scientific theories about ‘survival of the fittest’ are right when they say that self-interest is the most powerful factor that drives us but somehow, it feels incomplete. Human beings are equally compassionate. Patriarchy is built on the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory. In the Jungle, the strongest animal will rule. But in a civilization, to survive, you need others. Therefore, even if you are overtly concerned about your self-interest, you have no other option but to be compassionate! IMHO, feminism is based on compassion.
Some people are afraid that if feminism spreads, women will stop having kids or seeking romance. This is actually not about feminism. It is an eternal tension between the individual and the society. Feminism, even though it is for groups (women and men), is more of a individualistic philosophy. It empowers individuals and society always sees that as a threat. Society is afraid of individualism because of an assumption that individualistic people don’t like giving. They are labelled as selfish. But this type of thinking is a mistake: EVERYBODY has a desire to give. Giving is as natural as receiving. Even though individualistic people are different from the crowd, many end up making a lot of contributing a LOT to the society (Sometimes, even more than those who give lectures about giving).
Being individualistic doesn’t mean you do whatever you want and harm others. No! If you TRULY value YOUR freedom, you WILL respect others’ freedom as well. And if you TRULY enjoy doing something (Say painting), it is the society that will end up reaping the benefits. The same thing applies to feminism: unless a woman is happy, she cannot make her family happy. And just because women work, it doesn’t mean every woman will stop having children! Feminism infact, asks us to challenge stereotypes. We need a new approach to raising children and household chores (in case both husband and wife work). A human being’s basic needs are not the same anymore. In this age, food, clothing and shelter are not enough to survive. We didn’t have access to so much of an information before. Our minds are different now. These days, being authentic is also a need that has to be addressed. If a society suppresses an individual’s authenticity, it’s ultimately going to harm itself.
Now, some people will say that many ‘individuals’ like Hitler have terrorized the society. They must remember that even though Hitler was an individual, his mind was collective. Try answering this question: who harms the society? A lonely person who looks like an ‘individualistic person’ outside but is actually uncomfortable with solitude or a person who is alone and loves solitude? The difference between the two is where you will find the definition of true individuality.
Selfishness and compassion.. BOTH are part of our nature. BOTH individual and society are important. Deny any one and you will suffer. Those who think that feminism is equal to neglecting your children need to understand this.
P.S. If things go as per plan, I will be attending the Feminist Documentary Festival this Saturday. If I manage to attend it, I will share my experience here. If you are in Mumbai, check this (Click) and attend it, if possible!
Here’s the schedule: