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My First Interview on Feminism in India: Perspective of a common woman

28 September 2020 : 8 min read

One of my friends (a male friend who chose to stay anonymous) recently interviewed me on a topic very close to my heart. Feminism is something about which everyone needs to talk. Feminism is a movement/emotion that rose against the inhumane accepted practices we have grown to consider normal in our society. It encompasses female infanticide, gender-bias, domestic violence, and female objectification that are crippling the women in our society. It is a movement to fight for the right to education, the right to work, equal pay, and the right to safety to empower women. As a woman, I have strong opinions about these issues. I have faced quite a few myself, and I want more people to understand how important it is to think and talk about them in everyday conversations.

Our conversation started with what feminism is and progressed towards the issues women face in India. Some of the dominant problems we see in India are infanticides, domestic violence, rapes, accusations on women to provoke men with western apparel. This conversation is going to cover some of these issues. Feminism is not limited to these concerns and is so much more. But I think we should start somewhere.

My experience of being interviewed by a male friend was unique. The kind of questions put up by him are prevalent in our society, and we need to answer them correctly. Feminism should not be something that men are afraid of; it should be something that they support.

[Interviewer]: You are a feminist, does that mean you are a man-hater?

[Me]: Gosh! You make me sound like a man-eater. No, I am not a man-hater. I am the voice of all those mouths silenced by the pressures of acceptable social norms that a woman should follow. I will voice all those concerns for a man as well if need be. It's similar to all the people who communicate the rights of the LGBT community, which is gender-neutral. So you can see feminism as a movement against something wrong that needs to be fixed. For example, the rights of women who until now have been underrepresented as a community, and we need to do something about it. Anger brings change. Yes, some women are angry about not having equal rights, but that does not mean they hate men. According to me, every woman should be a little angry when she is denied an equal place in society. We should all be a little angry about all the inequality we see around us based on gender and community biases.

[Interviewer]: Why should I care about feminism when I treat all women with equal rights and respect?

[Me]: Just because you are not doing it, does not mean it is not happening and does not mean you should not care about it. It would have affected the women in your life at some point in their life, maybe not because of you (they are lucky and grateful) but someone else. Isn't that enough for you to care?

[Interviewer]: Why do you say, "Everyone should be a feminist"? Don't you think an excess of feminism is bad for women (provided they are seen as haters) and to sink due to feminism does not make any sense?

[Me]: The imbalance you talk about is because certain people who during the feminism uprising found an opportunity to exploit it for their benefits and started hateful comments on men, targeting them and blaming them. But you need to understand that feminism is not about hating men. A feminist is just trying to raise a voice to communicate the words women have been oppressed to say. And it can very well be the voice of a man. Like a father who fights the society for letting his daughter study in a co-ed school. Like a brother, who raises his voice when his sister or mother is disrespected. Are they hateful to men if they are raising their voices for women? No. Women have been fighting for their rights alone. It is time for men to join that battle.

[Interviewer]: What are your thoughts on the dressing sense of girls? Wearing short dress provokes men? Who should be asked to change?

[Me]: Dressing is a personal choice. No man is ever blamed for being topless such that it might provoke a woman. So why should a girl be blamed for wearing a crop top? Provocation is a reflex or a response that should be kept in check individually. It does not correlate with how someone is dressing.

[Interviewer]: But don't you think humans have created a society and one must adhere to that?

[Me]: No. Humans created a society because we are social animals. We can't survive without social validation. We didn't make rules, levels, superiority, and minorities. They were somehow the byproduct of having different professions in society. But society needs to keep changing. Why do people adopt technology? The earlier societies didn't have the technology. If they can adopt new gadgets, why can't they adopt new rules, new norms, and new rights? Did a man create the whole society, alone? Men and women together made society. Hence, they need to be equal. Hierarchies have to be shattered for humanity to emerge.

[Interviewer]: Pretty good answer. But still, India has a lot of old traditional and rural areas. So taking the security of a girl into concern, one should ask a girl to stop wearing short dresses in such places. Because, no matter how strong you make a law, it cant prevent a man from raping and, it is proved by data. What do you think?

[Me]: Statistically, I don't think you can prove this relation. The stronger the law, the lesser is the crime. If you look at a few countries where the judiciary has a firm hold on policies and law-enforcement, they have the minimum crime rate and almost no rapes. It is not because the men in those countries are sexually dormant. It is because they are afraid to commit a crime. We need to work on law enforcement in our country. You can have as many laws as you want on paper, and in files, the ground reality is very different. Our country has laws, but weak enforcement on the ground because of hidden biases towards community and gender. A crime against a woman is considered less atrocious as compared to a crime against a man. Its time that instead of relying on all the women in our country to fix their wardrobe, we start working on fixing what's actually broken. Its more long-term, progressive, and stable.

[Interviewer]: It's a tricky question, though. Indian culture also comes into the picture. Many nationalists say short clothes are against our culture, and it is western influence. What do you think about that?

[Me]: How is a crop top different from a traditional blouse? How is Sari a tradition and a mark of our culture? Culture comes with people. People change with generations, and so should culture. If you talk about culture, shouldn't we question men for wearing jeans too? The traditional attire was dhoti.

If you look into the tradition of India, women did not wear a blouse too. It was only a piece of cloth to wrap the body. People believed that stitching cloth made it impure. So the apparel of choice was a long piece of cloth draped as a lower garment, a piece of cloth wrapped on the chest like a band and a piece covering one's shoulder and head. The same goes for the dhoti worn as a lower garment by men.

With advancements in technologies, humans learned to create colorful clothes cut into various shapes, which we call western influence. Its that simple. Humans' choice of apparel to cover their bodies can change according to time, but it should not change humanity and add barbarity in the name of culture.

[Interviewer]: One has to act as per the situation. The situation is critical. I have seen people from my village, making nasty comments about girls. But I can hardly say anything there as their education level is not that much to understand me.

[Me]: I don't think education has a direct correlation with a person's point of view. I have seen uneducated progressionist women fighting for their rights, and I have seen educated, independent women victims of domestic violence. I have seen educated men making obscene remarks for women as well. I am sure we all would have seen that. The problem lies not in the level of education. The problem lies in the fact that an educated man chose to remain silent even after knowing better than the uneducated one. How are they both different then?

We choose not to act, thinking about the safety of the girl, but she anyways is not safe, and the silence is having a positive reinforcing impact on the will of the person who wants to make an obscene remark. He knows that no one will stand up against him, so he is roaming the streets freely, disrespecting the women in our lives while we sit as silent spectators too afraid to speak up.

[Interviewer]: Thank you for sharing your opinions with me. It gave me a new perspective on the issues women face and what needs to be discussed while talking about women empowerment. Any closing remarks?

[Me]:

Everyone should be a feminist. We should start to talk about things happening around us that are wrong. We are often blamed for being a blind, mute generation running behind financial success, but we should not forget our role in the society which we created for our survival. If you are reading this article, if it inspired you and made you a little angry, you could contribute towards creating an equal society by working on your own hidden biases. You can stand up for more progressive thoughts and educate those who are still uneducated on these issues.

You have to start questioning gender biases in everyday life. You can begin by noticing one thing that is wrong according to you and speak up against it (even if it is happening in your own family). We need to speak up. We often don't do anything because, according to us, we alone cannot leave an impact. But if everyone does their part by speaking up, a massive wave of change can be created.

We need to understand that it is not about giving more reservations to women or giving them more maternity leaves, menstrual leaves, but taking responsibility for the tasks that the society has burdened over one gender. Roles were created for each gender according to the needs of the time. We started as hunter-gatherers, and men were more physically suitable for bringing home food, and women were ideal for taking care of the home. If we respect evolution, we should evolve in gender roles too.

As a man, you could say no to dowry (it's disrespectful to men since women are paying to marry them), say no when your sister is not allowed to study, say no when you see your father hit your mother or sister, say no when your sister is married as a teenager. We have to learn how to say 'NO.'

We have always focused on raising perfect daughters so that they can adjust to social norms. The recent "Bois Locker Room" incident should make our blood boil by thinking about what kind of sons we have raised. Its counter-progressive and shocking to see that the next generation is objectifying and mistreating women more than ever, even before they have even understood sex. Sex should be talked about in families without shame, so that young boys and girls don't have to learn from obscene unrealistic sources. Sex is natural, and there is no sense for it to be a taboo. The time is to act now. No one wants to raise a rapist, but incidents that happen so often in our country tell us that we are. We have to raise better sons who know how to treat women with respect and dignity, which needs to be taught at a very young age.

If we talk about these issues fiercely today, we can make India safer for women of not only our country but other countries as well; we can make it to the top in promoting women's rights.

I would like to end by saying that "People are Culture, and with every generation when people change, so should culture."

Disclaimer: The conversation was documented by me (the interviewee) after the approval of the interviewer who chose to stay anonymous for personal reasons.

Special thanks to some friends who keep me inspired to discuss such issues.