Monday, June 06, 2005

She want, she want, she want

After much weekend conversation about feminism - the whys and the why-nots, the what-next and the will-it-evers of the movement - I had begun to wonder whether I would ever fight for a woman's cause, and what it was that my generation really wanted next.

There's the general belief that there is not much discrimination happening in corporate circles anymore. Some. But not enough to re-fuel a movement.

After all, I was given most things the men of my generation were given.
More, perhaps.
I have education, I have a job, I have many, many clothes. I have a room to live in... and it's been a few years since someone stoned me for showing my legs.

Whether it's thanks to the feminist movement, or my educated mother, my times, or our urban culture - I didn't know what needed to be done next.

Sure, women are still getting raped. But the law and society in general has acknowledged rape as a crime. Some are even asking for capital punishment or castration for rapists. My immediate society dismisses the idea of marrying your rapist with a comforting disgust.

Sure, I hear of the horrrors of female circumcision, but that's not here - that's in Africa or Saudi Arabia or wherever else that's far enough away to let us forget. It's not going to happen to my generation, in my country.

Sure, there's dowry. But the law has given me the option of going to the police. (The cops might not do anything about the bride's complaint, but that's a different battle. A principle wrong has been righted, at least at the idea level.)

Sure, some women are still being tortured and killed for being 'witches'. But that's a newspaper report removed. It happens in villages, in tribal districts, amongst the illiterate and irrational. It doesn't happen to me and you. That's not an ideological battle anymore.

And what, then, shall I fight for? What is my feminist battle going to be about?

I believe that no one can fight with conviction unless the war is a personal one.
If I am to fight for women's rights, I must fight for the woman that is me. That is us.

The woman that greets us in the morning, in the mirror above the sink. The woman that is not fussy about what caste the maidservant was born in, but is very fussy about the cut of her jeans. The woman that hangs out in the neighbourhood cafe, worrying about whether she wants to play safe with tried'n'tested cappucino, or experiment with a new smoothie flavour. The woman that wants to walk the streets at night without being called a streetwalker. The woman who no longer knows what's the big deal about streetwalkers, anyway, as long as you don't catch AIDS or some other foul infection.

This is the woman that is frightened and outraged by a college kid being raped by a cop, because it could be her.
This woman is protesting the 'model nikahnama', because all the education in the world can't save her from poverty and despair, if she's got the bulk of a religion stacked against her.
This woman protests Barbie, because she is oppressed by the idea of not being the live barbie that her husband and brother and boyfriends are all pining for.
This woman wants reservation in parliament, because, finally, she is ready for public office.

This is a selfish woman. And this woman will fight the most personal battles first.

She will fight for singles' entry to night-clubs. She will fight for women-only bars. She will fight for the right to drink and smoke in public without being insulted for it.
She will lobby for lax gun-license laws, as long as there are news reports about rape.

She will lobby for equal-wage legislations, and stringent laws against sexual harassment.
She will fight for removal of the 'Father's Name' category in hospitals, school forms, certificates and passports.
And she will whoop with joy the day there are women masseurs on Juhu beach, armed with mats and champi oil, waiting to serve the tired working women of Bombay.

How do I know all this?

Because, I found this.

And I immediately found myself saying - I want, I want, I want!
I want it too - dhabaa on the highway, where women motorists drop by, to unwind with a midnight massage. Where they wouldn't confront violence or be treated like freak insects that can be killed with merciless staring.
I want a country where this is the norm and not some lonely secret, that last feminine resort for thousands of miles in any direction.

What was that, again, about 'that heaven of freedom, father... let my country awake'...?


R. said...

Well as long as you are lobbying for masseurs for women in the highway or in juhu, would you put in a kind word for us south indians please?
This sounds like a cool idea. I 'm told that in certain south east asian countries you could get a foot massage in most malls. Great way to relax in between being dragged from shop to shop!

Well on a more serious note, I think the issues that you mentioned also are due to the fact that the rights of an individual aren't so very well safe guarded in our society. I don't know if there ever will be something called 'equal rights' in our caste, religion steeped country (not to mention biases based on language issues, colour issues, north south issues, age issues etc etc etc), the rights of women are still fought for largely by individuals and not the system, which is sad.

R. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
uma said...

wow! midnight massages for tired truck drivers! i love this country. whatever you need, it will happen.

Janaki said...

Amen to that!

Anonymous said...

You keep on writing like this, I will start worshipping you :) Butparaston ko buton ki zaroorat padti hai.
Only one disagreement( is there such a word?) women reservation in parliament has become a politically correct issue. Isn't it a reverse bias???

m. said...

hullo annie. came hopping my way here : nice blog.

this post caught my eye as i run a feminist blog. i couldnt resist leaving a comment to recommend germaine greer, toril moi, andrea dworkin or other third wave feminists! have you tried em? a lot of the issues you mention are discussed by the third wave women.

i really appreciate your writing that post. i know its the current perception that women have it all now, and that feminism is dated - and i think its tragic : if women will not support other women, who will?

great going! :)

Anonymous said...

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