Myths v/s true story about ‘Femme’ in Feminism

Big bindis, layers of eyeliner, oxidised silver jewellery, Anokhi folders, Dilli haat kurtas, nalli saaris! This is the most typical image of a feminist in the traditional Indian perspective- rather a very narrow image! My personal favourite and the most serious misconception about feminism is how it is linked to Man- Hating. Another one which never ceases to surprise me is how advocates of feminism are confused for being advocates of matriarchy over the contemporary patriarchal society.

Well, here is a news flash; feminism is not just about celebrating womanhood but goes much beyond that. The most inclusive definition of feminism encompasses demanding equality amongst men and women in socio-political and economic spheres of life by BOTH MEN AND WOMEN. Equality is the fancy Fundamental Right guaranteed by our Constitution, the catch word being a Right– not a Blessing.

August 26th being the 44th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, this article takes you through the Women’s suffrage movement of America, as a tribute to all those who were (and still are) a part of the struggle.

1st wave

The feminist movement started in late 19th and early 20th century. The primary focus of the first wave was establishing a political identity through suffrage and demanding representation of women in the government. It is claimed that the first wave mainly involved upper-middle class white women and excluded others. The movement formally began at Seneca Falls Convention, New York in 1848 where 300 men and women protested for equal rights among men and women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an eminent personality associated with the first wave. Scholars believe that this wave ended with the passing of 19th Amendment in 1920 which assured the right to vote to women.

2nd wave

This phase progressed from 1960s to 1990s. It was associated with propagating social and cultural equality of women. It involved attending to issues like education, career, family issues, and abortion rights of women. Laws pertaining to criminalising marital rape were passed. This period also witnessed the Vietnam War where men were out on the battle fields while women had the responsibility of sustaining their families back home. So they took jobs in factories and did the same work as men. This made them realise that there is nothing that men can do and women can’t. Consequently, they became more vocal about their rights. In 1963, Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique expressed discontentment and frustration with having no identity apart from being a wife or a mother. This book is often credited with sparking the 2nd wave of American feminism.

3rd wave

This started from 1990s and continues till present. It began with women activists presenting themselves as bold, assertive, playful and at times aggressive. In Karen McNaughton’s words, “And yes that’s G.r.r.l.s which is, in our case, cyber-lingo for Great-Girls. Grrl is also a young at heart thing and not limited to the under 18s.” This wave was popularly associated with Lipstick Feminism and Cybergrrl Feminism. Third wave feminists use performance, mimicry, and subversion as rhetorical strategies. They use stereotypes, exaggerate them, and use it in favour of themselves.

This is a MUST watch video for all the readers, about Emma Watson’s UN speech on HeForShe Campaign 2014.

For some of the enthusiastic readers, we managed to compile a quick summary of various kinds of Feminism (mostly for those helpless conversations when Google stops working as our guide!)

Radical Feminism seeks to do away with the concept of gender and the traditional roles assigned to each, thereby eliminating patriarchy. There are 2 subcategories: Radical- libertarian feminism emphasises that female reproductive capability is what limits them. They propagate the use of technology for reproduction instead of women becoming biological mothers. Radical- cultural feminism highlights that the reproductive abilities of women are a blessing. They are against the use of artificial means for reproduction and declare that it commodifies the process of giving birth to a child.

Liberal Feminism focuses on changes in legislation to ensure equal opportunities for women. It is criticised for ignoring issues related to patriarchy, class and race. It urges for equal access to education and job, equal pay and same rules for men and women at workplace, through legal changes.

Ecofeminism is a fascinating link which tries to imply that patriarchy harms not just women but the environment as well. It dedicates man’s innate desire to ruthlessly conquer the nature and oppress women, as a way to gain power. It also states that women have the capacity to nurture the earth through a deeper bond forged between the two naturally.

Marxist feminism holds the capitalist system and system of private property responsible for oppression of women. The Bourgeoisie (wealthy landowners) exploited Proletariats (working class) by paying them lower wages, and in case of women, it involved labour with no remuneration at all! It advocates equal pay for the same work accomplished my female employees as the male employees.


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