FlippED is An ED Original Style wherein two bloggers come together to share their opposing or orthogonal perspectives on an interesting subject.
The feminist movement has been rapidly gaining momentum in India since the late 1980s, and over the past few years, it has become clear that while the movement has attained immense popularity, it has also drawn a lot of flak in the still largely conservative and patriarchal Indian setting.
When one speaks of the feminist movement, it is important to remember that it all happened in waves first starting from the social requirement of the time in the West, and then gradually percolating down to the East. First wave feminism came towards the end of World War II and was concerned with granting of suffrage and right to inherit property to women. The Second wave began around twenty years later, focusing on equality in the home and work environment.
Third wave feminism is a very abstract movement when compared to the first and second waves. It deals with the absolute individuality of a woman, in any circumstance, and her absolute right to remain so. This brings us to the question
Is third wave feminism applicable in a developing country like India?
Blogger Niharkana Dhar’s viewpoint:
“I strongly believe that third wave feminism IS applicable in India”
Third wave feminism as a movement is certainly applicable in India as it is that country which we proclaim to contain “unity in diversity”. Isn’t that third wave feminism all about-to incorporate all women, regardless of their gender, race, and class?
Let us take an example of the movie Dangal. Apart from being a huge success, it also sparked a hue and cry over the choice of actors representing female empowerment. People felt that a certain section of women are being left out – women in India who were not as fair or perhaps who did not fulfill the conventional idea of beauty as shown in the movie.
This section of women that feel left out when these beauty standards are being promoted are the ones for whom third-wave feminism is totally applicable. They want to do away with all kinds of bias about the colour of one’s skin and be recognized as women largely.
When women from northeast India visit other parts of the country, they face heavy discrimination owing to their different looks. They also become easy victims of molestation and other crimes as they are racially different from mainland Indians.
They face double oppression in this regard as they belong to the two underprivileged groups of being a woman and a north-eastern woman in India. This aspect is known as intersectional feminism and addresses the different layers of oppression that a woman undergoes not only in terms of gender but also racially.
The #PadManChallenge by the actor Akshay Kumar went viral on social media. Actors posted pictures of themselves holding a sanitary napkin, thus trying to do away with the taboo associated with menstruation. But this too brings up the issue of women belonging to different classes in India.
On the one hand, where rural women want to keep the issue of menstruation confined to women only, more privileged and educated ones would like their male counterparts to enter this arena of what has been known as “feminine” and help them equally.
The third wave of feminism also seeks to do away with any class divisions. A rural woman must be treated the same way as a more privileged one.
But sadly, educated women have different demands than rural ones. The #PadManChallenge strove towards this very awareness that not even women should hold the taboo around periods.
Blogger Samyuktha Nair’s viewpoint:
“India is not yet ready for third wave feminism”
It is my opinion that third-wave feminism caters mainly to the lifestyle of women in first-world countries, and therefore is not applicable in India.
Before jumping into the ultra libertine lifestyle propagated by the third wave (which stresses on a more post-structuralist interpretation of gender and sexuality, training the spotlight on the importance of individuality and not believing in using terms and examples to define sexual preference and expression- basically, similar to the concept of “free love”), it is necessary to establish the tenets of second-wave feminism in a developing country like India.
We already have in place the requirements of first wave feminism, which came into legal acceptance fairly recently when compared to western countries. These are the woman’s right to vote and inherit property.
Second wave feminism takes it a step further, by focussing on the need for women to claim their rights in the workplace and in the domestic space. It has been the aim of second-wave feminism to combat issues such as marital rape, domestic violence, and to give women greater reproductive rights.
One example of how the second wave operates is the sensitisation of women towards the use of birth control as it enables women to balance their family life with their career and prevent unplanned pregnancies.
In my opinion, these are the women’s issues that need attention in India. It is only when we have this basic groundwork in place that we can look towards expanding into the more militant tenets of third wave feminism, which move away from the family and workplace, and focus on the woman as an individual powerhouse, irrespective of her environment.
Considering the fact that India is still comparatively conservative, we need to talk about issues like sexual harassment and rape, both in the personal and professional sphere, as these are problems one reads about every day. In fact, the #MeToo movement in India revealed an astonishing number of women who had faced sexual harassment at some point in time in their lives.
Also, with female foeticide and infanticide and the quest for a male child being prevalent in many areas in India, women do not have control over their own reproductive systems- they are treated like a baby-making factory till they produce a sufficient number of male children. It is of prime importance to set these problems straight by educating people about gender equality and birth control so that they can regain control and stability in their lives, and start treating women with respect.
I feel that India as a country is not yet ready for third wave feminism as a whole, except for certain urban areas which have reached the economic and socio-cultural framework that has afforded them the “privileges” of second-wave feminism. We need to wait for the rural areas to catch u before we think of progressing further.
It is a positive development in the country that a healthy debate regarding the different concerns of the feminist movement itself has been taking place. Because debates and discussions bring out newer ideas and awareness.
Such debates will definitely speed up the advent of third wave feminism in our country if at all it has not arrived already!
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