No doubt feminism today is gaining momentum and is being widely recognised. Women empowerment is slowly turning out to be the common and the national goal. However, the society loves to point a finger at how women already enjoy way too much freedom. “Now this is too much”, are the words used to limit the demands of equality and representation of women. But can equality be too much? Can women be ‘too empowered’ as individuals? Why does society defame feminism when it becomes inconvenient? Can we stop restricting feminism and women empowerment to allowances and tokenism and make it a social norm?
You have the rights to go out to study but you cannot choose a life partner on your own. You have rights to drive and travel alone but come back before the clock strikes the hour when men have the freedom to assault women. Of course, you can choose what you want to wear, but don’t wear indecent, read revealing, clothes. You have the rights to make your own decision, but it is no big deal to agree to some expectations of your parents/in-laws after all they have given you enough freedom. Women’s freedom to reclaim their identities and choices are always conditioned and restricted by patriarchy. The moment a woman’s demand for equality transcends the idea that they are a subversive gender, her feminism becomes “too much”. Feminism is often criticised for spoiling the sanctity of sanskaar, familial traditions and culture. In their bid to attain equality with men, women who pursue ideologies and deeds that are traditionally considered to be masculine or indecent for a woman, are labelled as unsanskari or a threat to the peace and balance of the society. Such women are considered as aberrant in the society that will malign other women and hence should be ostracised.
But why does the society turn a blind eye to women’s oppression that perpetuated in the name of upholding the culture? India has been taking major steps towards ensuring gender equality in every field but the importance of preserving the indigenous culture always remains the concern. Patriarchy perpetuates its control through biases that breed in family structures, religion and cultures which then extends over to the society. It is the ancient cultures that have set rigid gender biases where women are considered to be inherently weaker sex. Women are considered as yet other marginalised section of the society whose empowerment is only till the point that they don’t transcend their marginalisation. As a result, the empowerment that is granted is only a few allowances and tokenism that doesn’t change the dominant inequality in society. Be it the freedom and representation in the parliament, institutions or in personal life, it is nothing more than a benevolent grant to a minority section that has its own conditions.
When a woman is molested, the first question that is put up is what she was wearing? Was she travelling alone or with a man? Because if a woman wears anything other than traditional outfits or moves around with a male friend or alone, she is violating the Indian culture. And so she is somewhere held responsible for the assault. Or if an educated, working or empowered woman rejects motherhood or is against getting married she is shamed for her rebellious nature that goes overboard and defies the natural laws. What about her choice? Is that not a part of her empowerment? And why does Indian culture get to decide about anyone’s life?
But why should women be seen as a weaker gender on the first hand? Should they or anyone be encapsulated under minority, marginalised or subservient sections of society that are initially not considered as equal? It is to shatter the very idea that women are weaker gender? Because women are human beings with equal rights and are not accountable to any “father figure” about what freedom she is allowed. If women empowerment happens with the prejudice that women are weaker, it will never reach its absolute aim which is to develop an equal society. Women need not be granted equality and freedom, it is their legal right as a human and should be demanded if it is infringed. Empowerment is not only about education and employment but the ownership of one’s own life. And equality means no discrimination based on gender, caste, class or race and complete freedom to do whatever one wants. Until we achieve that, equality can never be too much.
The views expressed are the author’s own.