Can a man be a friend of feminism?

We are glad to publish this post by our friend Dr Abdul Fakhri. Please welcome him warmly by commenting on his maiden post. Also, do check out Dr Fakhri’s book when you get a chance.  – Priya Raju.

These are a few random thoughts about Gender, Feminism and Sexuality. The old adage that while more things change they remain the same holds true in this case. Unless men and women make a radical departure from our ancient deep-rooted assumptions and prejudices nothing will change. Change that makes the world a better place to live in – I can’t see why anyone would have second thoughts about that.

My thinking about this subject was sparked off by a group of lady colleagues fervently defending the right of women to go to work in an office. I was at first a bit surprised and then very sad. Surprised because I thought we had reached a point of consensus ages ago in civil/political society that affirmed the right of women to work. And there are still people debating that. Come on guys! We are not in the paleolithic age!

Sad because I thought we take pride in Kalpana Chawla/Sunita Williams as icons of women’s/nation’s emancipation and seek to inspire our daughters along those lines but are still bogged down by very fundamental assumptions about women’s ‘location’ in society.

Irrespective of caste, language, religion and even geography, gender is the most common dimension where one can see similarities across societies. The ‘sisterhood’ faces challenges universally. One would be amazed to note how much domestic violence is part of family life across the world or for that matter crime against women. No culture or social group can claim a holier-than-thou attitude towards gender issues. Having said that, it must also be made clear that the level of debate and the extent to which these issues are addressed varies from society to society and country to country. The Euro-American societies have over the years  seen a lot of ferment on these issues and they are able to cope with these issues better. They have not sought to push things under the carpet. Does that mean that our cultures have not had a progressive presence? There is so much out there to name a few:  Pandita Ramabai worked for the emancipation of women. Our very own Periyar was a radical feminist of his time. Bharati spoke of “Pudumai Penn.” And many more to name just a few.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post. The debate, policy and research on these issues has reached light years ahead of what our ‘brotherhood’(sic) is busy with – the rather paltry right of women to go to work.  The debate is about redefining masculinity. About expressive and assertive female sexuality. About alternate sexuality or transgender issues. About redefining the legal process to be more friendly to women and the transgendered. About reshaping policy to meet the changing needs of our time.

The most basic of all identities is ones gender identity. But there is an acute biological determinism about how  people see these things. At a conceptual level, recent thinking on these subjects shows that there is increasingly a clear delineation about gender identity at at least three levels. At the first level is biology or biological fact about a person being born a male or a female. At the second level is the social sex whether the person sees himself/herself as a man/woman. Lastly and at the final level is the sexual orientation of the person whether s/he prefers someone of the same or opposite sex. At what level of permutations and combinations a person’s thoughts and emotions may be differs from individual to individual. Rigid straitjacketing of the roles of individuals whether men/women has never worked through history and will never work. Life is about fluidity and identities including gender identities are always in a flux.

Clearly gender is not equal to biological fact. Gender is culturally and socially produced. That there are men who prefer to live their lives as women is testimony to the non-biological reality of gender/sexual emotions. While it is sad that such men are sneered at by mainstream society, what is not noticed is that they have made a tough choice to abstain from patriarchal structures by abdicating the power that a man has in society. That is the key word POWER. Lord Acton had said “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Men seek that absolute power over women in society by setting the rules of the game. Gender is not so much about just the right of women to work but the power relations between men and women. Despite the relationship between husbands and wives being the most intimate space of their lives it is still amazing how power plays a vital role in marriages.

It is heartening to notice the increasing awareness of gender and transgender issues in the media. While some of this can become reduced to voyeurism and caricatures, still there is light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it is TV chat shows or films there is an increasing realization that we have to grow up on these issues. The onus in this sphere is clearly on the men as the power-bearers. Women already have too much on their plate to go about conscientizing men as to how they ought to conduct themselves. A redefined masculinity is not just about help in changing nappies of the child or doing household chores but about a fundamentally changed and different perspective about how we look at the world. Abhorring power and control in gender issues could also lead to a  breakthrough in caste, religious, ethnic, racial  and cultural spheres. It is all intertwined. We have to transcend gender issues to achieve a more peaceful and equitable existence. To those who believe in a God, it is the complimentarity of ‘Gods creation’ – the sexes that needs to be understood at the very outset.

The need of the hour is for more men to empathize with feminism. Can a man be a feminist?  Perhaps yes or Perhaps not. Not because there is another kind of biological determinism that insists that only women understand their exploitation. Yes because through ages there has always been the benevolent(sic) male who has stood up for the right of women. Alright, if a man cannot be a feminist, at least he can be a ‘friend of feminism.’! What better or higher virtue can women attribute to men than being called true FRIENDS!

Our age is about transcending gender and transgender! To those who are still debating whether women can go to work,  I say ” Yawn! Gentlemen(sic), Good Morning, Wake up and smell the coffee!”


Comments

  1. Quote
    pk.karthik said August 29, 2008, 10:27 pm:

    That was brilliant Dr Fakhri…..

    I would like to differ on one point though.When we talk of women’s emancipation we talk of the freedom given to women…But my point is who r we(men) to give freedom to women….Its like India asking pakistan or another Independant country to act as per its orders….Women have all the liberties just that they dont realise it and let the men bulldoze over them….Our society has really been liberal when compared to other socities but then as u rightly put it we really cant have holier that thou attitude as we always have cases of Sati,Dowry Harassment,Female infanticide ,Polygamy ,child marriages in our society…I feel women should rise to it..we need more Medha Patkars and Arundhati Roy’s for this……

  2. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said August 30, 2008, 12:42 am:

    Welcome aboard. Insightful post Abdul. Karthik, you are right, who are we to give the liberty?

    However, because of thousands of years of male domination, women’s rights have been systematically eroded to the point where we need activism or should we say feminism.

  3. Quote

    Abdul – Great post.

    Its sad that people are still debating a woman’s “right” to work. And if a man cooks, its still a joke. Its unquestioningly agreed that a woman will shift to her in-laws’ house when she gets married – and its considered shameful when a man does that. Women who keep their maiden name are anomalies & their “aggression” startles people. Isn’t that a pathetic commentary on sexism!

    I partly agree with Karthik. Women can’t keep blaming men for the fix they are in. They need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

    But, men have dominated women for several millenia & they’ve brain-washed women into believing they are 2nd rate citizens. They can’t just wash their hands off this completely.

  4. Quote

    Great post Dr.Fakhri.
    I never thoughts people are still debating the women’s right to work in this day and age. I do feel we have made a lot of progress as a society. Now that there are a lot of women in the white collared work force, we can see a dramatic change in the way women are being treated. In the 12 years of my working life, I have noticed the change. I think this change is mainly due to the fact that women are earning well. I personally feel that a lot of these inequalities would disappear as more and more women gain financial independence.

    I am reminded of a scene in “Friends”. Ross tells Rachel, “How can a man want to be a baby sitter, it is like women wanting to be….” he is unable to think of a profession where a woman would not fit. I thought that’s what you call a liberated society.

  5. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said August 31, 2008, 1:43 pm:

    Well written post.. There was a similar topic in the same blog written by priya earlier, and a hot discussion that were going on..

    I myself had gone through lot of transformations after that debate.. But there are certain core fundamental changes, that needs to be addressed, in relation to the topic..

    First thing is regarding Male-female equality.. My strongest opinion is Male and Female are Not equal, biologically, psychologically and even sexually.. Whatever factor we take.. we see that male and female are not equal.. Even in emotional issues, there are differences..
    But, what is wrong in that differences? Is differences so evil? or is our approach and attitude towards that difference the root cause of the evil?

    The basic necessity is that everyone should be peaceful.. That need not be attained only by equality and independance.. Differences and interdependance contributes a lot for a peaceful existence in many cases.. In this angle, my opinion is that the caring and well wishing of one over the other can bring about harmony and peace..

    Secondly, transgenders and cases like men living a women life, are exceptions.. They are caused by harmonal and genetic imbalance… Exceptions cannot be standards or examples.. From that we cannot say biological difference over male and female has faded away..

    But what’s needed is the outlook of the society towards them.. We need to empathize and understanding about their position, and atleast stop from teasing or marginalising them..

  6. Quote

    Dr Fakhri
    Great topic and well written. I would say we are given so much to Women legally, but practically they are still in dark. May be big cities, we are seeing giant leaps but small towns and villages, Indian women are still 2 steps behind their husbands. Transgenders are well applicable to rich and developed countries, but not with developing nations like us.

    Subba

  7. Quote

    Senthil – Men & Women are not equal, but they should be respected & treated equally. The whole point of the post is, we need to reach a more advanced point in emancipating women. Not get stuck at the starting point – like discussing whether men & women are created equally.

    People are individuals & hence are complex. You can’t use thumb-rules & stereotypes to understand them. Not all men are equal. Not all women are equal. Its absurd to talk about the differences between men & women, and ignore individual differences. Its highly illogical.

    Kiran Bedi is a bold woman. I wonder how many men are half as bold as her. Dr Albert Schweitzer was a compassionate man. I wonder how many women are half as kind as that. These differences are not found in some minuscule portion of the population! People are as different as “A” & “B”.

    Let’s say someone interviews 2 engineers for a post. One should look at the suitability of the individuals for the post. Not at whether a woman can work. Their gender is irrelevant, provided both agree to the same working conditions. It is discriminatory & reprehensible at this point, if the interviewer tells the woman – “Well, this job involves long hours. You agree to work long hours, but since you are a woman, I doubt if you will. You are incapable of working long hours, anyway. So, I’m hiring the man”.

    What Dr Fakhri says about the trans-gendered people is this. Gender is a continuum. Its not a cut & dried thing. One’s biological gender, sexual gender & brain gender may all be different. Only when we understand that, can we appreciate the fact that stereotypes are useless to gauge people.

    It is a humongous dis-service to people if we assess them with some outdated caricature of their physical gender. HR departments in all organizations summarize it succinctly: “Discrimination” & “Unfair Bias”.

    You may not think independence is needed. But, I do. You may think peace is more important. I think negative peace bought by sacrificing one’s ambition is useless. There should be enough room in the society for both your views & mine. People who are independent don’t want to live by your rules. People who are happy with conventional roles don’t want to live by my rules. And that’s fine. But, both types of people must be given the choice to live their personal life their way. In their official spheres, everyone must ignore gender while hiring someone, enrolling someone for a course etc. Or face legal consequences.

  8. Quote

    Great post Abdul. I agree with Karthik. This has been a debate that has been going on for over decades now. However, who is anybody to give or take rights from anyone else. I fully agree that women should be treated equal etc, however in majority of the society though women can take rights, they do not as, they have been conditioned for ages to act in a certain way.
    We had a discussion at work regarding this post and Bindu, Sumathi and I feel that majority of women have come into acceptance of certain things as ‘Not a man’s job’ or ‘I am a woman and I only can do this better’. Here I guess, men can become an immense support by sharing chores and also including women in decision making (I think this is not a major issue in the corporate world). So, woman have to overcome this deep rooted belief in themselves.
    Also, I have been observing a trend that is becoming more and more common in the new generation women these days. There is a rebel attitude that is going high, where they simply cannot accept what a man says, be it supervisor, husband or Father, brother. This is not a healthy change for the society either.
    Also, as Sukumar and Priya have pointed out, men also should be more liberating. On a recent talk show on Vijay TV where they ask men on ‘Is it OK for women to work’ and majority of the participants answered that when they earn all the money why would a woman need to go to work. This is a very wrong impression many men have. They feel going to a job is to make money. If that’s the case, as writer Chetan Baghat pointed out in Symboisis college inaugural speech, The Tatas, Birlas of the world would have stopped working long ago. Also, the same men when questioned on what they wanted their daughters to be, unanimously said they see them as great career women. Now isn’t this what we call hypocrisy?
    We need to have common grounds. ‘Live and let live’ should be the attitude. Such a shift in attitude will also allow us to also tolerate and appreciate transgender and men who want to socially not act as a man.

  9. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said September 1, 2008, 6:10 am:

    Senthil,
    I am just curious. When you say men and women are not equal – biologically, sexually etc., who is more equal? To explain further, when you compare apples to apples – where similarities abound more than dissimilarities, when you say one apple is unequal to another, one apple has to be superior to the other. Since men and women by virtue of being human beings have more similarities than differences, comparing men to women is an apples to apples comparison. Therefore, when you say, men and women are not equal, you are saying that one is superior to the other. Now, who is superior – men or women?

  10. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 1, 2008, 6:18 am:

    Thanks Karthik. Those are very perceptive thoughts that you have expressed about the issues faced by women in India.

    On the subject of men ‘giving freedom’ to women, you are theoretically right about who are men to be doing that? However, in practice who controls the levers of society or the power centres in all spheres of life? It is men is it not? Therefore, even before ‘giving’ (sic) the freedoms/rights, men have to concede the space in public life and the equivalent issues in family life like inheritance/property issues,
    sharing incomes, reproductive rights and so on.

    Through history it has always been the ‘powerless’ groups who have had to demand their rights from the ‘powerful’ groups. In this case it is men and women.

    Incidentally, the private-public dichotomy is not so easily accepted by feminist thinking with their famous slogan ‘The personal is the political!’

  11. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 1, 2008, 6:21 am:

    Sukumar and Priya,

    Thank you for hosting my thoughts on sastwingees.

  12. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 1, 2008, 6:33 am:

    Thanks Priya. You are very right when you say that men can’t wash their hands off this subject. That is exactly the point that feminism tries to make. That ‘patriarchy’ as an idea perpetuates a social system where men and women often mindlessly play the part that they have been conditioned to play over the ages. Now with modern methods of education, the electronic media, cyberspace and so much more at hand, it is possible to break the shackles of age-old prejudices and attitudes.

    Men don’t need to worry about women steeped in patriarchy. They have to concern themselves with other men who think in patriarchal ways. That is the challenge before us. To simplify the problem, one can say habits die hard!

  13. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 1, 2008, 7:00 am:

    Thanks Archana. Please address me as Abdul.

    You would be amazed as to how decadent the coffee-table conversations about gender issues are today. As I had remarked that while more things change they remain the same is very true on gender issues.

    A sad fact that I notice over generations is that latest debates including cutting-edge research on gender, feminism and sexuality (even that which is simplified and presented in the media) is not taken notice of and in fact considered plain boring. So much so that the TV news channels are today contemplating how to make their news more entertaining.

    What is required is a greater enthusiasm, care and concern for discussing about issues dear to us, implementing change in our lives in small ways and helping the ‘interested uninformed’ to be aware of these issues! We all have to start somewhere.

  14. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 1, 2008, 7:04 am:

    Thanks Senthil.

    Priya in her elaborate response has dealt with most of your concerns and I agree with her there. What you say about empathy and understanding is very important and more people need to appreciate that point.

  15. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 1, 2008, 7:18 am:

    Subba,

    Thanks. Trangender issues do not apply only to developed countries. We are so much bogged down still by basic women’s rights issues that we are yet to touch the iceberg of the debate and its complexity around transgender issues.

    As I have said in my post, we tend to brush issues under the carpet in developing nations. Especially issues pertaining to sexuality. If I can hazard a guess, I think somewhere you are confusing affluence or the representation of it with transgender in developed societies. What you are saying is that in rich and developed countries, transgender is more visible over public spaces, the media and the legitimacy accorded to them. Whereas that is not the case in developing countries.

    Transgender is an umbrella term for so many alternate and diverse sexuality categories. In our societies the level of stigma and marginalisation is so high, that these populations are kind of ‘invisible.’
    Not entirely but somewhat there. Here poverty is a major reality for the transgender populations.

    Over the coming years our societies (as different from Euro-American ones or as you call them rich and developed) would also have to deal with the transgender issues in realistic and empathetic ways. That would be the next level of the gender struggle. I have tried to simply as I have said what is a huge and complex issue that needs separate elaborate treatment by a specialist on those subjects.

  16. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 1, 2008, 7:31 am:

    Thanks Shoba. I am reminded of ‘papa dont preach!’ Rebellion for the sake of being rebellious does not make sense by either gender. The question is are there concrete issues that we differ over where there is either oppression or an unfair advantage that one gender has over the other.

    The question of division of labour has been very deep-rooted since ancient days. The hunter-gatherer societies all had this compartmentalisation of what is a man and a womans job. However, a redefined masculinity that I had mentioned is about participating in the chores at home, helping with the baby, the child’s studies – all these men are indeed beginning to do. There has been a shift in the way urban jobs work and related changes in the family system. With increased nuclear families and the lack of extended family support, the couple are now being forced to share the work at home.

    About men being liberating: people often ask what can we do. One look at the matrimonial columns of our leading dailies should be sufficient to convince anyone as to what is required to be done. Is the marriage space a kind of ‘cattle-market’ that rates, complexion, height, weight and you name it – all characteristics are there. The response given is that these are deeply personal choices and we cannot do much about them. Indeed here the personal is the political because through all these characterisations, one gender noticeably the male is seeking power over another!

  17. Quote

    Thanks Abdul for detailed explanation for my opinion. I agree with you most of it.

  18. Quote

    Shoba,

    This is in reply to your comment
    http://www.sastwingees.org/2008/08/29/can-a-man-be-a-friend-of-feminism/#comment-4877

    I too saw that programme in vijay TV. But did you notice the irony that most of the working women were in the side of “NO”..

    Regarding that man who told “His daughter can go to work, but not his wife”, i would like to point out that its not against women, that men has prejudice or preferences.. Rather its against the role they have..

    A man will say “I will not allow my mother to work”.. and he also says ” I will not allow my wife to work”.. But both has entirely different meaning and context..

    So, the very basic principle of “Against women” concept itself, i believe is wrong..

    Secondly, in that programme, the other important point has been missed out.. If both husband and wife went for work, who will take care of the children, parents? Its not only husband’s parent.. but the parents of both..

    In today’s circumstances, with marriages taking place lately at 27 or 29 yrs, there comes the task of taking care of our elders in our family..

    and in that case, if money is not a prime criteria, i support wifes being at home and taking care of both her parents and in-laws..

  19. Quote

    Priya..

    /** Senthil – Men & Women are not equal, but they should be respected & treated equally **/

    101% agree… and this is what i am insisting.. but, is there any metrics for the respect one gives?? :) .. respect is too abstract and it has to be common for all.. (to say equally is misleading)..

    /** People are individuals & hence are complex. **/

    Definitely NOT.. people are not individuals.. atleast in india..

    /** Its absurd to talk about the differences between men & women, and ignore individual differences **/

    Since this post is about equality of men and women, i dealt with men-women differences..

    /** Let’s say someone interviews 2 engineers for a post. One should look at the suitability of the individuals for the post. Not at whether a woman can work **/

    I dont have any second thought on whether women can/should work .. women worked for centuries.. I was grown up in villages till my 12th and as far as i remember, all women in my village worked.. (if you dont think that only white collar jobs are the works legitimate)

    This problem exists mostly in towns and cities.. and this is a problem arised out of social transformation, and not some one sitting in some authority and ordering “All women should not work” ..

    We need to have a pragmatic understanding & approach to this..

  20. Quote

    /**
    It is discriminatory & reprehensible at this point, if the interviewer tells the woman – “Well, this job involves long hours. You agree to work long hours, but since you are a woman, I doubt if you will. You are incapable of working long hours, anyway. So, I’m hiring the man”.
    **/

    Well.. again, the concept of discrimination is not understood.. if a man and women is taken for the same job, and both performs well.. and if the boss says “I am paying you less because you are woman”. .. this is what called discrimination.. ie, denying what she deserves, based on gender.

    But selecting a candidate based on gender is the employers’ preferences ..

    I personally know an employer who rejected a girl, because, she would soon get married and get away.. that’s one of the factor considered by him and he has the right to do so..

    Many corporates have a policy of maintaining male-female ratio.. in the recruitment, they would prefer female candidates for maintaining that ratio.. as per your logic, this is also discrimination.. preferring female candidate over male..

    You would also had read articles in newspapers that “Companies prefer female candidates over male”.. this is also discrimination as per your logic.. a stereotype based on gender that female employees will not switch companies that often..

    also, most corporates would never give reason to the candidate why he is not selected.. when you dont know the reason, how can you take legal action..

    My personal opinion is that right and wrongs depend wholly on the purpose..
    there is a social angle to this problem too.. a girl unemployed is not a big thing.. if she doesnt get a job, she can get married and settle in life.. (this was said by many girls openly as “If we dont get a job, we will get married”)

    But that’s not a case for males… He has to get a job.. only then he will get a bride.. a social recognition..

    (I expect harsh reactions from the other side particularly on the above comment.. but a spade is a spade..)

  21. Quote

    /** Therefore, when you say, men and women are not equal, you are saying that one is superior to the other. Now, who is superior – men or women? **/

    Sukumar,

    When i say men and women are NOT equal, why is it assumed that one is superior than other? This is one of the pre-conceived notion, that people have.. Apple and oranges are not equal.. but do we see them as superior/inferior..

    I feel, this is one of the basic reason for many of the problems.. We want everything in this world to be equal, and uniform.. we are afraid of differences.. we strongly believe, differences are evil and has to be eliminated.. and this is exactly the root cause of all ideological clashes and other problems..

    I was really surprised when I read in Shreya’s blog worrying about so many gods.. she was made to believe, that there should be only one god, and having many gods leads to problem.. yet another wrong impression being created in that budding mind.. this is also the result of our attitude and approach towards differences..

  22. Quote

    Senthil – Which century are you in?! In India, people are not individuals?! Maybe you are not one, but many of us are. You may think individuality doesn’t gel well with our “way of living”. Does it occur to you that many of us Indians have thrown away the old way of living? Wake up & smell the coffee.

    You seem to have dangerously poor awareness of HR policies. And how legal action is taken – all it takes is a complaint from an applicant to start an investigation. And you don’t seem to know the difference between affirmative action & discrimination. Before you make more shocking statements on this subject & embarrass yourself, you should speak to your HR Manager.

    Yes, kids & elders should be cared for. In developed countries, men quit their jobs too, to care for children. Have you ever heard about it? Why don’t you support men taking care of them? Perhaps you think I’m cracking a joke. You should try to know more about the world around you – before talking about spades. Then maybe you’ll encounter more women with a back-bone. And learn about baby-sitters/paid nurses & how working men/women use them.

    Altogether antiquated views considered politically very incorrect, highly sexist/chauvinistic & unsavory, especially in the work-place. You live in a time-warp. Consider this: you are leaving a trail on the internet – which can be used against you by an applicant that you rejected.

  23. Quote

    I am bowled over by the post Dr. Fakhri. I am amazed at different dimensions covered. To understand the issue is the first step. It doesnt take much time to recognize the inequality around. All it takes is heart and mind and plain thinking.

    We all agree that education plays a key role. But in my opinion, our education doesnt really drive the point on gender equality. Next step is social exposure. Women (even if they are discriminated and not fighting because of various barriers) should make sure that their opinion is expressed to their children and make them better individuals. If that is supplemented by right lessons, I think we can see a new generation which is more open minded.

  24. Quote

    I dont want to add any more fuel to classic Senthil ideas bashing, but Senthil, whatever you seem to subtly suggest is to continue the status quo. It saddens me when someone says that a girl is getting married so an employer denied. Did he care enough to ask her about her commitment after marriage? I personally know scores of women working from locations different than their husbands place of work. They do that to continue enjoying the freedom and individualism.

    On the side note, I see the working woman are more stressed. At least I know first hand from my own family. My mother is top level exec in LIC. She used to work 8/10 hours on high pressure job (even before insurance sector was opened up), come home, cook, clean, take care of our education. Is it fair?

  25. Quote

    Senthil,
    I think you didn’t understand my point. Men and Women are human beings (It is not an apples to oranges but a apples to apples comparison). They are more similar to each other than dissimilar. So when you say they are unequal you automatically mean that one is superior to the other. If you don’t understand this, you need to go to a logic class.

    On your note about the Vijay TV program – the fact that women were on the side of No actually shows how insidious the discrimination against women is. They have been so much brainwashed that they argue men’s points. it is insidious.

    As Priya says, you need to learn something about discrimination. If you think salary discrimination is the only one, you seriously need to attend a class on discrimination, gender sensitivity etc.

  26. Quote

    A good post, but it comes close to the topic only towards the end and insightful comments. The show in Vijay TV that has been referred to here sent me some shocks as I had felt that the discussion was about a topic well and truly decided. Women have the right to be financially independent and if they work for it who are males to permit them???

    Yes, Men can be feminists. I still don’t know why most people feel that feminists should always be women.

    Regarding HR Policies, frankly speaking I am also confused. What exactly is affirmative action??

  27. Quote

    Shiva – Affirmative Action is what a govt does to uplift the downtrodden. Reservation is 1 of the ways in which it can be implemented.

  28. Quote

    Sukumar, Even if the sample of women who attended that Vijay TV are nuts to echo classic male chauvinist opinion, who are we to conclude that they represent *all* women?

    I think for many social evils it is the abused who encourage the situation to continue for various reasons.

  29. Quote

    Vamsi,
    You are right. Of course they don’t represent all women. But the sad thing is quite a few women have been brainwashed into supporting male chauvinistic views. that is what i call as insidious.

  30. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 4, 2008, 1:47 am:

    Thanks Vamsi for your kind words and your response to the post. Please address me as Abdul.

  31. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 4, 2008, 1:51 am:

    Thanks Shiva for your thoughts. Glad that you think men can be feminists. As I have said, if there are people who argue that men cant be feminists, at least they can be ‘friends’ of feminism i.e. to wish well those efforts by other feminists to create a better society with less of the suffocating attitudes of ‘patriarchy.’

    If you notice more closely, the post takes on the crucial issues on the subject from paragraph 4 onwards and not towards the end of the post.

  32. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 4, 2008, 2:47 am:

    Senthil,

    Sukumar and Priya have responded quite insightfully to the question of the equality of the sexes.

    I resort to the concept of ‘modern citizenship.’ Neither in religion nor biology/science (sic), do I find the answer to the equality of the sexes.

    Men and Women are equal citizens in a modern nation-state and all rights under law would be equally applicable to them. A man can’t beat his wife on the grounds thats its his personal life, the society/state has no business. No! When you are commiting violence on another citizen, then the culprit can be pulled up. While I say this in the context of gender, the very same concept of citizenship is applicable in a modern nation-state on the grounds of caste, language, religion, race, ethnicity and so on.

    The process of reproduction and the debate over Nature/Nurture that women are supposed to be capable of is the biggest burden imposed socially on them! It took years to get people to concede maternity benefits. Even now its a sensitive issue with potential employers.

  33. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 4, 2008, 3:15 am:

    Vamsi,

    Certainly, its not fair to women to double-up working both at office and home. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that National Income Accounting principles would take care of the ‘unpaid’ work that women do at home as well. We need more light on how economic indicators take into account unpaid household work as well.

    A lot of this has to do with the choices that people make and the circumstances that they find themselves in. DINKS or Double-Income No Kids caught the imagination of the middle-classes sometime back. To the best of my understanding, a lot of people would make other choices if their economic circumstances were different. While going to work is both about fulfilment and livelihood,
    many individuals would think differently if only they could do so economically. For many, its not a choice.

  34. Quote

    Sukumar,

    I did not say there are no similarities b/w men and women.. And your question is contradicting the very meaning of the word “equal”..
    Can two entities having 70% similarities and 30% differences be termed as equal? at the most we can call them as equivalent..

    Your analogy of apples to apples itself is wrong.. there are no male and female apples :)

    Human being is just one of the classification.. there are many other things.. like mammals, animals etc.. so the very comparison itself is relative..
    In the human evolution theory, chimpanzee have more similarities with humans.. any one ready to say humans and chimpanzee are equal.. :) or more particularly, male chimpanzee is equal to male human and female chimpanzee :) :)

    And you havent answered my earlier question.. when two things are not equal, why we have to always look for superior/inferior? Cant two entities exists as it is without comparison or conflict?

    And i am ready to attend the class that you are suggestion for.. But, the staff who is taking the class have to face my questions :) :) :)

  35. Quote

    Abdul,

    I agree to your points like “men should not beat his wife..” etc.. But, i dis-agree with your other points.. a peaceful and stable society is the basis for a nationhood.. and such a society is possible only by acknowledging and accepting differences, not just among men and women.. but in every natural entity.. the only unquestionable requirement is that everyone should be comfortable and happy..

  36. Quote

    Senthil,

    What if those differences are alone reasons for discrimination? Should we still continue accepting them? Or should we reform and make them irrelevant where it doesnt matter and continue involving them where it matters.

    If women want to be treated with respect, share the responsibilities, want to go for work and earn independently, not treated unfair in opportunities just because she is a woman – it SHOULD be a no issue. In this context, if we cite history, culture etc, then it is hypocrisy IMHO.

    You are correct. Differences are there. A man cannot bear a child. It is nature. Similarly some jobs which need real hard physical work may not be suitable for woman. There could be real sensitive issues intertwined with religious beliefs like woman priests which may be real challenge even for staunch feminists to fight for equality. Keeping these aside, most other areas, if woman wants to be declared equal to man, there should be no questions.

  37. Quote

    Dear Readers – It happened again. As the moderator of this BLOG, I had to remove some offensive & provocative comments – yet again.

    The authors of this blog are no strangers to confrontation – we welcome dissent. We see this blog as a learning experience for all of us – authors, readers, commenters et al. Together we make knowledge possible. Disagreement is a necessary ingredient for clarity. Each & every one of you have disagreed with the authors vehemently at some point of time – and we are stimulated by that.

    Extreme idealogies stem from an unwillingness to learn & think for oneself. Not only do they bring down the quality of the discussion, but they ruin the reading pleasure for all. We see that as an attempt to eradicate the light of knowledge & spread the stifling darkness of ignorance. And that, we can not permit in our blog.

    For, Knowledge is Scrumptious.

  38. Quote

    Senthil,
    You are twisting my words to suit your purposes. Possibly because you have run out of points to debate. Let me remind you, you were the one who said men and women are not equal. How did you estimate that men and women are 70% similar and 30% different? Even if we assume that is the case, how does it have a bearing on equality?

    Every human being regardless of their color, caste, sex, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation are all equal, This is the universal human rights declaration signed off by the entire world.

    We are a long way away from this goal because of perceived inequalities between genders, races, castes, religions etc.

    Please read it carefully and make sure you understand it.

  39. Quote

    Sukumar,

    Exactly that’s the point. I happened to read the offensive comment from reader, which is very fast to pick up comments and posts. First I was shocked and later i realized that the commenter just playing devils advocate or very young to understand real issues. Any way it is free world and free speech, but we can’t take that as advantage to hurt others.

    Ignore those and Keep going friends…

    Subba

  40. Quote

    Thanks Subba.

  41. Quote

    I am very surprised and in some way feel insulted at my comments being deleted.. the blog owner had stated that my comments are offensive.. i would like to clarify that i havent used any swear words or abused or insulted any one here.. and i hope, its not as aggressive as the blog owner’s comment terming my views as sexists/chauvinist etc.

    Fine.. this is their space, and they have every right to delete it.. but just announcing that my comment was offensive, gives a wrong meaning that i might have used abusive words.. i am again making it clear, in none of the circumstances in this blog, even in earlier instances where my comments were deleted, i have not done that..

    and i thank everyone for patiently bearing me for all these days.. i am sorry, this is my last comment and last visit to this blog..

  42. Quote

    Wonderful post abdul! “Transcending Gender” :)

    Alas! If only transcending gender was as easily possible as it sounds ! Gender bias and male dominance has existed since time immemorial.

    Like priya says “men have dominated women for several millenia & they’ve brain-washed women into believing they are 2nd rate citizens”.

    Hope people truly realize and learn to respect one another. Evolution awaits man-kind. [pun intended :P]

  43. Quote

    Great post and as usual very insightful comments. I have certainly learnt a lot from this post and comments. It has made me think of where I stand. And eventually I guess that is the purpose of such discussions – not just go back and forth, but analyze, look back, learn and see if changes can be effected based on the lessons learnt. Thank You

    Ganesh

  44. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 8, 2008, 2:56 am:

    Jass,

    Thanks. Effort towards change is always difficult. But we all have to make a beginning somewhere.

  45. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 8, 2008, 2:58 am:

    Ganesh,

    Thanks for your kind comments. Its often said, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. Discussions such as ours hopefully achieve that purpose- of lighting a candle. :)

  46. Quote
    Ramesh Ramaswamy said September 8, 2008, 8:09 am:

    Abdul,

    Great post! As Ganesh said it has helped me introspect. Thanks a lot!

    - Ramesh

  47. Quote
    Abdul Fakhri said September 9, 2008, 7:14 am:

    Ramesh,

    Thanks for your comment.

    It would be obvious to all informed and reflective people that our existence is at different interlinked levels, as individuals,
    as families, as societies, as states and so on. In multiple and diverse ways our thinking can lead to practices that make for a better tomorrow. If we all achieve that in small ways, that adds up to something worthwhile. At least I would like to believe that! :)

  48. Quote

    Hi Abdul,
    Wonderful post with tremendous insight. i don’t say this coz i’m a woman and this post serves as a great boost to us. But, if you look at global mythologies, in Hinduism, Shiva gave half of his body to Parvati as a means to indicate that masculine power is equal to feminine power or vice versa. It is also noteworthy that He gave his left half to Her which is where the heart is located. Vishnu is said to be carrying Laskhmi in his chest which also is the place holder of his heart. Chinese philosophy talks about Yin and Yang, the two opposite but necessary powers that govern the universe. Feminity and Masculinity are but two sides of the same coin and required for the functioning of this world. Fighting over genders is the height of immaturity for its the same God (and for non beleivers, the same Energy or Supreme power) that resides in all beings, irrespective of their caste, creed or gender.

    Given all the spiritual reasoning, the fact remains that procreation is a unique boon (or threat?!) bestowed on the feminine species. i do agree that a man also plays an equal part in the process but the woman has a bigger share in experiencing the challenges of child bearing (as well as the joy of motherhood). Women did enjoy enormous respect and equality in Vedic times. It is only over time that with invasions and evolving (un)social cultures, the violence against women increased and as a means to protect them, certain rules needed to be framed. These stiffened over period of time with executioners of these rules being chauvinistic men, thus leaving women oppressed for several years.

    Gone are those horrendous days and thanks to feminism and compassionate men, women are definitely stamping their mark of excellence in all their endeavours. Although there’s a significant improvement in the way they are being treated, inequalities still exist in human minds (i’m not being gender specific here – while we see men exercising control over the women in their lives, some women themselves have self imposed restrictions maybe coz of the conditioning they’ve undergone). i should also attribute the success of women in modern times to the immense support given by understanding men, at home as well as the workplace. Kudos to men like you who respect womanhood and inspire us to establish our identities.

    i’m sure that the days are changing now and the bridge between the genders would certainly narrow down (if not Vanish for ever :-)). Whether we are man or Woman, let us learn to respect the mind and soul housed in the other body – be it human, animal, bird, insect, plant or a life of any kind. That will help make this world a better place to live in.

  49. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said May 21, 2011, 9:09 pm:

    I would like to share this link on women in india.. a different perspective..

    http://2ndlook.wordpress.com/2007/11/13/feminism-women-social-position-et-al

  50. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said May 7, 2012, 10:09 pm:

    It has been a fashionable, to deride indian society for female foeticide, by urban english educated.. a lot of debate happened in this blog, accusing our society..

    the recent aamir khan’s interview exposed the truth, that it is the government and NOT our society which is the culprit.. in an attempt to control population, the government imported ultra sound scan, and encouraged people to abort female foetus.. and now, it is the same government which is punishing the people..

    the following article explains this hypocrisy in detail..
    http://quicktake.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/female-foeticide-state-of-the-debate/

    And my billion dollar question.. where are those self styled MORAL custodians, who accuse this society for all ills, keep their face now?

  51. Quote
    senthil (subscribed) said May 7, 2012, 10:13 pm:

    The mother of all conspiracies, is the Population propoganda, and using this as a reason for controlling population..

    http://2ndlook.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/the-mother-of-all-conspiracies-population-problem/

    Particularly the extensive references given in the above link, gives more details..

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