Victims or Fighters: The Real Feminists

Living in a patriarchal society paves way for tales that go unheard, of stories lost in the four walls of concrete houses, of opinions that seldom matter. The privileged few of us, belonging to the female fraternity, have struggled our way up, by empowering ourselves in ways that was thought to be unachievable. Perhaps for the very same reason the struggle seems all worth it. The idea of contentment emerges and leads us to believe that yes we have done it!

But what happens to those for whom the windows of opportunities are closed forever and the doors of expression are only symbolic? Do such circumstances harness belief and hope of future contentment in these women or does it shatter their strength to move ahead and face these adversities?

are these women  victims or fighters? Are they the mute spectators of misogyny camouflaged as ideal bahus and betis or are the women who are on a daily basis breaking barriers and entrenched stereotypes ? Who are these women? They are not corporate big shots, nor will you find them featured on the cover of leading magazines. They are definitely not sharing their #mychoice voices nor are they writing about freedom of speech on social platforms. In fact they are miles away from such glories and might have never heard of freedom of speech and expression.

You think no such thing exists? Well I can say, my existence here, my capacity to express in this language and the very idea behind this article would not have been possible but for these women! I think that breaking the ice ceiling and unfolding the stereotypes is what would matter when we fight this entrenched ideology of patriarchy?  A notion whose roots are so deep in our conscience that it becomes important to fight the subtleties, the quite violence, the unconscious bias, the macro and micro aggression, everyday !

My mother is also a fighter. Raised in a conservative family by a single parent, her mother with four other siblings, has been a close witness of gender bias. Forced to drop out of school at the young age of  eight to take care of her siblings.  She was at this tender age deprived of  dreams and opportunities. Ironically her brother, the single male member of the family, the so-called future bread-winner did not have to face the same difficulties. He was sent to the best of schools and renowned universities. But wait!! Wasn’t the sacrifice of one sister enough? What happened to the other three sisters? Didn’t the well-educated male member realize this? Turns out such sacrifices hardly matter. Daughters are those curses to a family that rip them off of their fortunes, so paying for their education is considered to be an extra burden. Well she may fight it all, she may cook, manage the house, take care of her younger siblings, go to the farm, toil and reap a rich harvest. Still she is not worth it.

This brings me down to two questions, first how flawed is our education system not only at primary level but also at the higher education level to not point out the fundamental drawbacks of our society. Why is it that children are not taught and informed of gender inequality that torments our society. why does the education system not sensitize the students on the misogyny that women are faced with? Secondly, is it just the educational system that is flawed, what do you call an educated, economically independent woman who with courage and conviction raises a family of five but decides to pass on her biases indiscriminately to her daughters ripping them off of their fundamental rights and marrying them off at an early age? this makes realize that patriarchy is not limited to male members of our society, but it is a well-founded idea that has taken an established shape whose roots go to an unfathomable level and even women are perpetrators of misogyny. It engulfs each one of us perhaps in different proportion.

Fortunately  or unfortunately I was put in a boarding school. In this struggle more importantly is not just the education but those genes that I have inherited from her which made it a habit for me to fight biases with firmness.

Of voices she raised through her action, for being the pillar of support, for the faith she had in me which I lacked at times, for also the times when she sacrificed her own needs. It is one thing to be educated and other to make sense out of it.

In today’s times we believe that empowerment means attending parties and social gatherings and talking about freedom of expression on social media. I don’t want to demean the above freedoms, they are also equally important but what also matters is dismantling sexism with unflinching actions. Asserting ones rights within the four walls of ones home, working shoulder to shoulder with men on farms, construction sites and factories, toiling in the scorching sun, fetching water from far away wells in a drought prone area is no less revolutionary. every woman’s battle is different and everyone goes about it in their own way and its time we recognize this and realize that  without them the rural economy and society wouldn’t stand a chance.

Manisha Awhale

About Manisha Awhale

Manisha has a law degree from ILS, Pune. She has been a research intern at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and Human Rights and Law Defenders. Manisha's sensitivity towards the people around her and social issues, sets her apart.

View all posts by Manisha Awhale →

3 Comments on “Victims or Fighters: The Real Feminists”

  1. Wow !! This article is truly a vivid expression of true essence of women empowerment and a fierce comment on the confused notion of the same in the society. Those unseen faces and unheard voices who could not make to the dias of any fancy function or social gathering are the real spirit and soul of the world we live in. A great read with a greater impact.

  2. What you say here about the women who fight inequality on a daily basis, be it as daily wage labourers in shops/factories/farms etc, is true! They are, I feel, the undercurrent of our economy. That undercurrent which never gets acknowledgement. The bias of our media engenders and furthers the biases existing in our society as even educated people like us are unable to understand the value or uniqueness of each human being. Kudos to you

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