Why 'your' feminism versus 'mine' doesn't help anyone but yourself

Let's reflect on why it's a highly individuated resistance that distances itself from questioning systemic inequalities.

 |  4-minute read |   19-05-2017
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I've heard one too many liberal women/liberal feminists using the rather convenient exit out of an argument with the freedom of speech-opinion trope. "My" feminism may be different from "yours", in practice, tactics and theory. However, it must be said now when pop feminism is on the surge we largely have consensus (at least at the outset) that women must have "equal rights", that feminism is not limited to pressing egalitarian demands upon a structurally patriarchal society or state.

It goes beyond the comforts of our gendered thinking, it is bound to make us feel uncomfortable and therefore the backlash (name-calling, feminazi bashing, et al) is no surprise rather the lack of an opposition would have been suspect. While it is true that there cannot be a homogenous women's struggle, it is also true that not all feminisms are the best versions of the cause.

It is important to appreciate the efforts of women from all walks of life in resisting, fighting, negotiating patriarchy from different fronts (socially, economically, politically) and acknowledge that each of those struggles are determined by their differential locations on the matrix of oppression.

femm_051917050213.jpgMy feminism was not developed to please your objective, rational minds ridden in patriarchy - a systemic sexism and a system of patriarchy. Photo: Screengrab/YouTube

Yet, it is important to remind ourselves that capitalism, neoliberalism and democracy are flexible enough to incorporate only so much of our general critique of a system which rests and (re)creates our labour. So, of course, the figure of the "boss lady" who "leans in" will not cause a rupture in the larger scheme of things as it often only manages to reproduce more labour force on which the market thrives.

So it is perfectly in tune with capitalism-patriarchy-democracy to observe women trying to break the glass ceiling by working a little harder to fit into an unequal system, thereby becoming a "role model" for other women who are left behind in such an individuated opportunist struggle.

And yet, not paradoxically, it will create the scope for "debate" and space for "resistance" wherein you will be allowed to "condemn" caste-based violence and at the same time encouraged to maintain your casteist anti-reparation views.

It will even go on to the extent of demarcating a legitimate space for dissent simultaneously condition you into believing that all the spill-over anger on the streets is a source of inconvenience to your normal life. There will, perhaps, be moments of genuine wonder and curiosity where you "learn" about the "miseries" of the "subalterns". Yet, in the suggestion of their humanness, you may get subsumed by the specificity of their difference.

So the misery of the minority would be a living wonder, a spectacle which we can afford to watch from afar or even choose to ignore as violence we haven't actively inflicted on the other; we could still get on with our lives consoling ourselves with a mental list counting the Kings and Khans of Bollywood.

A list made mainly to silence an outer or inner voice which recognises our own complacency and hypocrisy in sustaining a perverse system. One that exists and exploits selectively, which lets and even, wants a single-dominant or mainstream feminist discourse to wipe out all the other counter-narratives within feminism, for the sake of clarity or simplicity, for precisely those against whom the feminist movement makes its case.

I'm sorry, but my feminism was not developed to please your objective, rational minds ridden in patriarchy - a systemic sexism and a system of patriarchy.

I will use Teju Cole's argument that he employed to explain American racism and apply it here: "...(racism) has had many moving parts and has been able to evolve an impressive camouflage which allows it to hoard its malice in great stillness for a long time, all while pretending to look the other way. It is atmospheric, you don't see it at first, but understanding comes."

So, the next time we are out there busy discounting the struggles of doubly-marginalised women and are unwilling to engage with their ideas using an "I am also a woman and I don't think that way" trope, let's pause and take a moment to reflect on why that is a highly-individuated resistance that distances itself from questioning systemic inequalities.

Also read: What these 4 women characters from Indian mythology tell us about rape culture

Writer

Avantika Tewari Avantika Tewari @avantikatewari

I like movies, books, people (in that order).

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