Lechindi.. nidra lechindi mahila lokam...
These lines belong to one of the most popular songs of the old Telugu cinema, which are from the film 'Gundamma Katha' (link). The song is meant to be a spoof on the feminist movement which started in India before independence, basically about what the then generation perceived to be "role-reversal" (which it is not - it is simply everyone having the freedom to define one's own 'role'). I am currently watching the film and took a break to do this post. It would be utterly unfair for me to judge a movie of that time by current values/standards so I'm refraining myself. But I do want to write about how the people of that time (wrongly) understood what feminism and women empowerment were about. Admittedly, I'm not being very harsh as this song is a very beloved one in the Telugu heartland which comes from a very old time. It can be translated as something like this (I'm keeping only relevant parts - full text in Telugu can be found in this link):
" The female world is awakened
And the male world is threatened at once
By entering Panchayats in villages
And acquiring jobs in towns
They (women) have stood against men in all fields
And increased unemployment
By contesting for seats in legislature
Against their own husbands
They (women) found their place in Delhi
And brought divorce laws "
It's funny. Back then, people thought women empowerment was about women doing to men what men did to women. Even today, most people don't get it - 'Empowerment' means one having power over oneself. Feminism is about women having control over their own choices - not over men's choices. Which is why 'male world' shouldn't be 'threatened' if the 'female world' is 'awakened'. That song (admittedly for the sake of humor) was trying to tell the futile outcomes which came out of the sudden change - by portraying the achievements which women empowerment brought in (financial independence, freedom to walk out of unhappy marriages) as losing causes by mentioning 'increased unemployment'. The very mention of 'divorce laws' is supposed to be derogatory so no adjective was used. I think this is what patriarchs used to tell themselves - that these women were 'disrupting the norms'. How flawed were their perceptions! Working women were seen as 'snatchers' of men's 'rightfully deserved' (how?) jobs those days - that's the only way in which 'unemployment' could've 'increased' - by 'reserving' the right to earn for only one section of people.
So what do you all think today? Were those women fighting for lost causes? I think I'm extremely grateful to those women. I think their achievements were anything but 'lost causes' or 'failures'. Because I know that today, I'm free to
work earn (Women were always working. Homemakers work too - they just don't 'earn'); I'm free to choose my partner and walk out of an unhappy marriage relationship; I've the right to vote and contest for Panchayats and legislature too; I've the right to challenge gender-discriminatory laws - We owe all this to those people (all genders) who tried to 'disrupt the norms' at that time. And I would love to disrupt some more 'norms' of today too - parenting responsibilities, for instance. I would like my husband to have the right to fulfill the responsibility of a father when we have a child. I would want him to have a long paternity leave so that he can do this. And this is just the tip of the iceberg which contains the list of all the norms which I want to change :D Are you with me?
1. Will we fail our future generation?
2. Guide to marital bliss - Find out what feminists fight against!!