Feminism is an ideology that has been discussed threadbare for decades if not centuries. However, two developments in the recent past have made the analysis of this belief system even more intense. One has been the ‘Me Too’ movement that has pulled the mask of decency away from many high-profile and formerly respected celebrities.
The other is the meteoric rise of a Canadian Psychologist Jordan Peterson. The latter is a professor of Psychology in Canada who has been a strong critic of feminism in its present form. The objections raised by Peterson has made him one of the most popular personalities on YouTube and has provided, possibly, the biggest intellectual challenge to feminism in its history.
The debate in the Western world over the beliefs of this ideology are very interesting, even arresting, to a casual observer. However, in India, before debating the pros and cons of feminism, one needs to ask a more fundamental question – Is there really anything called Feminism in India?
Why the question?
The reason for raising this doubt arises from the selectivity of self-proclaimed feminists. They berate endlessly the discrimination against women in Indian society but gush with pride on seeing burqa-clad women of Shaheen Bagh. They demand end to ‘regressive’ customs like Karva Chauth but don’t even whimper against institutionalized discrimination against women in Islam.
But there is an even deeper malaise with Indian Feminism, or what passes for it, that questions the bona fide of those who boast of being loyal to this ideology. It’s their attitudes to social mores and certain cultural values of our country.
Feminists love to talk about how Indian women are deprived of agency over their body because of the ‘patriarchal’ Indian society’s supposed obsession with a women’s virginity. They also rant about ‘double standards’ in India over things like alcoholism. According to the ‘feminists’ of this country, a man taking alcohol is no big deal but a woman doing so is scandalous.
The examples can go on. Basically, what they all boil down to is this core belief of Indian feminists: Indian society follows double standards of morality, one for men and one for women. On the face of it, it seems convincing. Many non-leftists, even right-wingers would agree with this proposition.
However, using this belief, the self-proclaimed feminists of this country are promoting libertarian amorality, the type prevalent in the western society, and presenting it as ‘liberation’ of women.
Take the two examples given above – virginity and alcoholism. Yes, Indian society values and even celebrates women’s virginity. But does it not value virginity among men? Anyone familiar with Indian culture knows the high regard for men who have been brahmacharis – a term which means not only celibacy but complete abstention from lustful activities and thoughts.
The devotion towards Hanuman, the reverence for Pitamah Bhishma, are just two examples of how much virginity, or brahmacharya, which is much more profound, is respected in India. The janeu which is supposed to be worn by Hindu boys after their upnayan sanskar also represents a vow to remain a true brahmachari through adolescence.
In other words, Hindu culture values control over mind and the spiritual strength to overcome urges of the senses in all humans, not just girls. The whole controversy over Sabarimala temple has its roots in Bhagawan Ayappa’s vow of naishtik brahmacharya.
However, the same feminists who berate ordinary Indians for believing in the value of a women’s virginity, decry Ayappa devotees’ determination to defend the vows taken by their lord in pursuance of his naishtik brahmachari lifestyle.
Let’s now talk about alcoholism. Yes, the ordinary unanglicized or unwesternized Indian doesn’t like to see women drinking. But do they consider alcohol to be a good thing for boys? The fact is, alcohol was never a common part of an Indian meal. Unlike Japan’s sake, or Russia’s vodka, or France’s wine, no alcoholic drink was a regular part of Indian cuisine.
Alcohol is regarded as a polluting agent and a foul drink by almost all Indians loyal to their culture. There would hardly be a case of an Indian parent encouraging, or even approving their sons to consume alcohol.
Most boys who do take alcohol, often hide this fact from their parents. And those families who don’t mind alcohol consumption are westernized in their lifestyle and wouldn’t be too bothered with their daughters doing so either.
This is why Feminism in India is nothing but western amoral hedonism disguised in a morally superior form. What exercises them aren’t all abuses against women. Their main target are traditional Indian cultural values. They want to malign them by claiming that they apply only to women.
They have every right to attack these values, even hold them in contempt. But in a sinister ploy, they target them for being ‘oppressive’ towards women. By doing so, they give themselves a moral high ground. They also make it difficult for people to oppose them because it would make their ideological rivals look averse to women empowerment.
What these activists and writers essentially want is Indian society to become spiritually bankrupt and morally degenerate. They want Indians to be as profligate in their vices as westerners are. They claim that moral rectitude is mean only for girls. But Indians want their sons to be as pious as their daughters, all good Indian do. Of course, a few rotten apples are present in every society.
Examples of selective indignation
Let’s now look at a couple of examples that illustrate this point better.
Barkha Dutt, a self-appointed leader of feminism in India, once described instance of women filing cases of rape against men who seduced them into sexual intercourse with the promise of marriage as ‘trivializing of rape.’ Why? If a man takes advantage of a woman and physically exploits her with a lie, why should that not amount to rape?
For Barkha Dutt and her ilk, it shouldn’t because sexual discipline is anathema. They see how sexual promiscuity is common in the western world and it not being so in India is a sign of our ‘backwardness.’ Because, of course, the western way is always correct and Indian values are always wrong.
In another example, when senior journalist and former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member Ashutosh wrote a hideous article for NDTV claiming that a virgin girl is neither ‘hot’ or ‘cool,’ there was no opposition from these self-described feminists.
Nidhi Razdan, in fact, seemed angered by Sambit Patra for objecting to this article on her show rather than questioning why Ashutosh became an authority of a women’s attractiveness in the first place. Going one step further, Saba Naqvi, a guest on the same show, said that Ashutosh’s article is ‘provocative’ but her daughter didn’t find anything offensive.
Both the instances cited above shows how insults to women, when they are done from the libertarian side, are totally kosher, even laudable.
So, that’s what feminism in India is. It takes some of the most cherished ideals of Indian culture, and depicts them as applying solely on women. These feminists ignore the fact that the ‘freedom’ they want for women is one that no cultured Indian would want for men also.
Because in our culture, we seek ultimate freedom, which is only achieved when a person stops being a slave of his mind, seeking sensual pleasures. The real freedom comes when one discovers the higher meaning of life.