Feminism in the Indian

Topics: India, Women's rights, Feminism Pages: 9 (2986 words) Published: September 8, 2011
The history of feminism in India is regarded as mainly a practical effort and very limited in scope. Compared to some other countries, there has been only sparse theoretical writing on feminism in India. Contents [hide]

1 Defining Feminism in the Indian context
2 History
2.1 First phase: 1850–1915
2.2 Second Phase: 1915–1947
3 The Concepts of Feminism and Equality
4 Beginnings of the “Feminist” Movement in India
5 Obstacles
6 Hindu Women in India
7 Muslim Women in India
8 Women at Work
9 Women and Education
10 Modernization
11 See also
12 References
13 External links
[edit]Defining Feminism in the Indian context

Pre-colonial social structures and women’s role in them reveal that feminism was theorized differently in India than in the west. Colonial essentialization of "Indian culture" and reconstruction of Indian womanhood as the epitome of that culture through social reform movements resulted in political theorization in the form of nationalism rather than as feminism alone.[1] Historical circumstances and values in India make women’s issues different from the western feminist rhetoric. The idea of women as "powerful" is accommodated into patriarchal culture through religion[2]. This has retained visibility in all sections of society; by providing women with traditional "cultural spaces". Another consideration is that whereas in the West the notion of "self" rests in competitive individualism where people are described as "born free yet everywhere in chains", by contrast in India the individual is usually considered to be just one part of the larger social collective, dependent for its survival upon cooperation and self-denial for the greater good Indian feminist scholars and activists have to struggle to carve a separate identity for feminism in India. They define feminism in time and space in order to avoid the uncritically following Western ideas. Indian women negotiate survival through an array of oppressive patriarchal family structures: age, ordinal status, relationship to men through family of origin, marriage and procreation as well as patriarchal attributes - dowry, siring sons etc. - kinship, caste, community, village, market and the state. It should however be noted that several communities in India, such as the Nairs of Kerala, Shettys of Mangalore,certain Maratha clans, and Bengali families exhibit matriarchal tendencies, with the head of the family being the oldest women rather than the oldest man. Sikh culture is also regarded as relatively gender-neutral. The heterogeneity of Indian experience reveals that there are multiple patriarchies and so also are there multiple feminisms. Hence feminism in India is not a singular theoretical orientation; it has changed over time in relation to historical and cultural realities, levels of consciousness, perceptions and actions of individual women and women as a group. The widely used definition is "An awareness of women’s oppression and exploitation in society, at work and within the family, and conscious action by women and men to change this situation". (Bhasin and Khan 1986) Acknowledging sexism in daily life and attempting to challenge and eliminate it through deconstructing mutually exclusive notions of femininity and masculinity as biologically determined categories opens the way towards an equitable society for both men and women. The male and female dichotomy of polar opposites with the former oppressing the latter at all times is refuted in the Indian context because it was men who initiated social reform movements against various social evils. Patriarchy is just one of the hierarchies. Relational hierarchies between women within the same family are more adverse. Here women are pitted against one another. Not all women are powerless at all times[3]. Caste-community identities intensify all other hierarchies. The polytheistic Hindu pantheon provides revered images of women as unique and yet complementary to those of male deities....
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Feminism Essay
  • Feminism Research Paper
  • Feminism Essay
  • Essay about Feminism
  • Feminism Essay
  • Feminism Essay
  • Liberal Feminism Essay
  • Feminism Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free