IN modern times, feminism has become almost like a dirty word, and ordinary 'right'-thinking girls who believe in equal rights are ashamed to be labelled as such. Feminism does not always mean going to the point of extremism and chanting “Burn the men!” In fact, it has got different schools of which I am going to elaborate a few as follows:
Also known as Marxist Feminism, this form of feminism derives itself from the Marxist theory of oppression and exploitation of class. They feel that a capitalist structure leads to the division not only in classes of people but also between the two genders. Some Socialist feminists contradict the belief of Karl Marx that gender oppression would automatically be solved as soon as the dispute of class was worked out. Hence these feminists toil separately to eradicate inequality from the household and also from the workplace. They believe that women should work side-by-side with men in every aspect of social life. Limiting women's roles to marriage, childcare and other types of domestic work were like exploiting them and thus to the Socialist feminists, this was unacceptable.
This type of feminism is largely dissimilar to the Socialist Feminism which believes in working with the society as a whole. While liberal feminists support individualism and allow women to make their own choices. Like if a woman wanted to stay at home and take care of the house and kids, she could do so or if she wanted to go out of the house to compete with men, she would be welcome there as well. Basically, its philosophy is to maintain a harmony between men and women in order to create gender equality without bringing a major change in a societal structure. These feminists are also the ones who stand against all types of violence against women.
Now this sort of feminism has quite some branches and tends to get a bit aggressive. First of all Radical Feminists believe that women do not need men to decide for them and so they want to break free from the 'male-dominated' society. A common principle among these feminists is that men come as a hindrance to their movement and thus can never participate in their movement to reach their goals. Another class of Radical Feminists thinks that women should dress and behave like men in order to compete with them in the global world. Examples include women not having children and doing hard-hitting tasks like building, operating huge machines etc.
This sort of runs parallel with Post-structural Feminism and French Feminism. Since we are dealing with Existentialism over here, so Sartre's concept 'existence precedes essence' obviously comes into the scene. In the case of feminism the quote goes 'one is not born a woman, but becomes one'. Existentialist feminists work to change this view of seeing women as bizarre beings or anything that is distinct from the usual. They feel that such viewpoints are an obstacle in the path of a woman's success.
These feminists reject the principles of Western belief that Eastern females are weak and powerless and therefore have no voice against such issues. They also disagree to follow the Western modes of feminism. Postcolonial feminists deem that regions that were once colonized obviously have different cultures so the women in these parts of the world should stay in the limit of their cultural boundaries in order to bring about gender equality. Following Western feminists and their ideologies is nothing short of useless as their conditions are vastly different from that of the non-Western zones.
In the end, all these people ask for is that women be treated with respect. The theories, of which there are many more than the ones I have mentioned, may change but the basic principle remains the same.
By Faria Sanjana
1) Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes." ~Clare Boothe Luce
2) I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute. ~Rebecca West, "Mr Chesterton in Hysterics: A Study in Prejudice," The Clarion, 14 Nov 1913, reprinted in The Young Rebecca, 1982
3) Women belong in the house... and the Senate. ~Author Unknown
4) I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage, or my toughness, who does not believe me naïve or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman. ~Anaïs Nin
5) You don't have to be anti-man to be pro-woman. ~Jane Galvin Lewis
6) History is Herstory too.
7) No woman is required to build the world by destroying herself. ~Rabbi Sofer
8) One of the things about equality is not just that you be treated equally to a man, but that you treat yourself equally to the way you treat a man.
9) To tell a woman everything she may not do is to tell her what she can do. ~Spanish Proverb
10) I think, therefore I'm single.
There's a story that goes that the Brontë sisters, Charlotte and Emily, were fierce critics of the sappy romantic works of Jane Austen, although I quite forget what the complaint was. Austen is said to have challenged them to write romance that didn't follow the formula she used. Charlotte's response was the highly acclaimed Jane Eyre, while Emily came back with Wuthering Heights. Austen probably had the last laugh when she ended up with more novels under her belt than both sisters combined (although, considering how her novels received acclaim after she died, she didn't stick around to do the laughing), but the Brontë did contribute some fine, complex literature, each featuring a strong female character.
We've had some pretty strong girly reads since then: Gone with the Wind and Little Women being among the noteworthy, each providing us timeless stories peopled with unforgettable women. In recent times, though, we've seen a rise in Asian authors, who add to their stories the exotic appeal of their diverse cultures. Let's take a look at some of them, why don't we?
Chitra B Divakaruni
Yes, Aishwarya sizzled in the movie adaptation of Mistress of Spices. The book is typical of Divakaruni's style: finding magic in the mundane, and weaving into her stories issues of assimilation, identity crisis, cultural diaspora and more. The author was born in India, and left her home in Calcutta in 1976 for the United States. It is no wonder then that her writing often centers around the lives of immigrant women. In her website, she says, “Women in particular respond to my work because I'm writing about them, women in love, in difficulty, women in relationships. I want people to relate to my characters, to feel their joy and pain, because it will be harder to [be] prejudiced when they meet them in real life.” This talented author has some 13 books to her name, the latest of which, The Palace of Illusions, is her take on the tale of the Mahabharata, and is due out this year.
RS Pick: Arranged Marriages
This is an anthology of short stories based on the experiences of immigrant Bengali women. Inspired by her work at a Berkely women's shelter, the stories focus on the hopes and fears of women who have left everything familiar behind for the promised greener pastures of a new country, and this experience, Divakaruni compares to the situation of arranged marriages. Consider the tale of a woman who discovers her best friend has been having an affair and she is sure the other party is none other than her own husband...or the woman who discovers a runaway child on her doorstep, and gradually builds up a bond with him. The stories are varied, poignant, and insightful, and the book is definitely a treat to read.
Notice how several South Asian authors tend to elaborate on the descriptions of food, until the reader is left with a watering mouth? Well, it would be hard to beat this author at it. Bharti Kirchner is the prolific author of eight books: four novels and four cookbooks, and has been publishing since 1992. Born in India, she spent several years in Bangladesh, before moving to Seattle. An award-winning chef, she has written numerous articles and essays on food, travel, fitness, and lifestyle in magazines that include Food & Wine, Eating Well, Vegetarian Times, The Writer, Writer's Digest, Fitness Plus, and Northwest Travel. She is a freelance book reviewer for The Seattle Times and has profiled celebrities for the International Examiner.
RS Pick: Darjeeling
The story is set in a tea estate in Darjeeling, and revolves around the sibling rivalry between two sisters Aloka and Sujata, who are just about as alike as ebony and ivory. Into the mix comes the charismatic Pranab, Aloka's fiance and Sujata's lover, and things get really nasty. Several years after the rift that drove the two sisters far away from home, they are about to return together at the summons from their grandmother. Will this homecoming reconcile their differences, or will it be the stage for round two of an unfinished battle? Read the book to find out!
Helen TseI first saw this bubbly writer in a video clip where she was talking about multiculturalism. I met her soon afterwards, if only very briefly, and although we hardly exchanged more than smiles and nods, I could tell from watching her interact with others that this was someone who kept her cool in a tough situation. Much later, after reading her book, I realised I wasn't wrong.
RS Pick: Sweet Mandarin
This a true account of three generations of women and their struggle in the face of extreme hardship, and how the restaurant business saved them. The story discusses issues like acute poverty in the backwaters of rural China, the bustling changes within the dynamic Hong Kong, and racial prejudice in the United Kingdom. Painfully honest, and armed to the teeth with scrumptious descriptions of age-old recipes, this is a book that is guaranteed to make you smile.
These three authors are just samplers from the rich pickings amongst Asian authors. From Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran and Anita Desai, to Amy Tan, Jung Chang, and our very own Monica Ali and Tahmina Anam, this continent is just bursting at the seams with talent, so keep reading!
By Sabrina F Ahmad
The lesson of a lifetime
FARDINA stared out the window as the rain poured mercilessly over the streets, with an angry gushing wind as its accomplice. People raced amidst the downpour, in search of a refuge. But Fardina was oblivious to all the chaos that was separated to her merely by a sheet of glass. She was more absorbed in her own thoughts, in her own life and the problems that hung over it, like a dark cloud on this rainy day.
It had started with a few angry words over the phone…and had ended in weeks of abuse. The names he would call her, the way he would react if she stepped up for herself: beating her up till she would black out. He would say something like- “I love you, that's why I cannot control myself every time I think I'm going to lose you” or something along that line. To think she once had been naïve enough to believe it.
“Why do you even put up with him?” her friends would ask her, seeing the bluish marks on her hands and face, unsuccessfully covered by a layer of foundation. “Because I care for him,” would be her usual weak reply. When the weeks lead to months and eventually a year, she had lost any friend that she had once had.
She had been afraid of him, that's all, Fardina realizes today. Had she been a little stronger, a little wiser, she wouldn't have suffered as much as she had. But he was gone from her life now, mercifully. He had finally left her life, without giving an explanation, without saying too much. Perhaps he had gotten bored, had found some one else or had finally seen his mistakes, too ashamed to apologize. Well, she would never know…and she never wanted to know either. Had he not been the one to back out, would they had still been going out? Fardina asks herself every single day.
Catching up with all the school work she hadn't even touched for a long time, catching up with friends, hoping they would forgive her and last but not the least, healing was what she needed to do to get her life back on track. She would never make the same mistakes again, she vowed to herself. Surely there was a lesson to be learnt in all this, and she had undoubtedly learned more than she could absorb.
By Nayeema Reza