Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Contemporary Feminism In Indian English Novels
Why Indian English authors are not feminist?
This has always been a man's world, and none of the reasons that have been offered in explanation have seemed adequate. ~Simone de Beauvoir.
And man's world it is. Especially if the most powerful feminist woman of the world says so. Is it admittance of a truth, a sarcasm on the society or admittance of failure to prove your point, that "Man and Woman are Equal". Can society conspire to marginalize woman for many centuries, or it is the woman herself who ducks on the surface to inhale fresh breath of air, finds the waves too strong to handle and ducks back into the sanctuary of her deep inner self.
A woman can't understand other woman as a man does. Most of the Feminist English Authors are females, and some prolific Indian female authors writing in English during the latter half of the twentieth century are Kamala Markandaya, Nayantara Sahgal, Kamala Das, Anita Desai, and Shashi Deshpande, Jhumpa Lahri, Arundathi Roy, Anita Nair, Shobha De. Whereas first-wave feminism focused mainly on voting rights, property rights, second-wave feminism brought up issues like sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, de facto inequalities, and official legal inequalities and Third Wave feminists have broadened their goals, focusing on ideas like queer theory, abolishing gender role expectations and stereotypes, and defending sex work, pornography, reproductive rights, and sex-positivity.
Each wave had its own share of strong literature written by male and female authors, all through 1968 till today. Not only this we had Radical feminist, Dissident feminist, Socialist feminist and Anti-prostitution feminist all around the globe when Indian English Authors, who were born in British India or Independent India, learned English from earliest childhood, failed to make a mark in the world literature. Had it not been R. N. Tagore world would have looked upon India as a literary barren land.
Betty Friedan (The Feminine Mystique) The Second Sex (Simone de Beauvoir) A Room of One's Own (Virginia Woolf) The Color Purple (Alice Walker) are some of the best work written since first wave feminism. It has considered gender in the terms of Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, as part of the deconstruction. When gender is part of the essential self and society constructs a tab to give you an identity on the basis of that, the denial of the tag would be denial of self.
Lisa Tuttle has defined feminist theory as asking "new questions of old texts." This could be endless. Buddha once said "Unfathomly deep, deep like a fish's course in the water is the character of women." An enlightened man Buddha was. But Sigmund Freud was a psychoanalyst, why would he say " The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'
Exasperated male are not undefeatable. Indian Authors created enough social drama and portrayed heroic women as sufferers, rebels, vengeful, tactful and ready to sacrifice but have never bothered to peel those layers of the psyche which makes her so.
In the third wave feminism the focus has shifted to queer theory and non white woman by Rebbeca Walker. Despite the tall talks of a woman having reached the zenith of equality and any further efforts would only undermine the whole issues and the movement would lose its support are a camouflage of patriarchal society to suppress the undercurrent which had really hit the balls hard.
A talk of feminism would instigate an Indian mind to talk about Vedic era and mythological depictions of the female form as the Goddess, because it is easier to put them on an alter and fake-worship than to understand the language of symbols and gestures and treat them equally.
The Indian women has come out of identity crisis and her metamorphosed form is ready to treat herself at par with her western counterparts, would it not be a high time when Indian authors both male and female portray the dilemma, progression and future of feminism in India.
The western concept of Androgyny was an effort to subside exaggerated and polarizes form of masculinity and femininity and strikes a balance by a combination of the best qualities of the genders, had a parity with the Hindu concept of Ardhnarishwar. Why somebody should think that nurturance, compassion, tenderness, cooperativeness, meekness and gentleness are feminine qualities while aggressiveness, leadership, initiative, competitiveness, boldness, daring and adventurousness are the masculine qualities. Qualities allocated to one gender when and if found in other gender it would make him/her inferior. So a masculine female was as condemnable as a feminine male.
Being feminist is a mental status acquired by the unconditioned mind with an effort initially till shackles of patriarchal social conditioning are broken and a woman-centered perspective of celebrating womanhood evolved for all and everyone irrespective of their gender. Thus, like a religion, it too, is a way of life.
Third Wave deemed universalism of hardcore feminist would try to differentiate non-white from white and queer from normal is unwonted because that may mitigate what has already been gained and accepted and has transcended in the collective psyche of the society.
An author if has a patriarchal mind set can never portray a strong feminine character, unless he has trained his mind to rise above gender bias, it would definitely reflect in female characters of his book. Indian society is not only deep rooted patriarchal, but also a hypocrite and has to go a long way.
The authors could have paved the path, but unfortunately they too are weak feminist.
© Vipin Behari Goyal