– Dhammasangini Rama Gorakh –
The Ideology that understands and then critiques the unequal power relations in terms of material as well as the immaterial divide between women and men, and envisages the society based on gender equality can be considered as feminism. Thus, we can establish that feminism is a political ideology.
It criticizes the patriarchal institution in itself along with the various practices which try and instill patriarchy in the society such as family, ownership, and possession over power, wealth and dignity, knowledge production, religion, culture, state policies and even the linguistics of people, which are based on unequal principles. Feminism creates perennial politics which gives birth to alternative ideas, thoughts, institutions, and practices. In simple terms, it gives us a counterculture, and this I feel, is the crux of feminist discourse.
Feminism is changing, evolving and a multidimensional ideology. It varies according to the region, societies, ideologies, philosophy, time and space. That is why we can see many forms of feminism like Liberal feminism, Marxist feminism, Radical feminism, Black feminism, Post-modernist feminism, Islamic feminism, Dalit feminism, Ambedkarite feminism, Buddhist feminism, Eco-feminism and so on. There are many unexplored forms of feminism which are in their nascent stage of evolution.
Priorities, preferences, and ideologies are important to determine the characteristic of a particular feminism, but our self-proclaimed feminist always disagree with that. Their narrative goes on and on exclusively about the exploitation, oppression, and suppression of women, but they simply do not care to take other social factors such as caste, economic status, downtrodden women and their issues, opinions, perspectives, and outlook towards the goal of emancipation. On this background, can we seriously consider this discourse as universal or inclusive feminism? So, we call this kind of feminism as Brahmanical feminism.
Here, within Brahmanical ideology, upper caste feminists narrate a narrow utopia of their liberation without questioning the real exploitative institutions of patriarchy and without taking a stance against it, rather participating in such institutions and getting not key but inferior roles. Hence, such feminists are called as a Brahmanical feminist. (Not necessarily Brahmanical feminist are Brahmin women and not all women can be considered as feminists.)
By giving a very little agency of power to specific women, they are made the carriers of caste and patriarchy. This agency is a weapon of exploitation, against the women and men, belonging to the so-called lower castes. Upper caste women are skilled in using this weapon so efficiently that they keep their share intact. One can identify such feminist, who do not go against caste and class as Brahmanical feminists. The Brahmanical model of feminism can be identified down the following features or distinctions.
Firstly, this feminism only discusses the liberation only in terms sexual oppression and violence over the upper caste women without realizing the interdependence caste of gender, in the context of our Indian society.
Secondly, this feminism does not take notice of the non-Brahmanical philosophy and struggles for equality in India which have been emancipatory in their nature.
Thirdly, Brahmanical feminism ignores and neglects the economic, social issues and sexual atrocities of lower caste women because it primarily focuses on sexuality and violence on upper caste women. Hence the sisterhood is shattered and yet remains a daydream, which is the core of feminism.
Fourthly, it is the unique feature of Brahmanical feminism, that it has cunningly twisted the most famous slogan of feminism, ‘Personal is Political’ and started building its discourse around individual experiences, sexuality, inferiority along with self-centered narratives. This draws me back to a discussion between Clara Zetkin and Comrade Lenin about women’s question around sexual emancipation. At that time, some women activists and the comrades who usually uttered a word about sexuality and sexual liberation started suddenly talking about it and started spending so much time in it, that they began to neglect revolutionary activities, programs, and practices. This is not enough, they introduced commoners and working-class women to speak about sexuality and by doing this, they felt that they were engaging in a revolutionary act and were being in vainglory. But in reality, this was only a question of misplaced priority, as people who were struggling for basic human dignities, forgot their immediate needs and spoke of an idea rather farfetched to them. Therefore, such kind of women was getting popularity and actual immediate problems of the commoners were getting sidelined to the secondary position.
This does not mean that Comrade Lenin considered sexual liberation as secondary. He said, “I don’t see the issue of sexuality like the Indian sages nor I do see to it in a very shallow consumerist mindset – like if you are thirsty, drink water or if you are hungry, have food”
So, Comrade Lenin tells his worry to Clara Zetkin about those activists who are neglecting revolutionary action programs and considering sexual freedom as revolutionary and ultimately losing their ability and potential.
This brings us to the fifth question whether the Brahmanical feminism upper caste women-centric and Why do Brahmanical feminists never get over sexual freedom. After thinking about it without shallow criticisms, opinions or comments one can understand that why sexuality is a priority for them. Considering that the Indian caste system has controlled and regulated sexual repression of upper caste women, as sexuality has always been used in India to control the purity of caste. Who should be the first target of attack of upper caste women activists, as writers, after engulfing praxis of feminism? Their target will be obviously the restriction on sexuality, and one should not get uneasy with this.
Clara Zetkin told Lenin that it is rigid and unilateral to ask why women talk personnel issues rather than political when they meet each other. Rather you men don’t understand politics of why women talk personally.
Now rather than being uncomfortable with upper caste women who speak only on sexuality, it is very important to understand why they never go beyond that. The answer lies in exploring what are the possibilities of potential liberation in it and how one can connect them to the broader praxis of emancipation.
Now, where the limitations or obstacles lie, is their creation of self-centric equalitarian utopia by neglecting the evident interrelation between sexual enslavement, violence, and the caste system, by hastily attempting to cure their own pain subsuming pain of the other oppressors.
Lastly, because of this type of a narrow stance, the alliance between Brahmanical feminists and other social branches of feminism become impossible. Sometimes the struggle for the priority also becomes inevitable. Then these feminists find a sure way to collaborate a compromise with upper caste patriarchy. That’s why we can see their double standards as at one point they cherish women liberation but in practice, they don’t even critique religion, traditions, festivals etc. Big shot feminist writers celebrate Hindu festivals like Holi, Diwali, Gudipadwa, Ramnavami by giving greetings to each other and wearing dazzling sari’s. They will not be even ready to critique such festivals from the feminist point of view.
If we point out their double standards, they get angry, allege if we are questioning their freedom of speech and expression, and have the same-old answer for this, “we have our own choices and we will do whatever we prefer.” To save themselves from the criticism, they have strategically sustained the anger like an empty-egg hen (a hen that cannot lay an egg after a point- terrible height of anger and a terrible example as well). If they leave this anger, then only feminist discourse can be broadened.
Brahmanical feminists do not choose to associate with Phule Ambedkarite tradition. But they don’t even feel to consider the emancipatory praxis constructed by upper caste women in the medieval times like Bahinabai, Mirabai, Akkamahadevi, Lalleshwari and many more. These women rebelled against the caste-patriarchy along with creating utopia centered around their emancipation, by walking with those lower castes, other religious saints who were also in the search emancipation.
To sustain the caste system, upper caste women were sexually controlled. Caste system itself is based on control over a woman’s sexuality and sexual exploitation of lower caste women.
Hence, without the emancipation of women, the annihilation of caste is impossible and without the annihilation of caste, there is no meaning to the women emancipation.”
For this, it is need of the hour, to introspect ourselves all those who are related to the discourse of women emancipation and caste annihilation. Rather than giving unidirectional and stagnant views over the question, If we understand the question holistically, We can achieve our ‘Goal of emancipation’.
( Translated by – Mahipal Mahamatta )