This week I was in my Intercultural Communication class where two exec members from the JMU Feminist Collective came to speak. They talked about their club, the definition of feminism, and the different waves of feminism (this article defines them well). After speaking, they opened the class up for questions and comments. One of the questions had to do with how the feminist movement really effects men, and why men would support it.
Beautifully timed, my friend that always has to deal with my feminist rants introduced me to an article: “These Are The Indian Women Fighting for “Men’s Rights.”” I encourage you to read this, even though it is a bit lengthy, as the rest of the post will be about it. To give a relatively brief sum up, though, there is a law in Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (referred to as 498A) to protect married women from cruelty by their husbands or his relatives. “Cruelty” refers to physical or mental harm to a woman to force payment of dowry — a sum of money or valuables the bride’s family is supposed to give the husband’s family as a condition for marrying her. The payment of dowry has been prohibited in India since 1961, but it still happens regularly in the country. However, some women have apparently started misusing this law, bluffing about serious crimes, like getting raped or beaten, and blackmailing their husbands to give them money so that the wives will not take them to court.
Around the time the law was passed in 1983, it was “cool” to be a feminist in India. Everyone was all about women’s rights and empowering women. Until this misuse of 498A began. It sparked men rights activists (MRAs) to speak up on and try to ban 498A , which has in turn caused controversy about feminism as a whole in India. In fact, other female MRAs have their own definition of feminism. Indu Subhash, a senior member of the MRAs, said, “I can proudly say I am a feminist, but real feminism is where the woman has sacrifice and tolerance in her, where she is dutiful and where she does not misuse rights.” Uhhhhhmmmm I gotta problem with that. First off, I will say, that it seems that Indian laws and definitions generally use gender-binary language, and I do not mean to be exclusive at all with my summaries and opinions of the matter. I agree, women should not misuse their rights (but also, neither should anyone…), but all the other adjectives used in her definition are submissive. That leaves the implication that the male has to be the “dominant” person in the relationship. Having that patriarchal view leads to the objectification of women and the stereotype that they can not be strong, independent, and smart. Not only that, but it enforces the male gender role of hypermasculinity.
Because of this, I think that the root of this problem is the misunderstanding of the actual definition of “feminism.” People think that women are “trying to get ahead” and “oppressing men” by simply wanting to be equal. All genders should be able to balance sacrifice, tolerance, and being dutiful equally with their partner. All genders can be strong, independent, and smart. And the craziest, most mind-blowing part is: they can happen at the! same! time! In the same! relationship!!!
Here’s where my opinion comes in: I believe the women in India perhaps have gotten ahead with the 498A law and anti-rape law, not only because of the corrupt exploitation of the 498A law, but also because there is no support system for male rape victims. However, while they may be ahead, they should not be put down. I think men and all other genders should be brought into the equation, instead of taking the women out of it. My first thought while reading this was to amend the laws to be all-gender inclusive. However, the article does state that there is concern with making the laws gender-neutral because when a woman reported rape, the aggressor could potentially just say that she raped them. It seems almost like a catch 22. But it seems to me as though activists on both sides of the movement want the right thing, to be honest. They’re just not seeing the other side. Help for rape victims and protection from domestic violence should be available for everybody. It’s not an exclusive club; it’s not an advantage; it’s putting people in an equal position.
I would really like to hear y’all’s opinions on this, because there are many different sides and views people could potentially believe. So I’d like to open up this post, just like in my class, to questions and comments. Just remember our comment rules, and please, let’s have a dialogue about it!