Sunday, July 01, 2007

Desi Feminazis

Read this essay by Madhu Kishwar about Indian women, their objectification via beauty contests, social standing relative to age, advantages to women in an arranged marriage and a myriad of related themes. While Kishwar makes a compelling case all around, she also reflects upon some unexpected and unintended consequences of her own actions.

When she lobbied to abolish the elitist tradition of beauty contests in Miranda House in the 70s, she had hoped it would give the long suffering , second class behenjis (a desi allusion for homely, unfashionable women often without a posh address or a rich and powerful father) a level playing field.

As she looks back, that was not what really happened. The beauty queens of the 70s have gone on to become third world feminists (maybe feminazis in their overzealousness) because they have kept up with the dictates of fashion. These women look chic in ethnic and head up organizations dedicated to South Asian studies. The behenjis have done what they were fated to do, play catch up and are therefore turning into beauty contest entrants.

Kishwar observes that the change of guard from the westernized elites in Miranda House to the more conservative Swadeshi types did a great disservice to the liberal ambience of the college and retrogressed to the desi version of Victorianism. Her Miranda House experience is like an incubator for social change in India. Most if not all of it translates wherever Indo-British dominance gave way to the upholders of Bharitiya Sanskriti.

There is not a dateline on the story but judging from the context it is at least a decade old but it is entirely germane to India and the desi condition even today. Definitely worth reading .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very true, beautifully posted...

Sadani Puja
Los Angeles, CA