The One-sided Rhetoric of Feminism

In the village of Tataouine located in the south of Tunisia, Saida is preparing chai for her mother in law while she breast feeding her son. Her sister in law, Nedjma, is chasing her seven little children while she shouts at her two elder sons, aged about 10 years, to fetch eggs at the local souq. The two women restrain from leaving their homes, citing that the act would be offensive to their husbands. But these husbands are on the other side of the Mediterranean, trying to earn their French baguettes. This family comprises of females and children, a characteristic becoming drastically common in many rural parts of Tunisia as the patterns of capitalism and inflation flood the developing countries. Most of the time amongst these women is spent dreaming about the time when they can see their husbands, the time which is never more than a month. But after every visit made home by these men is concluded by these women left impregnated and left to nothing but being machines of reproduction. And the resulting children find themselves almost orphaned from their fathers.

My narration is not meant to be feminist! Quite to the contrary, the label of feminism ignores the walls that have been created between the two genders, benefiting neither. I had men giving me the evilest of the looks as I walked alone on the streets of Bejaia-Algeria. But when I did speak to them in a normal tone, I found them stupefied to absolute wordlessness, some even shivering as they staggered on a few words they could answer. Muhammad, a chai-store owner resorts to porn films and magazines to vent out his sexual frustration, since he has not been able to find himself a wife due to the rising costs of the traditional wedding ceremony! Most of the men I met were single, their ages ranging from early 20s to late 50s! They were men on street, taxi drivers, sandwich makers, men who drove SUVs or men sipping coffee in elite cafes. They say that they need a bigger house to have a wife and children, a cost they find hard to bare in the rising inflation in many developing countries. I have met men from India, pretty educated-kinds that are either doctors or engineers who live in Mumbai in small rooms and have hence found hard to find wives. Capitalism has indeed played into the already segregated gender gaps, widening them even more with economic crystallization into social class systems.

I believe that instead of focusing merely on the feminist rhetoric, what is in need to be addressed is the complementary issue of male-female segregation in the society. The wall-break will not only help both sides understand the other better, but it will also lead to female liberation and hence increased woman participation in the society.

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About Shreya Parikh

I am Shreya. Project Rethought is my attempt to rethink my own observations as a brown woman of Indian origin. I currently live in Paris where I teach at Sciences Po Paris and Parsons Paris-The New School.
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