Padma Subrahmanyam, in her comparative analysis of the power of womanhood in India and the western countries (Grammar of gender relations in India, Jan.11), becomes extremely selective and probes only one side of the treatment meted out to women. The central idea of feminism all over the world is the basic right of choice, treating an individual as an individual, not as man or woman. The moment women are accorded the “superior” status of a “goddess”, they get deprived of a number of rights, sexuality being one of them.
She is also selective while considering western societies. She looks into the higher divorce rates in the West, but conveniently ignores the issue of domestic abuse of women in many Indian families. Unfortunately, in India society does not provide any honourable exit option to women. Western societies provide much more acceptability to single women and single mothers, which results in their being able to exercise their choices more freely.
New DelhiBy equating westernisation and rights with all that is wrong and making sweeping statements on not needing mental health treatment and the state of western families, the author has in one stroke swept under the carpet the whole concept of patriarchy that is rooted in Indian tradition. It does not give credence to a number of in-depth studies done in India that have shown how women are silenced due to the fact that they do not have any rights. It is all well to say that tradition is good, but to ignore the lived reality of a woman living in Indian society today and the problems she faces to articulate even a single wish, let alone an opinion, is not brought out at all. I would urge the author to look at the issue more closely and analyse Swami Vivekananda’s statements on the subject.
The view that Indian women have always enjoyed a high status is a fallacy based on a simplistic reading of ancient literature (produced mostly by elite scholars) by some nationalist historians. As has been shown by recent research works, women have reeled under a patriarchal set-up and have always been regarded as physically weak, intrinsically wicked, and intellectually inferior.