The argument that Swami Vivekananda’s masculine photographic pose was an aspect of the cult of masculinity is far from the truth (“Taking the aggression out of masculinity,” Jan. 3). The magnificent photo depicts the peace and confidence of a Hindu saint and does not, in any way, symbolise the masculine power of a ‘man.’ The Hindu could have used pictures of contemporary Bollywood and Hollywood stars and advertisements in the media that use women to sell any product ranging from shaving razors to what not.
Swami Vivekananda’s contribution to the uplift of women in India is unmatched. When women were not educated and empowered, when the reformers wanted to treat women as objects to be protected, he was among the very few to see women as people.
He was instrumental in starting the all-women monastic organisation — Sri Sarada Math. Even today, the Math is the world’s largest independent women’s monastic order.
No doubt Swami Vivekananda was very much masculine in thought and action, but not in the way the article projects. It is an attempt to tarnish Swami Vivekananda’s image and show him in a bad light, with a view to diminishing his 150th birth anniversary celebrations.
The author’s reference to Swami Vivekananda is out of context. Vivekananda was a fiery patriot but was not affiliated to any nationalist group. His was a spiritual revolution that breathed life into the enervated Indian masses and his ideas inspired Gandhiji, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Aurobindo.
His ideas about women are well known. He said: “With five hundred men, the conquest of India might take fifty years: with as many women, not more than a few weeks!” In fact, the picture published was taken in Chicago in 1893 by his western admirers.
Vivekananda personified all that was good and healthy in the Indian. The argument that it was just nationalism that drove him shows a complete lack of understanding of the man and his ideals. Swami Vivekananda was the complete man in all respects.
There are several other things Swami Vivekananda is portrayed for, such as clear thinking. Why does the author draw his conclusions from a select set of ideas, instead of looking at everything as a whole?
The article was excellent. Gender stereotypes are drilled into all of us and most of us, women and men, are unable to break free from them. I agree with the examples, including the photograph of Swami Vivekananda. Our body postures are typical of our gender. How many women assume that posture in their everyday routine? Such attitudes, so ingrained in society, will take an evolution of sorts to go.
True, our society suffers from an attitudinal problem. But this attitude is the primary product of fear — fear for the life and safety of the loved ones. This insecurity has been engendered by the ever-increasing atrocities against women. There is no complete cure for this attitude. It can be brought down by changes through a social revolution, a silent one starting from school. Of course, there is another side to this. Only when women come out more will they be accepted as equals in society.
Legislation and half-hearted promises will not empower women. Laws are necessary, but should be implemented in a mature society. Unfortunately, our society is not yet mature enough to script women-centric laws.
Keywords: Swami Vivekananda