Saturday, August 20, 2022

Oriental Feminism Differs from Western Feminism in Some Aspects

By S. Arshad, New Age Islam 20August 2022 Religious Values Separate The Two Main Points: 1. Feminism originated as a theory in the West in the 18th century. 2. Mary Wollstonecraft's book set the ball rolling for Feminism. 3. Virginia Woolf's book A Room of One's Own promoted the movement. 4. Buddhist nuns had written mystic songs in 5th century B.C. 5. After Buddhism, Islam promoted Feminism. ------ Lots of women are fighting the system from within. Shutterstock ----- Feminism has become a popular theory in the modern times. It has wielded great influence on the society, politics, literature, language and fine arts. The gender bias, inequality, exploitation and injustice was perpetrated against women and one-sided moral values were imposed on them for centuries. The movement for the rights of women was launched against this biased treatment of women and gradually this movement took the shape of a theory and was termed Feminism. Different feminists tried to form an appropriate definition of feminism. According to the Gender Encyclopaedia of Sociology, Feminism is "a movement that strives to establish social, political and economic equality between men and women and remove the flaws in the relationship between men and women." In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft, a British writer authored a book titled A Vindication of the Rights of Women in response to the book A Vindication of the Rights of Men. Wollstonecraft's book kick-started the feminist movement in the West. It started a powerful dialogue on the rights of women and their place in the society and proved to be the beginning of the feminist movement. One of the major fallout of the feminist movement was the launch of the movement for women suffrage in the United States which culminated in its success with the US Parliament amending its Constitution to grant voting rights to women on 26 August, 1920. In 1929, Virginia Woolf wrote a book titled A Room of One's Own which took the movement further forward. This book advocated for personal space for women to develop their natural and inherent creative abilities. Next the French writer Simone de Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex on the rights and place of women in society. Gradually, local and universal issues concerning women were included in the definition of Feminism and it became a global movement from the point of view of women. The feminist movement which originated in the West influenced the East as well. The reason for its popularity in the East was that despite the cultural and intellectual differences between the western and eastern societies, women were oppressed and victimised in both the societies. The issues of the women in both the regions were almost the same. They were forced into prostitution both in the East and the West; they were enslaved for sex slavery in both the regions. Child marriage was in vogue in both the places. The similarity of fate of women in the East and the West brought the women together under feminism so that they could break the stereotypes the men had created for them and develop their God-gifted abilities and faculties to carve out a niche in the society shoulder to shoulder with men. However, the general attitude towards Feminism in the East was markedly different from that of the West. The zeal and attachment the West had demonstrated with Feminism was lacking in the East. Even the movements for some political and social rights in the East would not go down well with the conservative section of men. The reason for this was cultural as well as religious. The feudal society of the East opposed the idea of giving equal rights to women. Therefore, in the East, Feminism was accepted in the same way as the western literary theories and movements were adopted as a fashion. But the striking point is that even some eastern women intellectuals like the famous Urdu fiction writer Qurratul Ain Haider did not give much importance to Feminism as a theory. She wrote that she did not believe in a ladies' compartment for women in literature. Perhaps she believed in the creative and intellectual abilities of women not being inferior to that of men and therefore did not believe in the idea of reservations and quota for women. What she wanted for them was the freedom to join the race. If a section of eastern women intellectuals did not give much importance to Feminism, it had a historical and cultural background. It is true that women have been rendered into 'the second sex' in the east, it is an established fact that the eastern women enjoyed freedom and equality in the ancient ages. In the Indus Valley civilisation, for example, women enjoyed social and political rights. Virginia Woolf presented the idea of 'a room of one's own' in the 20th century but the women of India in the 5th century B.C., during the life of Gautam Buddha, were allowed to join the Sangha (the monastic order) and write devotional and mystic songs along with men. The women, therefore, enjoyed religious rights as well as the freedom to express their creative abilities. In other words, they had a room of their own. Gautam Buddha's foster mother Mahaprajapati Gautami was the first and one of the hundreds of Buddhist nuns whose devotional songs called Theri-gaha have been included in Buddhist canon called Tripitak. One of the nuns was Ambapali who was a courtesan before entering the Sangha. Her songs are also included in Tripitak. The Bhakti poetess of the 16th century Meera Bai influenced the thoughts and style of the later age male Bhakti poets of India. Her devotional songs have become an unforgettable part of India's cultural heritage. The eastern women have also left an indelible mark on the politics of India. Jhansi Ki Rani, Begum Hazrat Mahal and Razia Sultan have assumed legendary status in India's folklore. In the East, women have been bestowed a divine status. While in India and other eastern societies, women are worshipped as deities, in the Quran, Mother Mary has been presented as a metaphor of the feminine greatness. After Buddhism, Islam promoted Feminism in the East, though the term had not been coined at that time. Islam abolished infanticide and restricted polygamy which was a tool of women's oppression and exploitation. It encouraged marriage of slave women or bond women and started the process of their rehabilitation in the society. All these initiatives of reform which come under feminism were taken in India and Arab during the 5th century B.C. and 7th century A.D. The feminist movement of the West also endeavoured to bring reform in the language to remove male dominated sexist diction from it and make it gender-neutral. But the Quran had showed sensitivity towards the feminist consciousness of Madina 14 centuries ago by revealing the following verse to assure the women of Arab that it does not speak of only men: "Surely, 'for' Muslims men and women, and believing men and women, and devout men and women and faithful men and women and humble men and women and charitable men and women and fasting men and women and men and women who guard their chastity and men and women who remember Allah often ---- for all of them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward."(Al Ahzab:35) The Quran also has a verse that is gender-neutral: "It is the believers who repent, who are devoted to worship, who praise the Lord, who fast, who bow down, who prostrate themselves, who encourage good and forbid evil, and who observe the limits set by Allah. And give good news to the believers."(At Taubah: 112) Therefore, the Quran employs both gender-neutral style and a style in which both men and women are equally mentioned. Today when the feminist movement talks of linguistic reforms, it should be kept in mind that the Quran had drawn the attention of the linguists towards this issue 14 hundred years ago. Despite the antiquity of the feminist tradition in the East, why are women oppressed and exploited in the east today? Isn't the Feminist movement all the more necessary and relevant in the East today given the present scenario? The answer is in the affirmative but there are ideological differences in the attitude towards feminism in the East and the West. While in the West, Feminism is the movement to claim women's rights, in the East, it is to reclaim those rights. In the East, the women had been dispossessed of their rights on the basis of male dominated interpretations of religious texts. Moreover, religious values of the East separate Eastern Feminism from Western Feminism. Therefore, the Eastern Feminism will not approve or endorse Lesbianism which comes under personal rights in the view of secular values of the West. The West promoted the artificial club culture under Feminism while in the East, the active participation of women together with men in cultural and religious rites, festivals and ceremonies is a quintessential part of those gatherings. Such social participation perhaps resulted in the origin of various dance forms that are an important part of eastern fine arts. The East did not supress the natural aesthetic instincts and physical beauty of women, rather gave it a free space to develop. In the 20th century, female nudity was also included in the personal liberty of women in the West. In fact, it was done with the purpose of promoting the consumerist culture of the West. It was used as a tool to exploit the physical beauty and sex appeal of the female body for economic benefits. The Oriental Feminism does not endorse or approve of the economic exploitation of women's natural beauty. In the oriental society, the natural physical beauty has been accorded a divine status. Therefore, the provocative female nudity and vulgar exhibitionism of the West cannot be the subject and objective of Oriental Feminism. ----- S. Arshad is a columnist with URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

No comments:

Post a Comment