Bharathi and Modern Feminism

It was my Patti who introduced me to Bharathi, when I was in 5th standard, for a Tamil poem reciting competition. It was Kakkai siraginiley. And I was in love with the man. He talked about everything that are buzz words right now. Independence, equality, love, romance, and most importantly, Feminism. The guy had great insights on Feminism, I think more that we know now.

He is the first Feminist I knew. His poems on a ‘modern’ woman, opened my eyes and made my heart swell with pride. It was before I knew the word Feminism.

நிமிர்ந்த நன்னடை நேர்கொண்ட பார்வையும்,
நிலத்தில் யார்க்கும் அஞ்சாத நெறிகளும்,
திமிர்ந்த ஞானச் செருக்கும் இருப்பதால்
செம்மை மாதர் திறம்புவ தில்லையாம்;
அமிழ்ந்து பேரிரு ளாமறி யாமையில்
அவல மெய்திக் கலையின்றி வாழ்வதை
உமிழ்ந்து தள்ளுதல் பெண்ணற மாகுமாம்
உதய கன்னி உரைப்பது கேட்டீரோ!

This is an excerpt from his poem titles “Pudhumai Pen” (Modern woman).

He was born in 1882. Chances are he didn’t know the term ‘Feminism’. But he believed in woman empowerment and proceeded to take positive steps towards the same.

But is it what we are doing now? Are we really ‘Moving Forward’?

Does the empowerment of woman lie in shortening the length of our dresses and smoking cigarettes? Does feminism lie in drawing pictures of Indian Goddesses with a cigarette on her hand? Does feminism mean making women walk in uncomfortable and atrocious clothes in a ramp, with hundreds of men objectifying her, her dress, her body, her face; in the name of High fashion?  Does feminism mean a woman can do ANYTHING in the name of empowerment, even if it means a depletion of a culture, just because western media tells us to? Is this called taking a ‘step forward’?

Our mothers took a serious step, in changing from a nine yard saree that was hindering them from doing their work, to a Chudidar. To me that seemed like a logical, positive step towards the empowerment. It also served the purpose, it was more comfortable. They started working in par with men at work and more than them at home. They were feminists, even though they didn’t know it. But now, our generation wants to wear  leather shorts, in the hot and sultry Indian climate, just because they think the Indian society pressures us not to do so.

I am a 20 year old feminist too. But I don’t understand, what purpose does this serve? Are you really comfortable when the leather sticks to your sweaty thighs and chafes it? Or are you just doing it because of the western influence? Then, aren’t we again giving into social pressure?

I am not against western society. It works for them, it suits their climate and culture. Also, it did a very good job in creating awareness on many things, but I am against the capitalist, consumerist, exhibitionist, narcissistic, shallow and exploitative culture of fashion, of music, and of Hollywood.

Aren’t there better things that deserves our attention? Like the rapes that we see on the headlines everyday? The wage gap? The dowry system that still exists? the female infanticide that still resides in our villages? And the fact that all the higher positions in all the industries are occupied with mostly men, even though 52% of the word population is women?

I can understand that the High fashion and the dressing and the cigarettes are just the tools to show the world that we too can do what men do. But shouldn’t it stop now that we have generated enough friction? Because guys, you know that cigarette causes cancer right?! Even men shouldn’t do it, let alone us. We have more important work to do!

I think Indian society at it core believes in and stands for Gender equality. We had the Image of Arthanareshwar, From Kannagi, Jhansi Rani, Goddess Kali, to our Late Chief Minister Jayalaitha. It is just that we have forgotten our core religious values or misunderstood them. Now it is our generation’s responsibility to empower ourselves without depleting our culture.

Because, when we make the decision to do things that are entirely against the core values of our religion, it will inevitably harm us, at least that is what I think.







6 thoughts on “Bharathi and Modern Feminism

Add yours

  1. I have the sad perception that women’s empowerment is not really the achievement of women but the indulgence of men. I haven’t seen any real war of independence fought without guns or bloodshed. Have you?

    These “steps forwards” are the ones which are in line with men’s wishes. Although diminishing the gender-based non-sense restrictions is an actual step forward .

    On the other hand no matter what a woman is wearing, what kind of carrier she is leading, she is objectified. Until the current gender-based task allocation prevails , no matter what kind of clothes you are wearing you are objectifyed.

    1. True. But I see lot of Indian girls wearing totally uncomfortable outfits in 40 degree Celsius in order to defy the rules. My point is whatever we are going to be objectified, so why we got to make ourselves uncomfortable.
      Instead save that energy to take big steps, now that we have enough awareness, even though it is nowhere enough.

      1. I am quite interested in your thoughts. Actually we live so far away from each other that I do not have much idea what is going on that part of the world. I live in Eastern Europe. I will definitely read your blogs. 🙂

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