The term is not my own, it was used by A. Rajagopal, professor at NYU, as far back as 1996. It came to mind because IHM wanted my take on ‘feminism’. Among many other things Rajagopal was talking about women, who in Republican India, still fight the injustices of a society that starts cribbing when some of them wear what they want. But it is unmoved when many little girls spend their entire childhood barefoot or when men sell their wives in Rajasthan. The attitudes of Indian men in urban India are well documented and discussed and I will avoid repeating what has already been said many times.
Rather, first, I would like to point out that the dominant perception that when women in India emancipate themselves, they will become like American women and forget their Indianness is not only wrong but completely hypocritical. Hypocritical because no one complains about the Americanization of India’s male youth, are women the only carriers of culture ? Wrong, because if we observe other countries where the transition to modernity is more complete in this regard (China, South India, Iran are some examples), we see that the transition has brought tremendous social and economic gains, and in many ways these countries are much less Westernized than urban India is.
I think that the most difficult periods in India’s feminist revolution are yet to come. This is when women in semi-urban and rural areas start asserting their Constitutional rights, and old norms, esp. those regarding marriage are torn down. One can see the seedlings of this revolution, for eg, lady reporters in Bihar, a female ISRO engineer from rural UP and a fire-brand actress from Haryana. Whether they become inspirations or aberrations will be important for the country’s destiny.
Btw, Anand Giridhardas of the New York Times has this brilliant article on this incomplete and sometimes shallow modernity. A great read.