Stupid question? Well, the idea was put forward by Karen Salmansohn on Oprah.com
Now, folks at Feministing.com have already criticized the premise of this article – the debate over whether feminism is too “masculine” or a rejection of “femininity.” The debate has already been settled, and feminism is not about being masculine, as Salmansohn alleges. Feminism is diverse, period. Some feminists are more masculine, some more feminine, but all of us, like the general population, are androgynous. The difference is that feminists accept this androgyny, rather than force men and women and all those in between to follow rigid stereotypes.
It has also been pointed out that the article exoticizes India, which it truly does, and that’s the idea I want to discuss a little. It is not unusual for foreigners to see a new culture and just be fascinated by it – positively or negatively. Both are bad because they fail to understand and accept the culture as a whole. Much has been said about Orientalism and Europeans’ “othering” of colored cultures. South Asians feminists know that plenty of our desi folks exoticize in the opposite direction, that is, they are either fascinated by the total “freedom” and “equal opportunity” in the West, or they are disgusted by the “hedonism.” Both pictures are incorrect, of course. Individual freedom is more prevalent in America, and that has it’s drawbacks, but plenty of oppression still exists. At the same time, Americans are not just a bunch of “slutty” wasteful people who divorce their spouses over an argument over what bed sheet to buy (I have seriously heard the last analogy!). I should add, being a slut and being divorced/divorcing is not a bad thing in the first place. Any strong woman is called a slut and a whore – if I’m called one (I came close), it means I’m doing something right! Yay.
Ok, back to my original point – you have to see beyond the generalizations about countries and cultures. We all generalize sometimes to make certain points, but we can never take that too far. Once we see both the good and bad in a culture, then we can se how similar it is to our own – the first step to being humane.
Westerners generalize South Asians in two ways – either by disgust and contempt at the backwardness and weirdness, or by adulation and worship of the spirituality and other-worldliness of Hinduism. I should add a third one – Westerners are further fascinated by Islam – another big component of South Asia. Our author Karen falls in the category of adulation of Hinduism, or she would not have characterized India this way:
“If America were to be personified, it would definitely be a real guy’s guy—running around, talking loudly, smacking you on the back in greeting, occasionally belching—a lovable, rambunctious guy’s guy. Now, imagine a country like India personified. It would embrace more feminine qualities like stillness, meditativeness and spirituality.”
No one with a complete experience of India or South Asia would agree. Firstly, the male chauvinistic, self-serving Hindu men are going to get their panties in a bunch over the fact that Karen called meditativeness and spirituality “feminine.” It’s a good laugh just to imagine the reactions of the idiotic types of Hindus who say that women are less inclined towards true spirituality, blah blah. Secondly, what makes spirituality feminine? Nothing. Masculine and Feminine traits, using their traditional definitions, are qualities of Maya, or the material world, and spirituality is about transcending both the masculine and the feminine. So spirituality is definitely neither masculine, not feminine, though sexist male Hindus have forcibly kept women out of spirituality, thus making their institutions “masculine,” or rather, “insecure masculine.”
Finally, anyone who is aware of what goes on in India knows that it’s much, much more that spirituality. In fact, most Indians would make fun of the New Age type of spirituality. That’s because India has as much of the “guy’s guy” personality that apparently America personifies. What’s worse, both countries have plenty of aggression and violence to go around, making neither lovable, or spiritual. If India was spirituality personified, why would it have so much dowry killing, female fetus abortion, female infanticide, rape, assault and human trafficking?
Westerners see the incessant religious rituals and think of the magical spirituality, etc. That’s fine with me. It’s true that Vedic knowledge is fascinating, and something that the whole world can appreciate. But look at the whole picture. Let’s not think that India is some kind of spiritual and feminine Goddess just because Indians are immersed in rituals. Those religious rituals mean nothing spiritually unless done with spiritual intention, and that is lacking in India as much as it is in America. Anyone who is familiar with the reality of India knows not to be complacent with such adulation of Hindu spirituality. It’s there in India, but so is evil.