We would be exposing ourselves to the charge of intellectual dishonesty if we deny that there are many countries in which large sections of women are victims of unspeakable atrocities like dowry, slave-trade, wife-beating and physical mutilation. Social reform, legislation and enforcement of laws to protect women are absolutely necessary to eradicate such evils. Most countries are in fact making sincere attempts to provide legal protection against exploitation of women. However much more has to be done.
But feminists, instead of concentrating on such horrors, ironically cite a number of comparatively less serious issues in everyday life, and condemn what they regard as instances of male chauvinism. These views are expressed in certain types of movies, articles or books, in academic institutions, business establishments and even sports, where women demand equality with men.
Since time immemorial man has had to prove his ability to protect or provide for woman, if necessary, by taking all kinds of risks including death. There has been no such requirement for woman especially if her face could launch a thousand ships or the shape of her nose could change the course of history.
Let us first take the question of large shopping malls (the most visible landmark) in the most advanced country in the world, the United States. Fifteen times as much floor space is devoted to women’s personal items as to men’s. Apart from that, more goods are bought for women who spend much more in almost every consumer category. This naturally gives them control over television programmes because they are controlled by sponsors. Women also watch more television programmes in every time slot a situation prevalent all over the world. No wonder women are in a position to depict their own sex as victims in most movies and television serials. This is true in the case of most developed as well as many developing countries in varying degrees
At this very minute all over the world men are taking out women to restaurants and movies, buying them chocolates, flowers, perfumes, clothes and even engagement rings which women need not return should they not get married.
Let us now come to more fundamental issues, the biological conditions of men and women, and their social and matrimonial positions in the light of their respective behaviour traits.
Nature made man biologically dependent on female beauty and woman dependent on his protection. But the world’s most potent drug is female beauty. A man gets addicted to female beauty, youth and sex even more than to money power, alcohol or drugs and suffers withdrawal symptoms if they are not available for some reason—a fact only too well known to the daughters of Eve. Biology has given them the power to effortlessly endure sexual abstinence for long intervals of time because of child bearing responsibilities and other related hormonal factors—a power a woman can use to manipulate a man who has no such faculty.
This is why he temporarily loses his mind and makes an irrational decision to support her for life. No wonder Shakespeare says that many a man in love with a dimple ‘makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl’.
Marriage is the price men pay to have sex. Sex is the price women have to pay to stay married. By the same token for every husband who demands sex as a right there are ten wives who withhold sexual favours as a punishment —a state of affairs that has no doubt led to the institution of prostitution.
Men are willing to give up money, kingdoms and empires or even go to war to attain the precious commodity of female beauty. Ravana in order to marry Sita, kidnapped her and went to war with Rama. In Greek mythology Paris eloped with Helen the wife of Menelaus. Menelaus waged the Trojan war, with Paris to get back his wife. In more recent times the King of England willingly abdicated his throne to marry Wallis Simpson a commoner. It has never been necessary for women to rule Rome as they could manipulate Caesars. If from within a bedroom or behind a veil they could wield unbelievable sexual power, there was never any necessity for them to sit on a throne!
In modern society boys initiate dates and it is the girl’s prerogative to refuse a boy’s request whether on telephone or on the dance floor. The pill has freed girls from the fear of unwanted pregnancy while their awareness of their own capacity to experience unlimited orgasms has given them an unfair advantage over boys in the game of sex. A woman is always ‘capable’ though not necessarily ‘willing’ to receive a man, whereas a man cannot claim any such prowess even in the age of viagra, considering that the time of interaction is decided by the woman. As one prominent American comedian observed, ‘When a women consents to have sex it is considered a sexual favour.’ She is entitled to receive something in return. No such privilege is enjoyed by the man. If he refuses favours it serves no purpose for he only hurts himself Playboy outsells Playgirl by hundred times, even if feminists would regard this as an example of man’s exploitation of female nudity . They have no explanation for the utter indifference of women to Playgirl or even explicit senses depicting male nudity. Nor will feminists admit that a fascination for magazines like Playboy only indicates man’s enslavement to female beauty When a man exposes his body it is regarded as cheap exhibitionism and he may be even put in jail (as in America)’. When a woman exposes herself, she becomes a Miss Universe or a Playboy centrefold which earns her millions of rupees and even launches her on a movie career.
Feminists like to compare marriage to slavery for women. In America alone fifty million women read every month, twenty romantic novels which fantasise marriage. This is true in respect of other countries also though the figures may vary. Does this mean that these twenty-five million women fantasise as their goal of love, a social contract involving their own slavery, for masochistic reasons?
Experimental drugs are usually tried on men. If the drug fails, the man dies. If the drug proves safe and useful it is naturally used to treat both women and men. In fact men have been used as guinea pigs in developing medical procedures and microwave ovens. (A man was inadvertently cooked to death in such a trial.) Ironically, this was described as sexism since doctors had studied men. The fact that they had been used as guinea pigs was conveniently ignored!
A favourite theme of feminists is that marital traditions such as the father giving away the bride are a reflection of patriarchy. Actually the father is giving away his responsibility to protect his daughter. The word husband itself is derived from the germanic ‘house’ and the old Norse for ‘bound’ or ‘bondage’. It also has its origin in words meaning a male kept for breeding! Shakespeare himself says this in ‘Measure for Measure’:
You can cut off a man’s head if a man be a bachelor, sir, but if he be a married man no; for a married man is a woman’s; to cut off a married man’s head is to cut off a woman’s head and I cannot cut off a woman’s head”.
Having said all this we come to the conclusion that women’s liberation has perhaps relevance only to those unfortunate women whose historic position and national and social customs compel them to undergo all kinds of physical torture, abuse and severe forms of discrimination.
Where comparatively equal opportunities for education, jobs, power, wealth and social influence exist and any form of atrocity against women is checked and the perpetrator punished promptly under the law, women’s liberation has no relevance.