Indian Feminists

Protesters demonstrate against the rape and murder of two Indian women.


All of 15 years old, I had made up my mind – against the wishes of my father – that I would attend college in the United States. My parents weren’t thrilled about the idea of sending me to a foreign land nearly 14,000 miles away from home; yet, to the progressive, feminist me, America represented the liberal ideals I stood for and I would find my way here.

I grew up in India – a country internationally marred for its image as oppressive, patriarchal and unsafe for women. I won’t take it upon me to debate any of those tags here; but I can say this: the endowment of power on a man accused of sexual assault has shown me that this new, foreign land is no better.

At least, we in India elected our first female prime minister in 1980 and our first female president in 2007. We have already allowed our women to enter the political system and rise to the highest positions of power and be heard.

On the other hand, here in the global superpower, a misogynistic man who perpetuates bigotry is to gain control of the Oval Office. We have come to a time that offends every feminist who has struggled for equality.

At the very least, most women (and, I hope, most people) are flabbergasted, if not outrightly disgusted by the way President-Elect Donald Trump has chosen to talk about women over the years – one might call it the billionaire syndrome.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. … Grab them (women) by the pussy. You can do anything,” said Trump in the infamous video that went viral.

What’s more worrying than the comment itself is Trump’s attempt to dismiss its gravity by calling it “locker-room banter.”

But, that’s just one comment among many. Trump has repeatedly reduced women to their physical appearance and size, often rating women based on their appearances, primarily drawing from their breast size and body shape.

Former Miss California Carrie Prejean wrote about the ‘Trump rule’ in her book, describing how Trump outright humiliated contestants by making them parade before him to see whom he found attractive.

The issue here is of a billionaire who believes he owns the women around him. So, while we are trying to lift the glass ceiling, fight sexual assault and grant women the fundamental human rights that every individual is entitled to, Trump is reversing any progress we have made in this country and abroad.

Perhaps, then we must question whether or not we have made any progress to begin with if we find ourselves democratically electing such a bigot to power in 2016. This isn’t just a problem for America. Feminism is a transnational phenomenon; when it is abused and insulted in one country, the pain is felt everywhere.

Every feminist feels the pain of girls who are forced into child marriage in South Asia and every feminist feels the anger of the women who still do not have the right to vote in Saudi Arabia. So, today, every feminist feels this ineffable anger when a man accused of at least 12 cases of sexual harassment is to gain control of the world’s most powerful country.

How can the world not worry when American women are running to get intrauterine devices inserted because this misogynist will soon take away their right to get an abortion? I spoke of India before; this developing country legalized abortion under its Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act back in 1971.

One has to acknowledge here that Trump’s election is not just a reason to worry for American women; it is a reason to wail for feminists around the world. But, the truth is that this world has taught feminists to fight back.

“Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” Hillary Clinton said, addressing girls around the world in her concession speech.

There may be other factors at play, but Clinton was eventually defeated by the glass ceiling; the feminist in her found the courage to rise once again.

Some may argue that Clinton’s defeat wasn’t about her womanhood, but the truth is that the moment this country voted to power a man accused of sexual assault over a woman who has dedicated her life to public service, it reaffirmed the patriarchy.

But, don’t you worry, we feminists have been taught to fight back.

(Written by Sehr Taneja; Nov. 16, 2016)

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