There’s No Urban and Rural Feminism. Feminism is Feminism

Posted: June 18, 2018

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The author writes an analytical post wherein she brings out the fact that the problems of women from different stratas of society may be different but they all need feminism. 

The lifestyle and needs of an urban woman differs from that of the rural woman. Their problems differ, so do their fights for upholding their rights to equality, or that’s what we hear most of the time. That’s how the theory of intersectionality came about- in understadning the experiences women who face double, triple or quadruple burdens stemming from their multiple identities- as a woman, as a woman of color, as a blue collar worker, as a lesbian or a transgender etc. In India caste, class, place of residence, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation interlock to form different power structures which work to oppress women in different ways. But, I disagree to the idea of having different kinds of feminism- metropolitan feminism, rural feminism- and I will tell you why.

Sure in rural India, women at many places still get banished to the veranda or a secluded room, when they menstruate, whereas the urban women go on with her life mingling as usual with others in those 5 days. She also cooks food as usual for her family. The urban family is usually a nuclear family. The mother if she’s working is also the woman who minds the domestic arena. Her being banished to a secluded room would cause disruption in the lives of the other members of the family- her children and her husband. The menstrual myth of untouchability can not be sustained without discomforting the other members of the family. So the modern urban woman goes on to mingle with people.

The rural household often tends to be a joint family with many generations under the same roof- so the rural woman can be condemned to a temporary untouchabilty phase- as other women of the same family does her share of the household work along with female children- who unlike their urban counterpart are more likely to aid in the household chores.

The urban woman goes to work- she’s a sophisticated, educated woman who had her dreams of a career since her childhood. The rural woman also works- either as a house wife or in the fields or in some other work. The urban and the rural woman face the same issue- outsourcing child care for a part of the day. The urban woman earns more- she can afford a nanny, or a creche. The rural woman in her joint, multi-generational family- puts her children in the care of other women in the household, or in the care of neighbors or sometimes even her own older children to look after the younger ones.

Often the reason why rural girls drop out of school is because as they become older they are often made to care for their younger siblings or tend to chores in the absence of their mothers. The urban children growing up with their mothers away in the offices for part of the day- continue their education unaffected. The urban children do not engage in household chores- the chores are reserved either for their mothers or the maid servants coming daily to work at their homes from the nearby slums- who might have left her eldest daughter to care for her younger children.

I once met a rural woman named Geeta- she had a job card and engaged with the MGNREGA work in her village in North Bengal. She recounted that when her children were younger, there was no creche. She said that in their job cards it is mentioned that the government is to provide for creche services in their work site. Her children stayed at her neighbor’s place when she was away.

The urban woman talks against body shaming. The ideal standards of beauty perpetuated by the media and society- and her body always being under scrutiny annoys her. She talks about her sexual desires and wants to be an equal partner in the pleasure to be derived from sex. The rural woman gets her fair of bodily oppression. Only 10% men undergo vasectomy, in comparison to 90% women undergoing tubectomy. The urban population use contraception, on the other hand, the rural woman goes to mass sterilization camp. Rural men fear for their loss of masculinity and manhood if they undergo vasectomy, they also shun the condom. Their women herd into mass sterilization camps, and many die as a result of unsanitary conditions or complications.

The urban woman wants to enjoy drinking. She wants to make this act of “drinking” as much as women’s as it’s men’s. The rural woman on the other hand often faces the brunt of alcoholism of her husband or other male members of the family. Sometimes the urban woman also faces the same. We all know why the Anti-Arrack movement took place in Andhra Pradesh in 1994.

The rural woman doesn’t have the luxury to engage with the “extras” in life. The rural woman doesn’t have much of a disposable income as the urban woman does. Her income is often not upto her to spend. Neither does she have the luxury of “leisure” like the urban woman who can again afford her “leisure”. While the urban woman is often stereotyped as the wine drinker as opposed to being the beer/whisky drinker, the rural women and girls are discriminated against the kind of food they get to eat- often getting inadequate share of proteins and other valuable food items, because India is a country which values male children over female children. Female malnutrition is a common problem faced by rural women. The alcohol ads on the other hand specifically target their male customers, often having taglines like “Men will be men“. Our food and drinks are gendered- both in urban and rural areas.

The issues of rural and urban women aren’t different. The lack of access to resources and the different familial structures of rural and urban household make it look like there should be different kinds of feminism- catering to different kinds of women- urban, rural, Muslim, Dalit, queer. But all categories of women are fighting for essentially the same demands- integrity of their bodies and for equality.

Image via pexels

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