Personal is Political!

Shucheesmita Simonti:

Scenario 1:

“I am a cool mom. I let my son bring his girlfriend to our place, but only if I am there.”

“Aha, nice! Ratul is indeed lucky to have an understanding mother like you! So nice! And what about your daughter Piyali?”

“Oh no no! I am looking for a good boy for her. Sorry I can’t be so modern. How can my daughter ever cross her limits before marriage? I can never accept if she ever brings her boyfriend (if she has one) to our place. Chhi Chhi!”

Scenario 2:

“Don’t you think Riya should not be married off against her wish. She is 20 and her husband is 28!”

“Oh Piyali, you live in a fantasy world. You have no sense of world.”

“But mom! Don’t you think Riya might have to go through marital rape? Do you think her husband will wait till she is also willing to have sex with him?”

“Enough Piya! How can you talk about sex with your mother? Shameless girl! I don’t want to argue on this”

Piyali’s modern mother in a conversation with a friend.

“You know we live in such a backward society. Women have no choice over their lives. Have you read that child marriage news on paper? How pathetic! Lets organize a talk next week? We need to speak up.”

Few times I have come across such ‘modern’, self-proclaimed enlightened women who are educated, belong to privileged section of the society and practice such double standards blatantly, without an iota of guilt. Such women can be found not just in Bangladesh, but all across the world.

In context of Nepal, Ms. Shuvechha Ghimire, a sociologist from Jawaharlal Nehru University observed:

“ Nepal, there has been a steady rise of a group of women who can best be termed “Wine Feminists”.

These are those self-styled feminists who are often found in conferences and parties in Kathmandu, sipping their wine and talking about women’s rights. Like the “Whisky Generals”, the “Wine Feminists” of Nepal living in their comfortable houses in rich suburbs of the city are also blissfully detached from ground realities. They, of course, occasionally visit the field for a superficial observation and to justify their massive international funding, after which they sit comfortably in TV studios and conferences where they discuss their findings, while waiting for lunches and more wine. They are a curious combination of being highly educated and liberal in their expressed views in public yet shockingly conservative in their private lives.”

Exactly! Such women are a unique combination indeed. They are highly educated most of the times and in public they clamor for freedom, empowerment-what not? Some of them often have large fan following, and I would not say that they do not deserve it at all. They do deserve the credit for expressing solidarity for women empowerment. But how can you separate your private life from your preached ideology? You cannot, let me tell you, you cannot be a feminist if you can’t muster up the courage to confront someone for oppressing a girl/woman- when you can’t do that and separate your personal from your political,when in political sphere you lament about women’s plight and the same you justify domestic violence or forced marriage or any other oppressive act just to save the face of your kith and kin….mark the moment because this is the moment your assumed identity is defeated.

I have come across such wine feminists too. In public forums they would say pre-marital sex is a matter of choice. If anyone argues with them, they will shut up their opponents by saying it is a person’s basic right-to choose. But the same person will probably have a heart attack if her own daughter wants to have an affair or that if she comes to know her would-be daughter-in-law is not a virgin! I have known women who lament that in this part of the world, women often do not have the choice to wear western attire without risking eve teasing or harassment in public space. But the same person is absolutely ok with a forced arranged marriage of a niece! And what happens when you try to point out their contradictions? They get aggressive, they remind you of their contributions, their unforgettable speeches in public sphere.  Well one thing they need to remember is that the distinction between private and public is rather blurred- Personal is Political!

One thing that such self-proclaimed feminists need to understand is that when they practice such double standards so blatantly, they let down the very movement that they claim to be passionate about. As argued by Shuvechcha Ghimire: “one of the most difficult challenges that women’s rights movement faces today is reclaiming the movement from such “Wine Feminists”. They are an obstacle to the goal of women equality that they claim to aspire for.”

Therefore, such self-proclaimed feminists need to choose- whether they want to threaten women’s rights movement or advance it. If they choose to do the latter, they need to acknowledge this truth for once and all:

What is Personal is definitely Political!







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