“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”-Madeleine Albright (Keynote speech at Celebrating Inspiration luncheon with the WNBA’s All-Decade Team, 2006) Cultural feminist, Carol Gilligan, argues that women, because of their different life experiences, speak in a different voice from their male counterparts. She identifies the female voice with caring and relationships. Woman’s moral vision encompasses this different voice. Woman’s difference is good. Cultural feminists regard woman as nurturing, as valuing personal relationships, the attributes which are to be valued by men.
According to Robin West, women are not essentially, necessarily, inevitably, invariably, always, and forever separate from other human beings: women are distinctively connected to another human life when pregnant. In fact, women are in some sense “connected” to life and to other human beings during at least four recurrent and critical material experiences: the experience of pregnancy itself; the invasive and “connecting” experience of heterosexual penetration, which may lead to pregnancy; the monthly experience of menstruation, which represents the potential for pregnancy; and the post-pregnancy experience of breast-feeding.
These thoughts from the West make a good argument when fighting for women’s rights against violence such as rape, date rape, marital rape or un-aggravated rape or for their rights to protect their body from unwanted pregnancies. But when viewed from the gendered lens of patriarchy they appear to be flawed. Catharine Mackinnon in Difference and Dominance argues that this different voice after all has been constructed in response to patriarchy. Women value care because men have valued them according to the care they give them. Women think in relational terms because their existence is defined in relation to men. But is that the only impact of patriarchy on women? Are women always speaking in that caring and nurturing voice?
The ever increasing incidents of violence against women, and the anti-women practices prevalent in all patriarchal societies, present the ugly truth where women act with apathy and hatred towards other women. Female voices have continued to be silenced even before their birth by none other than their own mothers, grandmothers and aunts. The instances of cruelty, bride burning, dowry deaths, female foeticide and infanticide, assisted rapes, branding of women as witches, all stand there glaring at us straight in our eyes searching helplessly for that caring and nurturing role that is considered the most cherished value of women in a stereotyped male-dominated society. Has patriarchy only demanded women to be submissive and non-violent? Has it not taught the women to cultivate enmity towards other women? It is no hidden truth that female foeticide is all the more prevalent among rich and educated families. Why are the women not breaking the shackles of patriarchy even after calling themselves educated and independent? Why do we carry this apathy towards our fellow females when we should happily encourage and support them to move forward? Why do we wait for others to fight for ourselves when we prefer to be mute spectators and often partners in crime? Why are we silencing the female voices? Is it not something that patriarchy has wanted us to do?
We need to stop playing at the hands of patriarchy; we need to stand together and united. The more female faces we see, the more female voices we hear; the more we stand a chance to break the stereotypes surrounding us. Shrugging off these problems will not help! It is only when we help and encourage the women around us, when we start appreciating the growth of other women, when we make a place for the silenced-female voices inside our hearts; that we deserve a place in heaven. We need to make our place in this world, different from what this society has demanded from us. Let’s stop hating each other for once and for all.
About the Author
I Apoorva Tomar a Law Graduate from ILS Law College, Pune and currently pursuing LL.M. from Faculty of Law, Delhi University. I aspire and dream to make the world a safer and better place for Women.
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