Professor Anand Kumar speaks on #FeministFeb

In line with the month of #FeministFeb, we decided to have a chat with Professor Anand Kumar, regarding his views on feminism.

What is Feminism?

Feminism is a way of understanding the reality of social life by centering the presence and role women in society, from family and household, to state and economy. The critical role of women has gradually come to our understanding in social sciences, with the help of feminist respected of the gender discourse. This is a much needed freshness to have a holistic approach; otherwise we have been looking at realities with the invisibility of women who we take as given – which is a very inaccurate and distorted view of social realities.

What according to you is meant by Sociology of Feminism?

Sociology of feminism means centering women in the social life, meaning centering them within the values system, within institutions and in processes. We have always gone towards the reality by assuming women as given, not as variable. Today, thanks to the feminist perspective, sociology looks at a more comprehensive gender input, and at new interrogations. This has made sociology more real as it has brought gender issues to the table. It has also created a women-oriented understanding of a variety of problems which are baffling us since the dawn of civilization.

What is the role of feminism in the Indian Educational System?
The educational system of the ancient times has to be understood with a more historical sensitivity of regional variations, religious and cultural diversity, but when we talk about the educational systems today, it is generally related to the system introduced by the British: patronage of colonial estate and support of missionary institutions. Here education had three divides: first there was the racial divide where there was a great difference between educational opportunities for people of European stock and the natives. The second was the rural urban-divide where the rural masses, which were nearly 95% of the population, were left on their own to go by the traditional ways of learning and knowledge building. It was quite urban central. The third gap was of course the togetherness of cast and gender, where people of the lower cast and women were not at all included in the discourse of education of the modern variety.

Since independence the racial divide has become irrelevant. The rural-urban divide still persists, the gender issue has been in this role of denial till the Kothari commission in the mid 60s. Then came a period of patronizing women where getting them educated became a social drive. But since the 90s there is a quest for gender equality, gender sensitization and the quest of giving women their due through state support in terms of lower cost of educating women, better opportunities of higher education, as well as give space to women as leaders of educational systems: teacher, administrators etc, although that’s is not really enough. There is a drive for a 21st century updating of women’s education system, where there is a gender divide in terms of soft and hard subjects, where science, technology and professional studies are more for men, while home science, art and culture, language and literature, history and sociology are more for women. This has to go. The sooner, the better.

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