In a short movie that has gone viral now – Deepika Padukone, the Bollywood actress (shot along with many other women) – discusses her idea of freedom. That freedom is measured by her insistence of “My Choice”.
“My choice… to marry, or not to marry. To have sex before marriage. To have sex outside of marriage. To not have sex.”
It goes from the topic of sex to how she has the choice of when to come home, what to wear, what to like and what not to like. How long to live somewhere with someone and how not to.
But isn’t that what the worst stereotypical men have been saying to women all along? Isn’t that the reason for feminism to start in the first place? Are we slaying the dragon or creating a newer, equally debased one?
To some it seems very enlightening and empowering for women, but is it really? What if the man starts doing the same? “My Choice! to marry or not marry. or to have you as a one night stand and dump you forever”? In fact, there is a Male Version of the video as well! And it ends on the right note.
The retort is obvious.
If its HER Choice, then it is HIS Choice as well.
In this Ayn Rand inspired individuality based world and engagement, where everyone is on his/her own, we will soon have a “Wild West” version of the world right inside our homes. It is fine if you are young and successful, but when things don’t work out for some? Then things cease to be pretty anymore.
So is the video totally rubbish? Well, it does come from a mindset that thinks that man is the reason for all wrong that besets womanhood. Now, that may not be that great of an idea, because of all people, when a daughter is born to a young wife in India, I have most often seen the Grandmothers – daughter’s mother’s mother – who feels most “let down”. It is always the women who feel the worst. In the case of dowry, it was always the Mother-in-laws who were after the daughter-in-laws.
Is riling against man that important for freedom of women?
Why have men been dominant?
When I was reading biology I understood one thing – as the species evolved two things happened:
- Physical strength reduced
- Sophistication of biological systems increased and every function was more differentiated.
In that sense, women were a more evolved species of humankind. One, the female systems are more complex and differentiated. Just as Amoeba was a one system show for reproductive, excretory, digestive etc system, but it changed in a small worm and more still in a bird.. and so on. Women, for example, have a differentiated reproductive and urinary pathways as opposed to men. The balance in a woman’s health is far tough to handle than in a man’s.
With this sophistication also came the other attribute of evolution – lesser physical strength. Yes, many women are stronger then men around, but in general the statistics show very clearly that men are physically stronger than women. Take the athletic records and the answer is clear.
Until upto the last 100 years, to go out and work required physical endurance and strength. Whether it was to journey from one place to another or to go and work on the farm. It required a person most well equipped to do it. That is the reason why men controlled the outside world completely. It worked well that way.
Now, what took probably 6 months to do, say going from Delhi to Bombay on foot say 200 years back, takes roughly 2 hours in an airplane, even for a 1 year old kid! Today technology has made physical strength irrelevant to working outside.
In this situation, where physical strength is not the deciding factor, a woman’s sophistication and amazing dexterity with things becomes very important. Suddenly, a woman can do exactly what a man can do. Probably better!
Please understand that the world of adultery and prostitution came about as a measure of strength of the man. Given the control of money and resources, men were dominant in the society. A Patriarchical society. Social dominance begets sexual dominance as well. Dominance of an ideology, mindset, institution or gender drives the mores of sex and who demands what.
Do you think if this society was built ground up by women (and not men), women would not have men as prostitutes and sex objects? I am sure many puritanical women would say – “Never”! Some would say, “One would never know”. Well, let us go to a society which IS actually built ground up with female dominance. A completely matriarchical society.
Mosuo in southern China is one such place. An Argentinian writer Ricardo Coller stayed in Mosuo for 2 months to research that society and some of the insights from him are astonishing.
Women have a different way of dominating. “When women rule, it’s part of their work. They like it when everything functions and the family is doing well. Amassing wealth or earning lots of money doesn’t cross their minds. Capital accumulation seems to be a male thing.”
That is a significant thing. In this society, the measure of success is not money, but that the world around them works better.
There is no violence in a matriachal society. “I know that quickly slips into idealization — every human society has its problems. But it simply doesn’t make sense to the Mosuo women to solve conflicts with violence. Because they are in charge, nobody fights. They don’t know feelings of guilt or vengeance — it is simply shameful to fight. They are ashamed if they do and it even can threaten their social standing.”
Man is for physical labor. “For the Mosuo, women are simply the more effective and reliable gender. However, they do say that the “really big” decisions — like buying a house or a machine or selling a cow — are made by the men. Men are good for this kind of decision-making as well as physical labor. The official governmental leader of the village, the mayor, is a man. I walked with him through the village — nobody greated him or paid him any attention. As a man he doesn’t have any authority.”
You see even when the women dominate, the larger decisions and physical labor is still handed out to the men.
What about sexual mores? What Coler says about this subject strikes to one as prostitution but in reverse
The sexual life of the Mosuo is very distinctive and very active — partners are changed frequently. But the women decide with whom they want to spend the night. Their living quarters have a main entrance but every adult woman lives in her own small hut. The men live together in a large house. The door of every hut is fitted with a hook and all the men wear hats. When a man visits a woman, he hangs his hat on the hook. That way, everybody knows that this woman has a male visitor. And nobody else knocks on the door. If a woman falls in love, then she receives only the specific man and the man comes only to that woman.
Men live in one large house together, while women live in their own individual huts. When they aren’t in love with a man, they have someone else for the night.
One interesting thing here is that the reason to stay together in that society is love and not partnership.
When she can talk with a man, have sex, and go out, then she is in love. Love is more important for them than partnership. They want to be in love. The one reason to be with another person is love. They aren’t interested in getting married or starting a family with a man. When the love is over, then it’s over. They don’t stay together for the kids or for the money or for anything else.
In such a society, where women are less insecure and more confident as well as dominating, the need to have a man be with them as a security is no longer there. In such a society, even marriage loses all meaning.
Is marriage important only in male-dominated societies?
One interesting thing comes out of what Deepika Padukone says and what women in Mosuo practice. Sex is their choice. And marriage is not a “be-all, end-all”. Because, like Mosuo women, Deepika is too a confident young secure woman.
When men are in “free supply” and you hold the key to everything, then love (euphemism for temporary lust) becomes more significant than partnership. If that sounds like the harems of Arabs or the Playboy mansion and Hugh Hefner, it is not a coincidence.
When the opposite sex is in “free supply” and key to it is in your hand, then you don’t need partnership. You need lustful love as a substitute. Mosuo women say that, Deepika Padukone says that, Hugh Hefner lives that.
So, is marriage a compromise by women to live in a male-dominated society? Now, this is an interesting question.
Marriage is born out of the realization that partnership and not lustful love is the key to happiness between a man and woman. A partnership implies that both can function together as a unit without the need to keep looking outside and be worried about the longevity of the partnership. Only then, when that part is taken care of, do you start working on something much bigger than being attracted to each other’s bodies.
Marriage is the first realization of this.
In India, marriage took a different meaning in our society. We worked Spiritual ways to join men and women in Yogic way to create lifelong unions. The aim was to join energies to function as “one being”. This created an atmosphere where both could achieve a greater aim in their lives.
Lets go back to Deepika Padukone now.
A feminist goal may be to do to man, what man in his greater powers was able to do to the woman. Freedom may mean creating a Hugh Heffner life for every woman. But is that really “equality”?
Are you becoming a more aggressive man or are you enabling your feminism to blossom? If sexual dominance – “My Choice to have sex before marriage, outside of marriage” – is your idea of freedom, then you have not really gone beyond the archetype of the worst men to have walked the earth!
If feminist freedom has to happen, then why not establish your feminism as the basis of how the world should run.
Just like Mosuo women eliminate violence. Raise love to its highest level.. but not at the expense of partnership. For, lust – which love becomes sans partnership – is predicated on the worst manifestation of dominance!
And, that is where Deepika’s video goes all wrong. She has merely made herself into a sad caricature of female Hugh Heffner wannabe!