Feminism & the cult of silence

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that there is a ‘cult of silence’ in the country and the society you live in, especially for issues involving women’s position in society and their rights? If yes, then what are the specific issues? Is it harmful? In what way?

RIMI: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” said Martin Luther King, Jr.  Religious and cultural traditions that focus on traditional gender roles and exaggerated emphasis on “family values” actually harm the community. Silence about any crime implies complicity. This is specially true of crimes where women are victims. Only 3 out of 100 rapists are convicted and incarcerated in USA. 98% of all rape crimes go unreported each year, thousands of sexual assaults occur in domestic, military or college campus setting. It is definitely harmful to continue this vicious cycle of silence about violence. Call it a cult or not, it is a fact of life.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that there has always been a cult of silence in human societies regarding certain issues? If yes, then for what reasons? Do you think that it is actually a good thing to perpetuate such a practice? Please tell us know why.

RIMI:  A cult of silence, present in all societies since antiquity can never be considered a good thing. Silence is sometimes used as an agency to promote and   maintain calmness and harmony in the community. A form of self -censorship often keep the victims silent on issues of sexual and reproductive rights.  Often the victim is a woman. Take the practice of female circumcision in certain African cultures. A cult of silence regarding this practice only helped in keeping the woman in subservient position, at a high cost to her health and well-being. Vocal protests and activism brought this barbaric practice to limelight. So, silence about so called taboo topics must cease.  

SONGSOPTOK:  Is there a feminist movement in your country? If yes, then what are the specific objectives? In your opinion, is it necessary? If not, then what are the main reasons for its absence?

RIMI:  First wave feminism in parts of the Western world involved suffrage and political equality mainly for white, middle class women. The second wave brought in women of color and more emphasis on sexual freedom and reproductive rights. The third wave feminism continues to fight gender and racial inequalities in the workplace and maintaining focus on not losing the battle on abortion and other reproductive rights issues. It is necessary to continue feminist activism in order to gain more political and financial prominence in every sphere of society. The recent Women’s march on January 21 was a demonstration of women’s solidarity against injustice and oppression, in epic proportions. Yes, it is necessary to continue a feminist movement in the USA.

SONGSOPTOK:  What, in your opinion, is the position of women in the country you live in? Do they have equal rights in every domain as men? If not, then which are the main areas where they receive unequal treatment?

RIMI: Sweden is the best country for women to live in according to a new ranking from US News and world report. The United States is in 16th place for best country for women to live in.  Policies in the United states consistently fail to take a holistic approach to women’s personal and professional rights. Women trail way behind in pay and career advancement opportunities. Inadequate childcare and maternity leave makes a woman less competitive in her career path. While no country has completely closed the gender gap, compared to Nordic countries, the United States have a long way to go.  

SONGSOPTOK: A ‘glass ceiling’ is a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that keeps women from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy. Do you believe in this concept? What is your personal experience in your personal and professional life? In the country you live in are there glass ceilings in different professions?

RIMI: Ann Morrison describes the glass ceiling as a barrier, “so subtle that it is transparent, yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up the corporate hierarchy.” In my personal experience women executives are more concentrated on staff and support jobs. They are not in the leadership track. Male corporate leaders tend to promote other males who look like them. They are not seen as policy makers. For example, women attorneys still hit the glass ceiling, making up only 16% of equity partners in law firms despite the fact equal number of men and women graduate from law school.

SONGSOPTOK: What is your opinion about the feminist movement? Do you think it is necessary, both at a global and a more local level? Why? In this context, what do you think are the major achievements of the Feminist movement, if any?

RIMI: A major goal of feminism is unveiling aspects of our male dominated culture, many people simply don’t know about. The feminist community on the internet can take a lead in debunking many myths about the Feminist movement today. The major achievement of the feminist movement is its focus on reaching some degree of gender equality in all aspects of human life. Better maternity benefits, equal pay or reproductive rights are human rights issues that make life better for both genders. Women and their rights do not operate in a vacuum.

SONGSOPTOK:  A recent study (conducted by HuffPost/YouGov) concluded that only 20% of Americans identify as feminists, even though a whopping 82% believe that "men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.” Do you find this contradictory, and if so, why? What, according to you, would be the result of a similar study in the country you live in? For what reasons?

RIMI: No, this is not contradictory. Many people still associate feminists with the bra burning activism of the sixties. (Man haters).  On a positive note, some pop icons such as Beyoncé has labelled herself as a feminist. This may encourage young women to take up the cause and not feel afraid of the feminist label. One need to become a man hater or a zero-makeup advocate in order to call herself a feminist.

SONGSOPTOK: One of the main areas of the feminist movement is sexual objectification of women almost all across the globe, especially on media. What is the reality in the country you live in and / or your country of origin? What is your opinion about this? Do you think that there is a cult of silence around this issue? Why?

RIMI: Objectification is defined as treating a person as a commodity without regard to their personhood or dignity. In United States women face sexual objectification in daily interpersonal interactions as well as consumption of active and passive multimedia. In my opinion, such objectification results in serious consequence for society as a whole. Depression, eating disorder and reduced productivity can stem from this objectification issue. Ignoring or maintaining silence about these issues will further escalate the downward spiral of the silence cult.

SONGSOPTOK:  Finally, according to you, to what extent is feminism relevant in today’s society?

RIMI: Although women’s rights have come a long way in the past 100 years, we still need activism in this area. Women are still dealing with pay inequality, gender related health threats, body shaming and constant erosion of reproductive rights.  Feminism remains relevant in today’s society as long as US women make 78 cents to their male co-worker’s dollar for doing the exact same job, five million women starve themselves to look “beautiful”, “slut shaming”, “victim blaming” and “excused rapes” remain common. Unless we achieve some measure of improvement in all these areas, feminism is here to stay.

This is not a question, but more like a game. You may or may not choose to RIMI to this. What would be your word picture of a feminist?
Say “Yes” to Full Frontal Feminism. You do not need to hate men or quit high heels to be a feminist.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope to have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen


No comments:

Blogger Widgets
Powered by Blogger.