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?

SOMESLAL: No, I don’t find any ‘cult of silence’! There are people who keep their mouths shut on these issues of course! Then there are goons under some political umbrage or other who terrorize people to silence when they themselves violate these rights! But you can hear voices of protest every now and then!

SONGSOPTOK: In case you think that there is no such cult, can you please explain why you think so? With some examples, if possible

SOMESLAL:  I think I have explained my view already.

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.

SOMESLAL: Again history may have seen such “cults of silence” from time to time! I think the major reason for such “silence” is fear in some form or other!
Well, there may be people who philosophize on the need for “silence” in situations demanding protest. But I do not agree on such views. If “no mere action can change the world”, then “mere silence” cannot either!

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?

SOMESLAL: There are groups of women and men who supposedly preach and practice “feminism” in India! I’m not very conversant with their specific objectives, leaving out “feminism” itself.

Now I don’t think that “feminism” can give us a solution to women’s travails, since the very idea of the “ism” is divisive and hence likely to create further divisions within society. (Well it may take dozens of A4-size papers for me to elaborate my idea! What is needed is a compassionate view that does not distinguish between men and women in terms of capabilities, intelligence and so on, and which takes a holistic approach to human lives in general. ) There is the worse problem of “pseudo-feminists” – persons who use such emancipatory platforms for their own petty career-goals outwardly and continue privately their wife-beatings and daughter-in-law beatings! Haven’t we seen official protectors of children engaged clandestinely in child-trafficking? There exists yet another brand of pseudo-feminists who would even prescribe violence to men as the main path to liberation of women!

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?

SOMESLAL: In India, officially the women are not discriminated adversely against men. But, as it happens, reality often skirts or straightaway violates official rules. It is also difficult to enforce such non-discriminatory rules in the multicultural context of  India. For people from all cultures do not have the same kinds of views regarding women. Thus enforcing non-discriminatory rules in favour of women, let alone educating the Indian masses to at least regard the women with friendliness and sympathy remains an uphill task in the Indian context. Enforcing rules to change, and educate people on, the often anti-women matrimonial practices is equally difficult. Thus, even though women are increasingly taking important positions in Indian society, we still witness gruesome events of torture, rape, dowry-deaths, female foeticides and so on. Even giving proper education to women remains difficult to this day.

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?

SOMESLAL: As I’ve already mentioned, even if the glass-ceilings are officially removed, one may still face the specters of such ceilings in reality.

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?

SOMESLAL: To these questions I’ve already answered above.

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?

SOMESLAL: Again, the reasons for such apparent contradictions are also given by me above. I should expect similar results in India too! For the same reasons! To state the point in a nub, a holistic humanism based on empathy and understanding should be the approach, rather than a divisive, and hence destructive, “feminism”.

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?

SOMESLAL: Again the entire problem arises from a culture that is divisive, neurotic, sexist and consumerist. No country is free from the fell clutch of this destructive culture which we celebrate as something good.
I’ve already given my views about the “silence”.

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

SOMESLAL: This question also has already been answered above.

SOMESLAL MUKHOPADHYAY: Well I would very much like to quote a few lines from Eliot to describe myself.

" ... no doubt, an easy tool
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous -
Almost, at times, the Fool."

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



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