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periyar 432Feminism is an ideology found for woman equality. In adherence to the theory “How to attain Gender Equality”, there are many types of Feminism like Liberal, Radical, Marxist or Socialist and Cultural Feminism.

The theory of radical feminism is: “On finding the rootstock of various types of gender inequalities existing in society and expressing voracious comments to extirpate it; And equality is only possible if women understand this; Otherwise, male chauvinism cannot be eradicated by enacting new laws and making amendments thereon”. The views and activities of many Western Feminists and Periyar are the very forms of this radical feminism!

Periyar is the proud leader to have founded the Self-Respect Movement with women freedom as its goal and led it with the participation of women in numbers even in 1925 when gender disparities were deep-rooted in the society.

Let us compare the views of some of the feminists of various countries, who have expressed revolutionary comments startling male supremacy and worked for women freedom till their life, with that of Periyar.

Kitchen and the Bothering of Childbearing

The French feminist and author of the book 'The Second Sex', Simon de Beauvoir, born in 1908, states that the being a woman is not a way in which one is born, but rather something one becomes. This is relevant to our society.

This society profusely teaches women in the name of caste, culture, civilization and discipline and directs them to be with female qualities whereas nothing of it is taught to man. He can do anything freely. But voluminous regulations are for her which remain the basic principle of oppression.

Questioning all, which enslave women, Simon de Beauvoir further states in her book (1949) that “Maternity is a strange compromise of narcissism, altruism, dream, sincerity, bad faith, devotion and cynicism”. The Western feminist activist, Andrea Dworkin, born in 1946, too says that “Childbearing is glorified in part because women die from it.

But Periyar wrote about it even in 1928 in Kudi Arasu dated 12.08.1928 as follows: “For a true sense of Women freedom, the bothering of childbearing should be got rid of. We would say that without which women could not attain real freedom even if appointing a husband on a salary basis”.

Moreover, Simon de Beauvoir states that household works like cooking and child-rearing have been assigned only for women, and they should get absolved from it. But Periyar, in 1947, noted that “it is a manifold worse policy than Vanashrama that a separate community should be there to drop like flies in kitchen lifelong”.

Marriage + Family = Institutions of subjugating women

The matrimonial system always suppresses women. Even in the current scenario where woman education and employment are somehow possible, women live as slaves within the matrimonial system, few of them helping for the economic development of the family and involving in childbearing. So, many feminists have lent their voices against marriage and family system.

The American feminist Kate Millet, born in 1934, says that both family and marriage are the substantial components of male domination. In her book Sexual Politics (1969), she further adds that “The complete destruction of traditional marriage and the nuclear family is the revolutionary or utopian goal of feminism”.

Gloria Steinem, the American feminist and journalist, too says that marriage is the slave charter of women. She was also born in 1934.

Simone de Beauvoir further states that “woman escapes complete dependency to the degree in which she escapes from the family.

Emphasizing continuously that marriage is an institution of subjugation, Periyar stressed that marriage should be made as a criminal act. Periyar had supported women remain unwedded even in 1929 in Kudi Arasu dated 10.03.1929 as follows:

If marriage is for happiness, the proposal has to be planned accordingly; otherwise if it is for taking care of the world by copiously delivering children; for being an unconditional and permanent slave for the reputation and satisfaction of the men, we are to support those women not to involve in those type of marital life; rather we support women living unmarried or enjoying complete freedom on their wish”.

Let the Masculinity and Femininity perish

The society is persistently teaching the principles of masculinity and femininity in all elements of life. The cultural watchdogs will mention that this is our culture. The principles which the society teaches foster women as desirable slaves and men as masters. Hence women remain good slaves even in the 21st century. For this, many feminists have talked about the notion that if only masculinity and femininity got obliterated, equality would be there.

Andrea Dworkin states that only when manhood is dead - and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it - only then will we know what it is to be free.

But even in 1928, Periyar has stated “Women should not forget that the term manhood is customarily being used humiliating women. It is certain that women freedom is not possible unless the principle of ‘manhood’ is smashed. Women have been enslaved by manhood”- Kudi Arasu (12.08.1928)

Andrea Dworkin further states that female knowledge of objectification usually stops at a necessary but superficial understanding: beauty is rewarded, and lack of beauty is punished.

Periyar has uttered the same comment at the marital function of the couple Sulochana-Sambath at Thiruppur on 21.09.1946, as follows: “Women should wear a dress like men and should get their hair trimmed; and women should stop beautifying themselves. I ask, would anyone of the women in every thousand have understood that adorning themselves, appreciating beauty and praising external appearance is tantamount to humiliation, shame and slavery? The reason for not appearing in their mind that it is despicable and indecent is the conception of women as gratifying substance. It is really miserable”.

Prostitution & Sexual Freedom

The ideology that men are the sole proprietor of toasting the word 'sex' puts women at sexual violence one side and sexual exploitation on the other side. There is a method like 'Prostitution' prevailing in all the countries to gratify the sexual needs of men by securing the body of a woman on payment. Scientifically women too, are possessing sexual desires. But, society does not permit her to speak about it. The male dominant societal ideology that the body of the woman should be under the control of male eroticism is the cause for this! Hence, many feminists have struggled against these practices.

The American feminist Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin have jointly fought against porn videos and prostitution. Prostitution is an ugly face of male chauvinist society. It is harmful to society. Because it makes women as a commodity of those who can afford to buy them, it is equal to sexual violence as it does not reckon the likes and dislikes of women being involved in it and abets men to rule over women’s body.

Catherine states that “The money thus acts as a form of force, not as a measure of consent. It acts like physical force does in rape”.

Periyar too questioned prostitution even in 1930: “If one observes the empirical principle of the word ‘prostitution’, it is nothing but a referential word for women being slaves. The imprecation of prostitution and the immorality befallen for doing prostitution is only for women and men should never come across thereupon” Kudi Arasu (26.10.1930). And in the sense of women raising question against this, Periyar further states that “the mentality of contemporary women should change considerably. Moreover, they should think over why prostitution is not for men but women. Why are not men cursed for prostitution Kudi Arasu (11.10.1948).

The Australian feminist and journalist Emily Maguire shots question against the preaching that chastity is as much important for women while the society does not entail this on men. Many western feminists have talked about the denial of sexual freedom for women, the nature of Non-authority over their body and the inequality prevailing over chastity. Periyar penned down such revolutionary thoughts even in 1928 in Kudi Arasu.

Periyar says that “If we need freedom for women, the obligatory method of chastity bestowing justice based on one gender should go and an independent method of chastity equal for two genders should be in place” - Kudi Arasu (08.01.1928)

Many feminist organizations functioning in India (Being run by Brahmin women) have blacked out the feminist views of Periyar. It is an impregnable truth that it is Periyar who has expressed the views uttered and written by many revolutionary feminists of late 20th century, at the beginning of 20th century in a country where male domination was deep-rooted, and he has executed many of them.

It would not be exaggerating to call him “the Pioneer of Radical Feminism” considering the above comparisons not only in India but throughout the world.

Periyar comments that “For women’s freedom and liberation, their mentality should change. It is meaningless to pronounce that I will be a slave; but you should not be a master to me”Kudi Arasu (21.06.1931). Hence, in this century, sexual equality will be possible if only women realize everything that enslaves them and come forward voluntarily to destroy them.

Written by Erithazhal

Translated bySunandha Suresh

(This article was first published in a Tamil magazine 'Kaattaaru', March 2017)

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