Thursday Dec 8, 2022
Thursday Dec 8, 2022

Understanding the segments of feminist movement in Nepal

2022 Aug 04, 21:20, kathmandu
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As often has been the norm to be polarized and misinterpreted with the news concerning feminism, the latest of which has been generated through discussion in clubhouse, twitter and facebook. Along with the resurfacing of the term ‘dijju feminism’ in nepali feminist movement discourse, the usual gaslighting, dismissive behaviour on feminist issue has found new platforms.

Dijju feminism is the categorization of mainstream feminists who doesnot recognize the intersectional feminist movements, and the struggles faced by the lesser privileged group.

“Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of one's social and political identities (gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, height etc.) might combine to create unique modes of discrimination. It focuses on a broader agenda where it finds the combinations of injustices that are felt by members of society.” For example, a madhesi dalit woman might face discrimination that is not distinctly due to her caste nor her gender nor physical appearance, but by a unique combination of three.

In this article, i will try to incorporate my journey as a cishet man in understanding feminist movement.

After watching The Vagina Monologue 2020(TVM) at Shilpee Theatre, I realized the existence of different layers of the feminist movement.

Written by Eve Ensler, TVM play explores issues relating to sexuality, sexual health, body image, consent, and other factors that affect women. In one scene, the actor highlights how we perceive ‘vagina’ as something sinful and does not acknowledge female pleasure. While the mainstream movies and our society has groomed us to view sexual expression from male point of view, we forget the desires of other human beings.

The organizers, performers, and audience for this show were mostly from the privileged group in Nepali society, and highlighted the issues that were beyond the basic consequences of poverty. However, I would have never imagined that problems, like child abuse, would occur in a society with good education, family profession, and respected social image. Initially my major criticism was that I felt it did not portray the women of developing countries. The issues like ‘Chaupadi’, menstrual health, marital rape, child marriage polygamy still exists. Similarly, the play fails to incorporate the struggles of people with disabilities.

In recent days, the word 'my vagina will vote you out' has been a symbol of empowerment as well as a source of controversy. Controversial, mainly in the sense, it has irked the traditional patriarchal perspective. Whereas, another one is the concern raised by young feminists who feel the mainstream feminist movements has not acknowledged intersectionality.

When we talk about normal Nepali society, socio-cultural and economic status play the key role. Thus, we can easily dismiss this kind of movement as not for the “average” Nepali women. The reality is, it is a common problem for all types of women in all walks of life.

As highlighted by Devi short movie, there are common issues. Rape happens regardless of age, gender, poverty, modernization, ethnicity or any other catgories humans can be divided into.

Whether it's the privileged society or the society where fighting poverty is the main concern in life, the issues are relevant to all. Who does not need to know about consensual sex, reproductive hygiene, sexuality issues? The only difference is the level of importance given to such issues based on the economic status of the society.

In the fiscal year 2076/277, 2144 rape cases, 687 attempts of rape cases, 11,738 cases of domestic violence and 232 child sexual abuse were registered as per Nepal Police. Also to note, 27 cases of unnatural sex. “Nepal’s Criminal Code criminalized ‘unnatural sexual intercourse’. People of the third gender (metis) frequently faced police violence and harassment because of their gender expression.”

These are not just the numbers, there are actual people facing these circumstances. These indicators only represent the cases, not their immeasurable struggles.

One simple example to understand the layers of social struggle could be Siddhant Chaturvedi’s statement. He mentions that the position that they achieve, coming from a family with no Bollywood connection, in their normal career trajectory in the movie industry, is the same position where the people with family connection start their Bollywood career. He highlights the difference of struggle faced by the people from different backgrounds.

If it were a black and white world, we would have to choose between those two narratives, but it is not. The story can happen in parallel and the movement can go parallel as well as interlinked. What we mostly see in the social media discussion, regarding feminism, is that we are so quick to categorize things and define things based on their characteristics. The basis of arguments is the generalized and normalized implication of narrative, which in reality is not applicable to an individual person. What we miss is that ideas exist in a fluid manner in reality; the category is just in the head.

Another thing we really need to be aware of is that the discourse created through these arguments does not define the movement. Dianna E.Anderson in their book Problematic mentions “At any point, one critic's feminist take has the possibility of becoming the definitive take on that piece of art - and thus become a teaching tool for numerous feminists without access to a comprehensive feminist education.” In recent times, Nepali youths have been found to make up their minds through short opinions from critics, quotes from troll pages, which does not help fully address the issue. It would have so many rooms for interpretation that people from different backgrounds vaguely validate their own understanding through it, rather than unlearning and relearning.

The feminist movement, whether it's about empowerment - creating agency, representation, or participation, all need to go parallel in different sections, and it is happening as well. We really need to acknowledge and help each other and not neglect people who are facing the problem on a day to day basis. Every struggle, from getting space in government authority, to the issue of Chaupadi, to gender expression, needs to be acknowledged and dealt.

The recent polarization can be explained a lot with the concept of empathy and understanding the intersections of the gender movement. Once each movement reaches its empowerment stage, the transfer of knowledge has to take place. The process of learning, unlearning and transferring knowledge should take place, otherwise it would just be two steps forward and one step backward.

Empathy and compassion can be one of the threads to interconnection.

As a cis-heteregeous man, knowing the facets of feminism has been easy, whats harder has been the process of unlearning, re-learning and putting into practise. During the process, I ask myself ‘What are they actually expressing? From where have they chosen that particular word, sentence to express? How does their background affect how they think? The assumption I carry is’ no-one can give the answers to ‘what’, rather they can show what it means to them’. One has to find the answers to ‘what’ on their own to actually understand feminism."


feminist movement nepal female status feminism vs chauvinism The Vagina Monologue TVM ‘dijju feminism’
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