Feminism, Neo-liberalism and South Asia

Feminism, Neo-liberalism and South Asia

The Students’ Herald

A recent outbreak of social media posts informed the world that the likes of Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Walmart, Forever 21 and many more — have yet to pay the Bangledeshi garment workers who labor in deploring conditions to provide for majority of our “Feminist AF” apparel.

I don’t believe that women are to blame for turning the capitalist wheels of our modern-day society — but it’s important to identify “performative activism”. For example, these multi-billion-dollar brands and PR alike, have jumped on the bandwagon for “Blackout Tuesdays”, but what about the injustices faced beyond the borders of our patron saint — that is the United States of America? Or better, the terror subjugated on them by said-patron saint and its billion-dollar leeches.

By now, we are all well aware of our colonial pasts and the thieving antics of our colonial masters. However, I don’t believe that our colonial hangover only remains with regards to our obsession with white skin; but also in the manner we blindly eat up western, imperialist feminism (read: Gal Gadot’s acclaimed performance in “Wonder Woman” overshadowing her blatant support for Palestinian genocide).

Feminism in South Asia is already a conflicting and volatile subject as it is. Majority of our society is misinformed of its meaning and agenda (is there one besides the obvious “yahoodi sazish”?) but although blame for that is divided between bias, internalized misogyny, patriarchal culture, lack of awareness/education — it lies also heavily on western media and its take on it. Attempting to recreate a western utopia of an equal society (which they themselves are far from achieving), in the South Asian region, is a recipe for extremism. One we all are witnessing in our society.

Reconciling religion, history, culture and feminism — is no easy task. It’s one that will no doubt take years of turmoil…but I believe it’s the only successful path forward. A minority of our society that can boast social superiority on the basis of their privilege, wealth and western education — calling themselves “feminist”, is not a win. They may sleep better at night by adding “activist” in their Instagram bios, and claim their ideals match that of their favorite white, female icon. But the real women and men in need of feminism, go to bed battered, hungry and unspoken for.

Feminism denotes peace and unity. It denotes socioeconomic equality and justice. By claiming western ideals as our own, we ignore the struggle of those on the lower strata of society. We are blissfully ignorant of our status in society as the upper-middle class tycoons. It’s not the task of our female domestic worker, to watch Emma Watson’s UN Speech or read Michelle Obama’s autobiography. It’s our task to help her raise her own voice and ask her what she needs. And be warned: it may not appease the standards of western feminism.

White feminism cannot be replicated in our society and neither should it. Our history, economy, culture and religion, are vastly dissimilar. We need to instead focus on uniting our society to adopt open mindedness, kindness, justice, increase in education and reduction income-disparity. So that it doesn’t disenfranchise majority of our population.

In a manner that we can benefit everyone irrespective of their income status, gender, religious affiliations, and age. In a manner where we don’t get caught up in invalidating someone’s cultural and religious beliefs. Or remain stuck on the same old argument on abortion and #freethenipple movement. In a manner that is not focused on capitalist social activism, racism, or exploiting labor.

Women need to support their female friends, coworkers, domestic help, sisters, mothers and grandmothers. Listen to their stories. We need to lift each other up and agree to disagree.

Diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and religious beliefs – are not divisive factors, but instead benefit in uniting us with greater knowledge and experience. Under a common goal for gender equality, empathy and justice.

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