Feministic musings: Zenanas within and without


Wonder why, but most of my thoughts these days seem to be arising out of the curious state of affairs over the men-women segregation in the present society. Coincidentally or not, most TV programs I seem to be watching or most books / articles / reports I seem to be reading make me mull further on the issue. I am sure that the things I’m considering are nothing new and have been debated for years, but for me they are interesting and well, new.
So here's a truncated version of what has recently been going on in my top floor: The most recent train has been propelled by this lovely book I was reading that gave me insight into life inside the zenana. Yep, that’s the place where a lot of Muslim woman (and well those from a lot of other religions too, like the queens of Indian kings in historic times) spend majority of their lives. Here are some random places that I read up on the internet: http://y-sasm.blogspot.in/2011/05/abstract-2011-razak-khan.html, http://www.indianetzone.com/43/women_india.htm, www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zenana, http://www.kellscraft.com/IndianLife/IndianLifeCh07.html (this last link is extremely opinionated and biased against India so read at your own risk) and couple other snippets.

Though it is easy for somebody like me to dismiss this life as orthodox, the more I read, the more I realize that zenana or no zenana, women around the world are in their own mini zenanas. Well, consider this: instead of the self important talks on the state, politics, sports and the like, women amongst themselves talk of things that are more human. They talk of family, relations, food, home and utilities. Don’t you agree on how many times have we started a conversation about the latest political scandal but veered off to the latest store that opened in the city? Don’t judge me, I consider myself (and rightfully so) frightfully modern and feministic. I meet girlfriends and yap about socialism and communism, but am easily tempted to talk of a pretty shirt or a bright new lipstick color should you mention it. I am sure men do the same: they veer off to the latest rock number or Dhoni’s latest performance when they sit down to have a boy conversation on, well, whatever boy conversations are supposed to happen on. But my point is, why blame the zenana? Agreed, it must not be convenient not being allowed to step out whenever one wants to, but let’s not call them backward and conformist without a full informed picture. Yes, the seclusion does tend to restrict their world views and spheres of life, but then even outside they tend to create their albeit larger zenana where they slide back to comfortable and mushy topics :)

Comments

fondfire said…
I enjoyed this, Canary!

I think men mostly talk about sports! Or at least, in the U.S. that's the safe topic of conversation for men. Being entirely uninterested in team sports for some reason, I've found myself analyzing gender roles all my life... It's an interesting way in which we all confine ourselves. Some of it may be functional and condusive to family life, but a lot of it just seems to be overboard and confining for no good reason.

I think part of why I learned to love the gay community all those years ago in college was the bending of gender roles into all sorts of directions. It didn't make me interested in participating in gay sex back then, but I did find myself unusually attracted to lesbian women and their lack of concern with typically feminine attributes. I also enjoyed relaxing around gay men who seemed more willing to share their feelings, more interested in gossip, and less interested in appearing invulnerable than other men. Gender roles can be a real drag. And yet most of us try to cultivate one...
Sangeeta said…
Great Post

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