Feminism or the feminist ideology is limited. Much like all ideologies and "isms" that have created and left a deep impact on the lives of people and society in general, particularly in and until the end of the 20th century. I say an ideology or an ism is limited because it is primarily a tool used by the intellect to explain, rationalize and hem, as it were, the "unhemmable" and complex nature of reality.
However, this is not to say that the thoughts and feelings expressed through an ideology are irrelevant. This criticism is intended so as to enlarge the expanse of "a gender perspective" beyond the limitations inherent in an ideology, to one that engages actively with reality as a whole and the flux of time. And today, more than ever before, there is a need for all those who consider themselves feminists or those who are sympathetic to feminist thought - to ponder, consider critically, and continuously express anew a gender perspective relevant to our times.
What then, you might ask, is the significance of March 8 (International Women's Day) in the lives of the world's people - women and men, girls and boys? Only a symbol, I would say - of a stirring that moves deep. A stirring to which distance is nothing and actualization everything.
March 8 is also an opportunity - to remind ourselves and everyone else - that we still have a long way to go in achieving a better life for women and girls all over the world.
At another level, and from my point of view, the purpose - and indeed the intent - of March 8 was amply fulfilled on February 15, 2003. When millions of people in various parts of the world - the UK and the US, Denmark, Germany, Romania, Hungary, Spain, Belgium, Bosnia, Russia, South Korea,
Japan, Greece, Syria, Iran, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Australia and others - regardless of their sex or age, spoke in one voice. No to war and yes to peace.
If the attempt of all these ordinary people - women and men, girls and boys - towards peace prevails this time round (and again and again I hope, if necessary), all right feeling and right thinking women everywhere, will be heartened. I have no doubt whatsoever, that millions of women would join me if I were to say: "Ideology and isms be damned. Yes to Peace and No to War is what we've been saying, feeling, thinking, meaning and wanting all the time."
But wait a minute. Ideology apart, reality and life aren't that simple, are they?
Quite obviously, it's not just a possible US-led war against Iraq that peace-inclined people are protesting. Because war has other faces and other guises too. In Gujarat during February and March 2002, war used communal hatred to rape and torture women and burn children and men alive. In New
York on 9/11 and in Afghanistan post 9/11, war spawned organized crime.
In Sri Lanka for close to 20 years, in Kashmir for 13 years, war and terror fed on the divisiveness of ill feeling. And on a smaller scale - though not the slightest bit less horrendous or violent - war wore the guise of men amok. Such men gang raped a poor woman on a local train in Mumbai, a Delhi
University student in a moving car, and a medical student (again in Delhi) near her college.
It happens everyday! And across the globe too! The question that comes to mind is: Do the people who favor war against Iraq see a pattern of terror - somewhere similar - in the following two instances of grim reality? The brutal rape of a young girl, and Afghanistan reduced to rubble - of brick, stone and the body parts of the dead?
Or is it the privilege (and the misfortune) of the peace-inclined people alone, to see the connections between everyday brutality and war on a sophisticated and larger scale?
So what do women want, you might ask once again, at this point.
To that I can reply simply and in one single word. Peace. And in many words, too. Peace in everyday life - moment to moment. Not merely the absence of war, but active peace - dynamic, full of creative conflict, new challenges and genuine concern. A suspension of the overrunning "I" and a
sound, psychological understanding of what constitutes mutual societal benefits.
The political will and the inclination to implement actions that aid the removal of poverty. An immediate stop to the recruitment of children as soldiers, or potential terrorists. Dignity and respect for children - our future - so they can witness adults engaged in acts that diffuse aggression and minimize violence in public life. And social responsibility - from the most powerful politician in the world to the most ordinary being on the street.
Cooperation. From the most easygoing member of a given family - woman or man, girl or boy - to the most difficult person who may be influencing public policy or life. (Read George Bush, Tony Blair, the Pope, Osama bin Laden, Narendra Modi.)
Learning, care and "good" or responsible governance. Sans rape, violence and war. And sans isms.
Do you dare?