Modi at FICCI
Modi at FICCI
From a Maa and a Behan
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

Modi’s speech at FICCI irked many feminists who were outraging against the use of Maa or Behan as ways to address women. This is the usual feminist modus operandi of never indulging with realities but going after straw-men like “stereotyping” and “patronizing” – an attitude that smacks of a deep seated inferiority complex.

Referring to women as Maa, Behan, and Devi is just a way of showing respect and is a norm out there in the real world, if not in the high society cocoons. Issuance of certificates of modernity or backwardness by self-appointed certification authorities to people and practises is pompous.

Back in school, we were made to recite “India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters” every day as the national pledge. So our feminists may want to storm schools, hold students by their hair and make them utter “All Indians are not my brothers and sisters”. Do you remember “Chacha Nehru” and” Bapu”? Subtly, such references make others our own and forge a sense of societal camaraderie.

The argument that there is a certain “social morality” being enforced by addressing women as Maa, Behan or Devi is a non-starter because it demonizes the role of social morality as a necessary ingredient of a harmonious society. There is a considerable skew in how much of the burden of social morality women bear due to stagnant attitudes. However, this can be corrected organically without outraging over well meaning gestures or looking at society and family as an enemy of women.

Absolute individual freedom the way feminists look at it can never be attained and is simply an unnatural pipe dream; because no socially active person, be it a man or a woman, can remain an island – with absolute freedom and no responsibilities that curtail freedom in certain ways. Men and women exist together within structures like family, community and society to don certain roles and fulfil certain responsibilities.

The equality-in-everything rhetoric and its fall out have been nonsensical and dangerous. Except in the eyes of the law, equality between men and women in the social sphere is neither possible nor desirable. Nature has made men and women different from each other in a way that helps them play their roles better. Women and men were never meant to be the same but were always meant to be complementary.

Those who cry hoarse at sexism and bias clearly do not find it outrage-worthy that the state takes a woman’s word over a man’s, as in the case of 498(a) and presumes him guilty until he can prove otherwise. To prove someone as guilty of doing something may not be a very difficult task. But if one has to prove one’s own innocence, where does he even start from? For example, how does one go about proving he did not beat his wife up? There can be evidence of beating in the way of scars and wounds. But can there be evidence of not beating? Such an ill-thought  law which should protect people from harassment has turned into a weapon of harassment.

Even the idea of reservations for women at any level militates against meritocracy. For example in education, by all means, provide good avenues for education and allow merit to play out. Furthermore reservations and any such quota systems are condescending to women, who if they want, can succeed even without the help of such disastrous ideas emanating from the ivory towers of those who have no idea what it means to be a common woman.

Since she is in the news, let us remember Margaret Thatcher did not need feminist do-gooders or reservations to become the “Iron Lady”.