With the division of the society on the basis of the gendered roles between the male and the female has somehow oriented the very framework and mindset of anything which is put to practice. Whenever anything is put to consideration more than the capability of the individual, the qualifications are sought on the basis of the sex one possesses. This methodology of division of labor or any other factor for that matter is problematic in the larger sense of the term.
Economy is the broader arena where human population is put to fore to utilize them for varied purposes and it is in this atmosphere of commercialization that roles and duties change when the question of sex comes into picture. It has always been a repeated statement and observation that our society is a patriarchal society and it has different rules for men and women. What always remains blurred is the position of women!
Not only is this a sad situation but also very grave, for in a time where women are equally capable and have (and are) proving their mettle in almost every field and are standing equivalent (and at times superior) to men are still expected to be seen only in their earlier confined position of domesticity and are expected to cater to the duty of nurturance.
In the earlier times with lesser access to education and other progressive opportunities women submitted to their prescribed roles of mother and wife; and barely asked rebellious questions about anything. But when we speak of a modern woman, she is not just a meek creature anymore but an individual who is strengthened with rights which correspond equally with men.
Pierre Bourdieu’s essay ‘The Forms of Capital’ (1986) is an articulation of how different forms of capital are essential in a society and how activities and decisions of individuals are influenced by their respective position in the orientation of the capital that is being practiced under the concerned capital(s).
One is always webbed under political, economic, cultural, social and other related arenas and acts according to the dominant prevailing norm. But what is worth noticing is how these varied situations become hurdles for the female sex which at times they are unable to surpass.
Is society indifferent towards women? Does it consider them only as a source of production of further generation? Have women been considered commodities in the hands of patriarchy?
The objective is to explore this status of women folk which seems to have been lost in the swirl of numerous activities which are privileged over the very important other half – i.e. ‘the men’.
In order to understand and establish a moral ground for women it is essential to discuss the ‘habitus’ which Pierre Bourdieu has brought into picture and explains it through “its dependency on history and human memory.”
He doesn’t consider it as a permanent unchangeable sphere but is optimistic about the flexibility which can be brought into the picture. The concept of ‘habitus’ makes us think on the idea of ‘internalization’ and ‘institutionalization’ which is unavoidable when we are trying to resolve a feminist debate.
Simone de Beauvoir in her book entitled The Second Sex(1949) has vividly discussed about the othering of the women and consideration of them as the ‘second sex’ even though they collectively sum up for half the percentage of the population.
The representation in the terms of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ is considered to be part of an economy ‘‘that claims to include the feminine as the subordinate term in a binary opposition masculine/feminine’’ but actually excludes the feminine and produces it as that ‘‘which must be excluded for the economy to operate.’’
It is in the zone of commerce that the female subject unlike the male subject, instead of a participating entity becomes a commodity and is herself treated as a commercial product put to sale. Women are not treated capable on the basis of the virtues they might possess but are scanned under the criterion of ones with the sexual organs which can be put use. Such an attitude as per the feminists is not only dehumanizing but is also limiting the space or the ‘habitus’ which the women need for their growth and development.
Within recent years the way in which women should be perceived physically has drastically changed and has been an upbeat reason for the worry of feminists who perceive it as an unasked standard which is expected to be matched but in reality it is a brutal pseudo method of making women believe that the lack lies within.
Nina Power’s book entitled One Dimensional Woman (2009) is discussing on the same lines that how women “are blinded by the rhetoric of consumerism and contemporary feminism and, hence,cannot genuinely articulate issues around work, sex, and politics: ‘what looks like emancipation is nothing but a tightening of the shackles.’”
The expectation from the economic sphere has turned women so malleable that for the similar piece of work despite being equally capable and qualified women workers are paid less compared to men. It is the physical caricature of a woman which is considered her only qualification and probably for that matter they are only seen as ‘sex objects’.
Any advertisement today tries to present the woman model in the least possible clothes with a seductive imagery in order to sell their product. They are not highlighting the traits for which the particular endorsed product should be purchased. This practicing behavior makes us question that are all women are good as long as their body is taken into consideration?
Well, hypothetically considering that may be through their bodies women might attain that un-achievable status of equality; how will then the businesses of Pornography can be justified? Pornography is a very stringent arena which Nina Power has also dealt with and in her chapter entitled ‘Pornography as a privileged mode of work ’ in the book One Dimensional Woman (2009) she rather mocks at the norms of the business.
She quotes Andrea Dworkin: “The insult pornography offers, invariably, to sex is accomplished in the active subordination of women: the creation of a sexual dynamic in which the putting down of women, and ultimately the brutalization of women, is what sex is taken to be.”
Thus it definitely nullifies the hypothesis of equality which is expected to be achieved through such public display and brutalization. Even in this field women are not as rightfully paid as men are, their income levels are still lower. Objectification of women for the pleasure of others especially in the media industry is definitely not the sort of status that we have been looking forward to.
This doesn’t mean that the entire idea of wearing revealing clothes, putting make up and getting ready to look appealing is ruled out; the motif is to not to utilize women as a source of generating money in the economy through their bodily parts and forget that they are also humane and are capable of other talents.
Combing back to the ‘habitus’ and in order to redefine the re-distribution of power it is important to consider the social capital or the ‘relational power’ which Pierre Bourdieu believes in, and the reality of education and articulates this argument by saying that “one must be noble in order to behave nobly; but one would cease being noble if one did not behave as a noble. In other words, social magic has very real effects. To assign somebody to a group with a superior essence (nobles as opposed to commoners, men as opposed to women, cultured people as opposed to uneducated people and so on) operates an objective transformation determining a learning process which in its turn facilitates a real transformation apt to bring that person closer to the definition that has been bestowed on him.”
Education is not the sole medium of bringing the much needed elevation; as according to Bourdieu it is influenced and affected by the economic, political, cultural and social capital. Education doesn’t operate in isolation be it men or women. It favors the one with the privileges whether in position or power. “For Bourdieu, then, the widespread democratic belief in education as a passport to freedom and success is no more than a myth.”
It is the result of social capital that division is created on biological lines. On similar line of thought of Pierre Bourdieu on social capital, Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex (1949) remarks:
“Throughout history they [women] have always been subordinated to men, and hence their dependency is not the result of a historical event or a social change-it was not something that occurred .The reason why otherness in this case seems to be an absolute is in part that it lacks the contingent or incidental nature of historical facts. A condition brought about at a certain time can be abolished at some other time, as the Negroes of Haiti and others have proved; but it might seem that a natural condition is beyond the possibility of change. In truth, however, the nature of things is no more immutably given, once for all, than is historical reality. If woman seems to be the inessential which never becomes the essential, it is because she herself fails to bring about this change.”
What she is trying to articulate is that women emancipation can never be achieved till the point women themselves decide the power structures and the operational mode on which they wish to progress. Why is it that the other sex has to command them or set pathways for their liberation? The social standards can only be created when they are designed by the ones who have to operate within it i.e.‘the women’.
The notion of ‘internalization’ of ‘womanly traits’ and the concept of ‘sex and gender’ should be kept aside as per Toril Moi in order to understand what it means“to be a woman.”
Is woman the one which is ‘of –man’ as per the biblical reference or is she someone who needs barbed wires of definition in order to establish her own individual self? Why the existence of a vagina in comparison with the penis does make a woman – a woman and privileges the man?
Theodor Adorno’s essay on ‘Free Time’ discusses the varied dimensions of time which are divided into free, leisure and so on and how their utilization and productivity should be taken for consideration. The question which needs to be raised here is now are women really free in the patriarchal construct?
Considering a modern working woman who works as frivolously as a man in an office when returns home is expected to cook and take care of the household chores but the man is ‘free’ to watch television, read or play. How and when the woman is then expected to have her ‘free time’?
If a man performs all such household duties after a long day at work, for him it becomes the gateway of stress and he receives relaxation; but for a woman it becomes an unpaid automatically imposed job that she has to perform,even on holidays.
Writing for instance is done both for leisure and as a profession.If a woman writes a certain piece of work it is credited as an outcome of the ample free time she possess but the similar craft becomes a reason of worthy appreciation if attempted by a man. Probably that is the reason earlier women writers such as Jane Austen and others had to write under male pseudo names in order to get acknowledged.
The segregation of the free time is also biased on the basis of sex which is utterly problematic because the same twenty four hour clock runs differently for both the male and the female.
The question then arises is that is it through economic independence that women will seek the status they are trying to achieve? If yes, then what are the works that are best suitable for them? If no, then what are the other alternatives?
Numerous feminists have been struggling to decipher the solution which can lead to an optimistic stable conclusion where women liberation is achievable and remains stationary and is devoid of any biological division. The women all over the globe are undergoing different levels of oppression and suppression but it doesn’t mean that the situation is absolutely bleak.
Women have definitely progressed from the first wave of feminism and have traveled so far but this journey is still in continuation because the destination is still blurred. A woman will continue to remain a ‘one dimensional entity’ as long as she is only viewed as a sexual site and her potentials are credited only on the basis of age old criterion of nurturance and warmth.
A woman is definitely much more than the one who loves and cares. She can add newer dimensions to herself only when she steps her foot ahead to create a society which respects and values her credentials on the terms she decides and not just on the visual or physical self.
As long as men and women are considered to be separate entities and women are perceived as potentially negative both by the men and women themselves; the task of attaining the equivalence will seem situated in a place which is at an infinite distance.
Men have cultivated their prowess to an extent that they are in a comfortable standing to dictate, dominate and rule women(and have been doing so from times immemorial); it is now the turn of the women to paint the empty canvas for themselves and love the colors of life which they like and not the ones which are imposed on them.