Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Who Will Empower the Better Half? Social Dynamics in Operation (1)

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Who Will Empower the Better Half? Social Dynamics in Operation (1)

Article excerpt

Abstract

In a game theoretic framework it can be argued that a gender sensitive institution is an offshoot of certain social conditions, which in most cases need to be acted upon by some anti-establishment catalytic agent. Given the fact that among about half of the population there is a need for such an institution, the main function of a catalytic agent is to engineer a conversion of that need into an active demand. In a society characterized by gender exploitation, catalytic agent can only come exogenously. For a sub-society it is easier to come across such an exogenous catalytic agent. The specific community conditions prevailing in such a sub-society may also prove to be congenial for a catalytic agent to act upon, or even to emerge from. In a larger canvas, however, as the exogenous force transforms into mere endogenous entity, and the society takes on the general character of male-dominance, the space for exogenous agency shrinks. A democratic Government, insofar as it represents the society, cannot be looked upon as a prospective catalytic agent for the country as a whole. There are, however, three possible escape routes from this closure. Firstly, external effects of women's empowerment in one sub-society on another may snowball. Secondly, the awareness campaign presently underway on a global scale is itself a potent exogenous catalytic agent. Thirdly, general development programs undertaken within a patriarchal order may unwittingly create conditions conducive to feminist struggle.

Key words: empowerment, catalytic agent, patriarchy.

Introduction

Likening women to nature is a practice of ancient origin. Practice of exploiting women like nature is also as old. Moreover, both are global features of human behavior down the centuries. As Yugoslavian feminist Rada Ivekovic says, the globalization of patriarchy is the first of all globalizations (Menon 2001, p. 10). It can be argued that all primitive virtues and vices can be traced to a common ancestry. As Samuel Bowles (1998, p.79) reminds us, 'commonality of different traits of humans spread across different cultures may be explained by the predominance of the influence of the common ancestral social institution which lasted for ninety percent of the span of the biological modern human existence.' Primitive women were physically weak and biologically constrained, which seems to explain their subjugation of a primitive nature. They were mostly confined inside the house, engaged in household chores and rearing children. In modern days, however, importance of brawn has been replaced by the importance of brain. Advances in medical science, like measures of birth control and family planning, have also considerably lessened the biological dependence of women. Availability of modern household gadgets has considerably eased the work of housekeeping and has thereby given women more time of their own. Television, films and other forms of popular mass media have given them an exposure to the outside world and they have started perceiving a different type of well-being, a different type of life. Women have proved their abilities in diverse fields as successful professionals. Their profession is no longer restricted to nursing, and they have become successful doctors, architects, pilots and so on. Many have even joined the army and some have led nations. Still, male dominance refuses to give way. We may call it the inertia of patriarchy. But this inertia is long, much longer than the Newtonian physical one. Incidental power relations that put the male in the driver's seat thousands of years ago took firm roots in social institutions (4), which resist newer power relations even in the face of gender equating changes in objective situations. Despite the proven abilities of women, in most LDCs a male child is still preferred to a female child, the female members of the family get to eat what is left for them by the male members and among the poorer section of the population, expenditure on a male child is thought to be a better investment than on a female child. …

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