Women in Asia: Tradition, Modernity and Globalisation

By Mina Roces; Louise Edwards | Go to book overview

5 Diversity and the status of
women: the Indian experience

Ruchira Ganguly-Scrase

School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Charles Sturt University

'The secondary status of woman is a pan-cultural fact'

... So argued Sherry Ortner in 1970 in her now famous essay, ' Is female to male as nature is to culture?' At the end of the twentieth century it is impossible to universalise the subordination of the world's women in such a fashion, let alone homogenise the mass of Indian women. Grappling with diversity and difference is central to understanding the position of women in India. Since the heydays of the women's liberation movement in the 1970s, when there was a sense of women's solidarity and sisterhood, feminist theorists have shifted their attention to the study of difference among women. Scholarly analysis used to focus on women's shared oppression and male domination, but more recent research has shown that male domination and female subordination is far from uniform. On the contrary, women's experiences are distinguished by their specific locations within particular ethnic, class and religious groupings.

Thus, no unitary categorisation of Indian women is possible.For example, in India over the past two decades the achievements of urban

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