The concept of gender roles tend to associate certain behaviour, attitudes and values of a society as appropriate for men and women. Feminists have long fought against this essentializing of both men and women, where the former is seen as closer to culture and rationality and the latter is considered closer to nature and emotionality. This dichotomy that has been created is often derived from and justified on the basis of biological explanations. Biological determinism has been refuted by the feminists and social structures have been cited as the reason for the deep rooted misogyny and prevalent inequality. Religion has been one of the many social institutions that has been perpetuating the patriarchal ideology and keeping it well and alive. Jaggi Vasudev or popularly known as Sadhguru has been harping on these biological, natural and religious explanations to show that the idea of inequality is a myth and any feelings of discrimination is but a result of overlooking the fact that men and women are to engage in complementary activities.
In his article titled, ‘How To Empower Women’, he consistently reiterates the idea that today women are refraining from embracing their feminine side and relentlessly trying to imitate men. His limited understanding of feminism is visible throughout his speeches and writings.
In his article titled, ‘How To Empower Women’, he consistently reiterates the idea that today women are refraining from embracing their feminine side and relentlessly trying to imitate men.
Sadhguru uses all kinds of stereotypes to prove that the world requires a balance of roles and activities between men and women. He associates arts, music etc. with femininity and science, technology, economics with masculinity. Such associations just reinforce the idea that certain acts are only associated with women and re-establishes the hierarchy, whose existence he denies. He asks women to stop seeking a place in the public because efficiency, competitiveness and progress are all linked to masculinity.
Women’s engagement with the outside world, he believes, is the reason for the preponderance of depression in society. He regards this quest for equality as fruitless for women because this forcefulness only creates ugliness and it is women who lose out the most in this because the sensitivity that they require is lost. In doing so, he is only asking women to not speak up against their oppression and discrimination by accepting it as their fate and is encouraging the other half of the population to keep its privileges intact. Like all the ignorant people, he argues for humanity or humanitarianism as opposed to feminism.
It is important to clarify and highlight the fact that Feminism has never tried to establish the idea that women are superior to men. Feminists have never seen masculinity as the goal. To take it as one’s aim is to adhere to the patriarchal idea that men are more adept in the activities of the world than women. Feminism argues for equality, by presenting them with equal opportunities. Feminism does not argue for reverse discrimination. It includes under its banner all human beings, irrespective of their gender identification, who are oppressed and marginalized and are yearning for their voices to be heard.
Sadhguru continuously invokes the idea that men and women are different, which they are without any doubts, but not separate species. But what goes unacknowledged is the fact that these justifications make these differences hierarchical and they involve a failure to connect these to the unjust social structures and institutions. These differences are highlighted because it places one gender over the other and is but a creation of the gender that is enjoying its privileges. As Gayle Rubin rightly points out, “men and women are, of course different. But they are not as different as day and night, earth and sky, yin and yang, life and death.” These differences are only exacerbated to treat them as incomplete halves and used to continue the subordination of women.
Sadhguru also argues that it was the alien rule in India that brought in patriarchy. Before the invasions and colonialism, Indian women were completely equal to men. It was only with colonial rule that women were forced inside the house in order to protect them. In this regard, Nivedita Menon’s feminist critique of the golden age becomes relevant, where she rightly points out that this idea is a result of interaction between colonialism and nationalism and shows how the two features that are used to support this belief of female superiority in the golden age – scholarship and property- present nothing but a selective picture of reality. Historical data shows how marginalised women’s position was in the academic space and the women have had no property rights because they are regarded as property, as something that men can circulate.
He believes that technology has brought about equality in the recent times and not philosophies like liberalism and feminism. Women have acquired greater freedom because technology has brought in various transportation that can allow the ‘fragile’ women to travel.
He believes that technology has brought about equality in the recent times and not philosophies like liberalism and feminism. Women have acquired greater freedom because technology has brought in various transportation that can allow the ‘fragile’ women to travel. What he fails to realise is that technology has only brought in divisions. Before the industrial revolution, both men and women worked together at home but it was this revolution that separated the home and the workplace i.e. the private and public domain. This separation only contributed to the devaluation of the women’s work and brought them indoors. The continuous development of technology or the mechanisation of work has only pushed women out of certain important sectors like the electrically operated flour mills have replaced the traditional hand pounding of grains by women and placed this job in the hands of men. To say that men are more suited to work that requires strength has to be called out too because women at home and informal sector do the heaviest of jobs like carrying heavy head loads of water over miles, etc.
His referencing of women as ‘flowers’ is deeply problematic because he sees women as only decorative items that are ‘useful and beautiful’ and without these eye soothing and care giving personalities men will have nothing but to do, because of course women are objects designed to please men.
He regards the division of labour in society as natural because men and women have been given separate responsibilities. He considers motherhood as something that is a natural desire among women. He overlooks the fact that many women may not want to become mothers at all because there is nothing natural, innate about it. His discouragement to venturing into the public space to earn money is also unacceptable at a time when money has come to dominate the world and social relations. Unless women acquire financial independence, there is no way they can come out of the trap of suppression and oppression.
In his apparent guidelines for women empowerment Sadhguru continuously uses stereotypes that only reinforce and strengthen sexist ideas and practices. He fails to understand that agency has a monumental role in a person’s life. What he needs to realise is that Women are not trying to be like men. They are just asking for what has been denied to them, which has robbed them of their humanity.
Featured Image Source: New Indian Express