Shaheen Bagh: Muslim women and the new grammar of feminism


The fearless and unfased Muslim women of Shaheen Bagh are peacefully protesting and shattering the barriers of gender inequality. The protests at Shaheen Bagh not only embody an energetic will to retrieve the secular fabric of India, but they also symbolize a radically rebellious form of feminism. Muslim women of Shaheen Bagh have destroyed the gender consciousness, which had tethered them to a passive role in the society.

This gender consciousness had aided the construction of otherwise ostensibly known as ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work.’ For example, in the family, the authoritarian alpha male had to usually assume all the economic duties which were responsible for the family’s existence. On the other hand, the women had to confine herself to her unpaid domestic work and are usually considered to be the emotional support of her family.

Shaheen Bagh has morphed into a degendered public space where the redistribution of responsibilities has successfully occurred where women are in front of protests, and men are helping them from behind.

This type of redistribution helps to reformulate our discriminatory perceptual apparatus and creates some scope for gender equality.

This assertion of gender equality is a significant form of resistance to a political event that currently afflicts many democracies of the world. This event is the development and proliferation of muscular nationalism which is causing some major undemocratic earthquakes all over the world. This muscular nationalism gives rise to a ‘culture of violence’ which is weaponized as a tool for psychological warfare by the hegemonic communities.

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This culture of violence contains within itself the nucleus of a psychopathic androcentrism. This androcentrism is creating new patriarchal patterns of muscular force, which are redefining the gender consciousness of a large number of men. Violence is being slowly normalised, and if a man refuses to accept this everydayness of muscular violence uncritically, he is disparagingly relabelled as ‘effeminate.’ In this way, a non-discriminatory approach towards gender inequality becomes a behavioural peculiarity which has to be erased at any cost.

Nancy Fraser had pointed out that gender is a two-dimensional social differentiation consisting of economic maldistribution and cultural misrecognition. It is the latter which muscular nationalism has augmented by pervasively institutionalising androcentrism. The Indian women are facing gender oppression from both dimensions. Their accumulated persecution has increased due to the hegemonic androcentrism of muscular nationalism. But with the birth of the Anti –CAA protests, efforts have been initiated to destigmatise the women community and de-institutionalise the sexist values which had firmly colonised the gender landscape of India. This feminist political movement is democratically transformative because it wants to alter the ‘relations of recognition’ in a democratic manner.

It is demanding not the distinctive differentiation of women from men. It is rather demanding the dedifferentiation of men and women by establishing gender equity. Dedifferentiation will happen through a process of democratisation in which every citizen will be democratically enlightened. The effectuation of dedifferentiation will act as a corrective measure because it will restructure muscular hegemony and will conjoin men and women with the help of democratic fraternity. In this way, the democratic unification of men and women will produce social cohesion and will preclude the possibility of an extremely woman-centred perspective which cultural feminists often glorify.

The Anti-CAA protests also help to resolve the diversity-sameness issue, which is particularly prevalent in today’s world. It answers this question of diversity-sameness by utilising democratic values as a unifying factor. These democratic values will create an intimate sense of connectedness among all the members of the society and will simultaneously foster the development of gender equality through participative action.

The ongoing Indian feminist movement has a global significance because right-wing populists have risen to power all over the world and are continuously trying to publicise and promulgate their muscular nationalism. These right-wing populists have carefully used the ‘strongman phenomenon’ to consolidate their ideology of domination. This phenomenon portrays a specific leader as administratively strong, who can undertake monumental decisions without procedural drabness. The leaders need to be muscular and should pursue power single-mindedly. They should not ever face dissent, and their high-handed communique should be passively obeyed. This kind of description bolsters the idea of a masculine man who is emotionally insensitive.

In a nutshell, toxic machismo becomes the hallmark of a ‘true man.’ Apart from manufacturing a violent form of masculinity, right-wing populists are suppressing women by favouring certain identarian groups—for example, Donald Trump’s white supremacism and racial attitude towards disadvantageous African women.

To counter this brain deadening process of militaristic dehumanisation, such protests are needed whose objective is to re-appropriate democracy from ruthless right-wing populists and totalise the disjointed social structure with the help of democratic mutinies.

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