[Book] “Seeing Like a Feminist”: A Book to Fix A 'Blurry' Vision

There is always a sense of global fear for most people to talk about feminism. Some misinterpreted the term, and see it as a movement of women to topple down men and take control of everything; role, power, job, and most of anything, money. This is a familiar problem that is often seen in developing countries like Indonesia, where all traditional culture and values are so upheld to which feminism is placed as this alien ‘thing’ and perceived as destructive. Well, is it?

 Illustration with the book cover of "Seeing Like a Feminist'.

Illustration with the book cover of "Seeing Like a Feminist'.

A similar context is thoroughly discussed by Nivedita Menon in her book: “Seeing Like a Feminist”, with a portrayal of her local context: India. At some level, India has a contextual relevance to the situation here in Indonesia, hence my reference on Nivedita Menon. 

For instance, both countries' background have similarities; by being a developing country, and have the same problem with overpopulation. And both countries have a majority religion that is misused by some vested-interest groups to take the government’s control and the rest of the population. But no matter how disreputable a country is, there is always something to make us blown away, right? Like in India, although there are many issues on discrimination through caste segregation and bad treatments to workers, the human rights movements in India are one of the most cool and vibrant movements in the world. They are strong and not easily backed down. 

Like Nivedita Menon, through her book, she advocates a spectacle of vibrant feminism literature as ways to go strong for the women of India. 

Nivedita Menon's narrative never directly points her readers to value some moments either to be right or wrong. She provides alternatives to explain how it happened and leave it there to be determined by our own course of mind. For example, when she writes a story about Moni, a little girl who lived in West Bengal. The little girl is punished by the villagers just because she acts and dresses like a man. She never says “that’s a wrong act to be taken by the villagers for a young girl”, No! instead, she explains how culture takes part on it and how unjust it is. She also gives us an understanding that job knows no boundaries to be segregated by sex; but, society does.

A patriarchal system affects us in so many aspects and levels, from how we see our body, desire and work, to something related like causes of sexual violence. It makes sense but some people might say that it (patriarchal system) is the best way to protect women from all harms. Women are treated like weak objects and can’t do anything, so men take control of it and try to ‘protect’ them. When we talk about marriage, not only in India, but in many countries, men should pay and give a dowry to the woman's family to get approval. And through internalized patriarchal culture, people are constructed to see that there’s no any better option. That somehow marriage held by coercion is fine, and that marriage through love is not deemed necessary. 

Nivedita Menon explains how unjust a coerced marriage is and how unfortunate that the majority of marriage systems around the world are based on ‘all hails men’ values. Its not that Nivedita Menon wanted to tell us that it's better to be single. But, what she wants to tell us is: that if a marriage happens because of coerced love, well perhaps that kind of love, (a coerced one) in a marriage, is as empty as we see the love in a tennis score. ZERO!

All in all, the non-preachy narrative given by Nivedita Menon is able to steal the reader's attention to think critically about social issues. I must say it's a must read book especially for those who are still in doubt about the notion of feminism. When people say that feminism is an outside value destructing culture and traditional values, well, Menon successfully smashed that 'blurry' reasoning and inform us that an equal position between men and women is not something wrong in one country's culture, it's a just thing that exist.