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International Women's Year
(1) What is feminism?
     With IWY in the offing, a writer who also happens to be a woman naturally turns her thoughts in that direction, But the flow of thought, like the course of true love, does not run smooth. Many questions waylay and confuse me whenever I think of the role of women in this changing world.
     Perhaps it is the shock of being taken seriously for the first time in many decades. "It is important," said the UN Secretary-General "that every one gives serioous attention now to International Women's Year 1975, and to how the role of women in society could be subtantially improved all over the world. We are talking, after all, about half of the world's population. The significance of the Year will be what we make it. We could, with the help of all of you, make it a year which will leave an imprint on history, not only the history of women's advancement but also that of people all over the world."
     Going over the literature avialble-though not very much, I am afraid, - I think above all, right thinking is important if all the activities of IWY is to be meaningful. There is much confusion, because some of the articulations of the Women's Libbers and feminists are often misleading.
     For example, take the term "feminist"; many intelligent women are wary of declaring themselves to be feminists. Mrs. Indira Gandhi, at the triennial Congress of the Internatinal Alliance of Women, held at New Delhi, November 1974 observed: "I do not normally consider myself a feminid - But if "feminidt" means that there should be no discrimi-nation against a woman using her ability and talent, if it means equality of rights on the basis of merit, then I am a feminist. But it seems that some women want to escape being a woman."
     It is true some women feminists talk and write as if women must try to escape being a woman. It is very misleading. It confuses the women and gives some men the chance of talking disparagingly of women's movements.
     By being a feminist, according to Mrs. Gandhi, it does not mean that women must imitate men; it means that they should try to deepen and strengthen their own personality. Women must first accept the difference, but there are basic human qualities which are common to men and women which are no less important.
     In trying to determine the role of women in the changing times, the discussion is usually pivoted on one point: Should women be given the role of housekeeper, child bearer, and plaything or must they necessarily seek fulfilment outside the home, since being just wife and mother is meaningless?
     Women's movement has always insisted that its objective is not a job for every woman, but freedom of choice and opportunity for choice. This, of course, does not, in any way unduly emphasize the importance of career as fulfilment to a woman.
     In spite of all that, the trend of popular opinion seems to be running on the two extremes. There are some feminists who say: Every woman has to work or she is nothing.
     On the other hand there are vehement responses to Women's Lib, like for instance a book by Dr. Goldberg, a sociologist, who defended the natural superiority of men in "The Inveitability of Patriarchy."
     Dr.Goldberg develops a theory of his own after drawing on research on human biology and summaries of anthropological field research. He claims that not only have men run the show (and they have always been in charge of everything they thought worthwhile) but also that they will always be, Patriarchy is inevitable.
     Such extremes of opinion do not help much towards constructive action. Hurling invectives across the sex lines will not get us anywhere. If we are to build a future, a brave new world, so to say, we must have an unbiased view of the past as well as the present.
     This sends my thoughts back to my own impression of growing up as a Myanmar woman during the last five decades, how smug we have always been in the thought: Myanmar women are free: they enjoy equal status with men. Then what should IWY mean to us? This, I will discuss in my next article.
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