Disturbing as it may be, what we are witnessing today in more and more blatant forms is the constant promotion of raunch culture in the name of women’s sexual liberation. Amongst those who indulge in this perversity are female chauvinists, or what I would like to identify as ‘comprador women’—those women who come to employ the strategy of objectifying theirs and other women’s bodies in the attempt to attain the same elevated status and financial gains of the dominant group (in this case, male entrepreneurs and professionals). Through their work these women not only objectify their own bodies but also those of other women, and more often than not, advocate that women should embrace capitalism and get as much power and money for themselves as they can in order to fight oppression. Examples of female chauvinists or comprador women include: the woman entrepreneur who unhesitatingly uses her class power to unleash aggression on both male and female employees; the woman journo at Playboy, Cosmopolitan and Femina magazines who earns a killing by telling women what’s the “in thing”; the woman fashion designer whose fashion line popularizes Size Zero and whose one flick of the hand sends shivers down the chain of garment workers employed in developing and under-developed countries; the Ekta Kapoor-kind of women producers whose showcase-it-all movies have popularized movie plots evolving around sex scandals; the entire pool of bourgeois artists (Kareena Kapoor, Malaika Arora Khan, Priyanka Chopra and the likes) who adamantly claim their semi-nude bodies on billboards and the silver screen do not encourage a sexist culture; etc. Ultimately then, the interests of women capitalists and some upward mobile women professionals are linked to the perpetuation of a biased, sexist culture and gender oppression of the majority of women.
Another brand of feminist practitioners includes those who have come to seek ‘empowerment’ in the reclamation of patriarchal feminity, and hence, have come to defend and celebrate this feminity as a feminist action. The general misconception amongst them is that women are exercising an active choice/agency when indulging in patriarchal feminity such as by wearing body-hugging clothes, painting nails, getting piercings, going for implants, looking ‘pretty’ in order to feel powerful, participating in ‘slut walks’, and even reclaiming disempowering terms or language like slut/whore/bitch/cunt/behanchod/chutia. Subsequently, the denial of such choice to indulge in patriarchal feminity is read as oppression and is seen as antagonistic to the goal of feminism, let alone any emancipatory politics.
Such behaviour and politics is troubling because of its ridiculous assumption that women who dress in hyper-feminine ways are beating the patriarchal, sexist structuring of society at its own game. Defenders of such positions also tend to argue that sexualized dressing challenges the predominant image of the docile, ‘traditional’ woman imbued with feminine respectability. For this reason the ‘right’ to hyper-femme dressing has emerged almost like a non-negotiable demand within the current feminist movement. However, it is worth remembering that both the commodified woman and the normative woman or bhadramahila are creations of capitalist society. Both are forms of a woman’s sexual being that are used to keep each other alive. While the former is often despised, she is still desired. Similarly, while the latter is often worshipped, she is also shunned. Hence, both the commodified woman and the bhadramahila are feminine roles which should be smashed rather than incorporated and defended.