Herabai Tata: The Power Behind Indian Women’s Voting Rights

There is a need for women in India to know about and connect with the women in our past, who fought for the rights we legally claim today! Indian textbooks continue to take a stubbornly sexist view of the history of women’s rights in India, insisting that it is men who fought for these rights for women, and edit out even prominent feminists, like Herabai Tata and their works into complete oblivion. We must resurrect the women heroes of our past, and resuscitate the feminist movement they had started in India a 100 years ago!

THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN BLOG ON INDIA'S FEMALE GENDERCIDE

by Rita Banerji

The name Herabai Tata will not ring a bell for most Indians! Unfortunately, not even for most Indian women, even though she is one of the main reasons that women have the right to vote in India!

Born in 1879 in Bombay, Herabai Tata was the Secretary of the Bombay branch of the Women’s Indian Association (WIA). In the early 1900s, she was a central figure in the fight for Indian women’s franchise – the right to vote. In fact she is referred to by Geraldine Forbes who documented the changing lives of Indian women in the early 1900s, as the “real soldier” of the movement.

So why don’t Indian women know of her? The fault perhaps lies with the sexist and patronizing view of the history of women’s rights in school textbooks. Students are taught that it is men who fought for and ‘gave’ women their…

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Does Goddess Worship in India Have a Feminist Underpinning?

Does the worship of goddesses in India have a feminist under-pinning?  This is one of the questions I was looking at while researching for my book Sex and Power.

The answer to my question I found, was both ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’  I discovered that there were two main streams of religious thought that had completely different origins and were diametrically opposite in how they viewed women, feminine sexuality and power.  One of them, based in the tradition of the Vedas, was extremely patriarchal in its leanings, and even though it had goddesses, like Sarawati for instance, it regarded them as passive, inert manifestations whose sole aim was to nurture and sustain the men.

The other stream of religious thought was that of the Shaktas. These were worshippers of ‘Shakti’ which is the female personification of power as a concept.   Below is an excerpt from Sex and Power on the feminist underpinning of the Shakta philosophy.

At the very core of the Shakta philosophy lay the seeds of a feminist rebellion. The Shakta goddesses revolutionized the concept of the feminine in India, turning the [earlier] Vedic male version of it upside down. These goddesses… (more…)

The 4 Ways People Respond to Feminism

Sometime ago, a friend who has two daughters, one of who dreams of becoming an astronaut, was telling me about how she wants this and that for her daughters, like she would for her sons, and then shuddering, like she was shaking off some insects that had crawled on her, she said, “But I am not a feminist!”
And I replied, “That you certainly aren’t! You fall in the category of a ‘shameless feminist user’.”

If you don’t know yet, there are 4 ways to relate to Feminism.  And here they are: (more…)

Why Indian Feminists Won’t Rage Against their Own Genocide

I recently published an article in the Gender Forum Journal, the title of which is “Why Kali Won’t Rage.” Kali (in the poster above) is one of the most powerful Indian goddesses. She is the female prototype of power, who famously battled violent men and refused to submit to their advances passively. In fact she’d defeat these men, kill them and wear their skulls in a victory garland as a sign of her absolute refusal to succumb. Where is Kali today among the Indian women? Below I briefly explain what this article is about. (more…)

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