Why We Need Neena Gupta To Keep Up Her Fight

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“I want to say this to all women, ‘If you want to live in India and in society, you have to marry. Do not be this modern woman that I was, saying I don’t believe in marriage.”

It’s hard to guess who said these words, because she is seen as the ultimate – I-don’t-conform-to-rules-set-by-society kind of woman; someone we have respected and admired for her will – pure will to live the way she wants. Neena Gupta has defied orthodox rules set by a dogmatic society, had a child out of wedlock and lived by her decision. Yes, these are her words and while it’s completely understandable why she might think so, it’s still unfortunate that she feels this way – it’s a reflection of the society we live in, one that likes to dictate rules – rules that are created by men.

For Neena, living with her decision could not have been easy – and her words prove it. Today, life for her is much easier, but, as she says, bringing up a child alone is not only hard, but also unfair on the child. She believes that a child needs both parents. In fact, if you can believe it, she’s said, back in 1999, that – “I don’t subscribe to the extremist element in the women’s lib movement any more. I think nothing can really come of this extremism. Women are condemned by their own natural destiny of bearing children. Once they have children, they can never abandon them. When a child’s destiny is intertwined so completely with that of the mother where can she fly off? She needs a man to take care of her and the children. The child needs a father figure and this is the final truth as I see it. Total financial independence for women is a distant dream and as dependents, women have little chance to successfully fight for their rights to equality in a male-money dominated world.”

There are statements here that we disagree with – that a woman needs a man to take care of her and her children. We don’t believe that is true – there are many women who have brought up children on their own, and, despite having faced troubles, have not felt the that a man was needed to look after her. Having said that, it is completely understandable where Neena Gupta is coming from – a woman living on her own, bringing up a child out of wedlock – that must have required nerves of steel. Our society is unforgiving and ruthless – not to mention judgmental.

And yet, when you read what Neena believes today, there is a sense of disappointment – maybe because we hold her up (and perhaps unfairly so) as the poster child of women’s liberation. She had the stomach to live the life she did and still not feel bashful about her choices. She calls it the extremist element in the women’s lib movement” . We feel a sense of disappointment because we want her to remain super human, we want her to be indefatigable; to continue to defy the laws laid down by society and keep up her fight. That’s what we know her for and that’s what we want from her – because, as women, we have very little to hold onto and those who stand up to society become embodiments of our liberation, ones that we don’t like to see succumb to the very dogmas we laud them for fighting.

The sad reality of our world today is that a woman is made to feel ashamed for having a consensual relationship out of wedlock, but rapists can roam free – a world where a man who makes derogatory remarks on women and gropes them for fun, can become the president of the most powerful county in the world.

Yes, this is a man’s world still. Women, your fight has only just begun.

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