Dalit Feminism At The Crossroads Of Difference, Solidarity, And Dual Patriarchies.


The concept that the 'dalit woman,' its major constituency, is positioned at the intersection of caste and gender, lies at the heart of Dalit Feminism. 

Dalit women are not homogeneous groups that can be cleanly classified as 'women' or 'dalits.' 

Caste and gender are two separate and mutually incompatible characteristics that define 'women' and 'dalits' in mainstream Indian Feminism and Dalit Politics, respectively. 

As a consequence, dalit women and their issues are obliterated or obfuscated. 

Urmila Pawar notes, "The Dalit movement is a movement for whole human freedom." In a brief understanding of the dalit women's condition and its prospective resolution, Urmila Pawar says, "The Dalit movement is a struggle for total human freedom." 

However, it does not seem to give enough attention to the women's issue. 

The women's liberation movement should also be a component of this human emancipation movement. 

It isn't the case. 

There is a popular misconception that, unlike Brahmin women, Dalit women are not bound by suffocating constraints. 

In this position, the grief of the Devadasi, the forsaken lady, and the Murali is overlooked.... 

Dalit educated women should also shed the misconception that they can only succeed in the world with the support of males. 

Both as dalits and as women, these women must struggle for their rights. 

Pawar's speech highlights two critical analytical omissions: gender in Dalit politics and caste in mainstream Indian feminist thought. 

Dalit Feminism, according to Pawar's remark, is an interventionist approach that aims to address the multifaceted aspect of dalit women's identities. 

The gap between Dalit Feminism and mainstream Indian Feminism and Dalit Politics is therefore expressed via the concept of intersectionality. 

Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for looking at how oppressive regimes interact with one another. 

Intersectionality first appeared in the legal academia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with Kimberlé Crenshaw's seminal work 'Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.' Its main goal has been to provide a paradigm for analyzing power that takes gender, class, and race-based subordination into account and links them.

The concept of intersectionality emerged from the theorization of triple oppressed black women by feminists of color. 

Using black women as an example, Crenshaw demonstrates how intersectionality rejects the single-axis paradigm espoused by both feminist and anti-racist researchers, instead examining "the different ways in which race and gender interact to determine the multiple aspects of black women's... 

lives." By identifying the multiplicities and diversity within categories like "woman" and "black," intersectionality calls into question the homogeneity of these categories. 

By presenting an approach that identifies various axes of oppression impacting black women and challenges the homogeneity assumed by both feminist and anti-racist discourses, intersectionality offers an enabling technique for feminist analysis. 

Leslie McCall's theorization of intersectionality via inter-categorical and intra-categorical techniques is particularly relevant in this situation. 

The inter-categorical approach recognizes "relations of inequality among social groups and changing configurations of inequality along multiple and conflicting dimensions," whereas the intra-categorical approach "interrogates the boundary-making and boundary-defining process itself," maintaining a critical stance toward categories that are primarily seen through a single axis of identity. 

Theorists of intersectionality have harshly critiqued political formations centered on a single axis of identity. 

The issue with identity politics, according to Crenshaw, is not that it fails to transcend difference, as some detractors argue, but rather that it often conflates or overlooks intra-group distinctions. 

She claims that black males and white women acquire prominence in minority politics such as anti-racism and Western Feminism, obscuring black women who endure both racist and sexist oppression at the same time. 

As a result, one of identity politics' key flaws is its incapacity to view individuals via different axes of identification and comprehend the multifaceted aspects of oppression. 

Through its recognition of diversity, intersectionality is considered as an enabling tool in this more nuanced strategical option. 

Black Feminism uses the notion of diversity to problematize the category of 'woman' in Western feminist politics. 

Women in general were seen as a'minority group' by White Feminism, who saw them as a homogenous category in which oppression is tied to gender. 

'Woman' was portrayed as a single subject that transcended race, class, and ethnicity as a result of this universalization. 

In an effort to homogenize feminist politics, such an epistemological postulation emphasises a unitary form of patriarchal oppression and a universalized experience of womanhood, culminating in the erasure of diversity among women. 

As a result of the categorization of the category 'woman' and its subjective experience, women from minority groups, such as women of color, become structurally excluded. 

While the feminist notion of sisterhood aids in the formation of a collective resistance, it empowers only some groups of women while marginalizing others, according to black feminists. 

This Bridge Called My Back by Moraga and Anzalda raises concerns about the Feminist constituency of 'woman,' emphasizing its diversity. 

Moraga highlights in her prologue to the second edition that this book departs from Feminism's nearly exclusive emphasis on sex connections, instead focusing on relationships between women.' 

They encourage a feminist voice that highlights the divisions within the category of woman. 

This book began as a response to White Feminism's bigotry and has evolved into a celebration of the emergence of unity among feminists of color. 

As a result, according to Baca Zinn, "many women began to argue that their lives were affected by their location in a number of different hierarchies: as African Americans, Latinas, Native Americans, or Asian Americans in the race hierarchy; as young or old in the age hierarchy; as heterosexual, lesbian, or bisexual in the sexual orientation hierarchy; and as women outside of Western industrialized nations, in subordinated geopolitical contexts." These arguments demonstrated that women were disadvantaged not just because of their gender, but also because of historical and systematic denials of rights and benefits based on other characteristics. 

The knowledge that general issues are far distant from the reality of many women's life illustrates the power dynamics that generate gender hierarchy. 

It becomes clear that a singular and exclusive emphasis on gender emphasizes concerns affecting a single group of women while diverting attention away from other structures and systems, such as race, which are vital in sustaining the oppression of other categories of women. 

As a result, women of color have challenged Western Feminism's sisterhood concepts, contending that it is white middle-class-centric. 

They claim that concepts of gender and women's oppression fundamentally disregard marginalized women, and that efforts to attain a universal politics often result in a single point of view being prioritized. 

In interventionist politics like Black Feminism, recognizing diversity becomes vital in order to avoid the effects and traps of prevailing structural paradigms and construct a more effective politics. 

Intersectionality emphasizes not just the diversity of black women's experiences, but also their similarities. 

This intracategorical difference is noticeable between white women and black males. 

The Combahee River Collective's 'The Black Feminist Statement' describes how they realized that "as children... 

we were different from boys and that we were treated differently, for example, when we were told to be quiet both for the sake of being "ladylike" and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people." As a result, Black Feminism reveals the complexities and uniqueness of race and gender oppression of black women that both antiracists and White Feminism overlooked. 

According to black feminists, black women are either portrayed as victimized objects by black male authors or are featured as tokens by white feminists out of guilt. 

Furthermore, as Kimberly Springer points out, Black feminists have been accused of inauthentic blackness by the black community because of their gender issues. 

According to the Sandy Springs transcript, black women also had to be wary of white feminists who labeled them "the worst sort" of black women for allegedly betraying their race. 

Both black nationalist and white feminist assessments of black women's racial authenticity thought that a really revolutionary black woman valued her racial oppression above her gender. 

In this debate, white feminists, like black males, refused to acknowledge the complexities of racial and gender oppression. 

Instead, they opted to perceive black women as just that: black. 

As a consequence, black feminists learned that "the master's tools will never deconstruct the master's home." They may allow us to defeat him at his own game for a while, but they will never allow us to effect meaningful change.'

Black Feminism and Dalit Feminism share an emphasis on the significance of acknowledging diversity in building an understanding of oppression and resistance in connection to diverse forms of power. 

While Black Feminism looks for black women at the junction of race and gender, Dalit Feminism looks for dalit women at the confluence of caste and gender in establishing and informing feminist politics. 

Similar to how Black Feminism articulates its politics in opposition to White Feminism and anti-racism, Dalit Feminism uses intervention to distinguish itself from mainstream Indian Feminism and Dalit Politics. 

Despite the fact that the phrase was not invented or used in India, Nivedita Menon points out that the practice of intersectionality has long been prevalent among India's oppressed communities. 

She expresses reservations about using intersectionality as a theoretical framework to analyze and comprehend "the Indian experience," arguing that "theory must be located" and that "the practice of validating any study on the "non-West" by reading it through a "Western" theory should be challenged." Menon emphasizes that intersectionality is a 'buzzword' that got popularity owing to the significance of the site of its birth, and that intersectionality is unsuited in the Indian context due to the various layers of identities that already exist in India. 

Menon focuses on caste, community, and sexuality in particular to show how they continue to split the category of "woman" and destabilize feminist politics. 

In India's marginalized politics, such means of recognizing and tackling difference are already in practice. 

'How does intersectionality feature in this analysis?' Menon wonders. 

She criticizes the exact discipline from which intersectionality emerges, arguing that law has been the most limiting vehicle for binding and fixing identities according to convenience. 

As a result, going to law and looking for solutions is pointless. 

Furthermore, Menon points out that Crenshaw believes that identities are a-priori when he proposes the concept of intersection of identities. 

Mary E. John revisits Menon's piece to discuss intersectionality, which allows all disadvantaged voices to be heard rather than prioritizing one over the other. 

John points out that Crenshaw and other intersectionality theorists do not claim to have invented the concept. 

They often reference Black Feminism, which dates back to 1851, when Sojourner Truth delivered her now-iconic speech, 'Ain't I a Woman?' As a result, John contends, intersectionality should not be seen as a new phenomena, despite the fact that it has become a catchphrase. 

John goes on to say that, although emphasizing difference, Indian Feminism has not always dealt with intersecting identities. 

With the exception of community, Feminism in India is still focused on sex differences rather than the 'unequal patriarchies' that are responsible for the creation and perpetuation of hierarchies among women of various classes, castes, and communities. 

Instead of rejecting intersectionality outright, John thinks that it should be used to analyze current identities and politics and generate unity. 

As a result, intersectionality has the ability to serve as a jumping off point for dialogues. 

Dalit Feminism examines how conventional Indian Feminism and Dalit Politics erase or disregard dalit women, and how the constructs of 'woman' and 'dalit' privilege savarna women and dalit men. 

Invoking intersectionality, Dalit Feminism confronts these erasures and additions. 

As previously stated, Dalit Feminism's relationship to the notion of difference may be traced by recognizing its constituency, the "dalit woman," as intersectional and hence unique from "woman" in mainstream Indian Feminism and "dalit" in Dalit Politics. 

We are concerned that dalit women in India suffer from three oppressions: gender, as a result of patriarchy; class, as members of the poorest and most marginalized communities; and caste, as members of the lowest caste, the 'untouchables,' according to the National Federation of Dalit Women's (NFDW) VIII National Convention on June 26, 2009 in New Delhi. 

This proclamation highlights three overlapping variables of gender, class, and caste, demonstrating that inequality and difference exist not just between those in the rich/poor, upper-caste/dalit dichotomy, but also between women and men within the dalit community. 

The Dalit Mahila Samiti notes in a 2008 report, "The national objective of the women's movement is still defined by middle-class women's ideas....  Identity politics and objectives are challenging to include into the national movement, and mainstream Indian feminists must include other groups' politics and values. 

For example, national women's organizations decided that the emphasis of Women's Day festivities would be violence against women, while access to water was a significant concern for local women. 

This signals a change away from enforcing uniformity and toward acknowledging diversity in terms of how various systems, when combined with gender, influence diverse groups of women in different ways. 

Catharine MacKinnon, commenting on the relevance of particularity in intersectionality, points out that particularity does not imply seeing information derived from a particular group's experience as limiting, stagnant, or restrictive. 

Instead, specificity is used to provide a more nuanced understanding of systems. 

Intersectionality, according to MacKinnon, "reveals the simple falsity of the standard post-Enlightenment opposition between particularity and universality not only by exposing that particularity is universal but also by making a universally applicable change—including men—by embracing, rather than obscuring, denying, or eliding, particularity." Dalit Feminism, meanwhile, develops as an intersectional politics since it accounts for differences within and across communities, transforming the frameworks of mainstream Indian Feminism and Dalit Politics in the process. 

According to DMS's report, We recognize that from a feminist viewpoint, dealing with a broad variety of concerns has been necessary, although our perception of a movement is fairly limited. 

The 'enemy' (patriarchy) has various forms and so may be found wherever. 

It is not a monolithic construction that can be demolished. 

As a result, the definition of a movement must be broadened to include the whole range of actions and processes that a feminist group striving for fundamental change must engage in in order to establish a movement. 

This remark underlines the need of incorporating diversity into mainstream Indian Feminism and Dalit Politics. 

While autonomy has always been seen as the most important element of Dalit Feminism, dalit feminists have fought against the ghettoization of Dalit Feminism into a politics practiced only by dalit women. 

According to the DMS study, a dalit feminist movement is not separatist. 

In DMS, the women 'ask the males to become sathi dars, or supporters.' Even though "the call for a separate platform" by dalit women's organizations like NFDW "could be interpreted as a divisive move by both dalit men and non-dalit women," Ruth Manorama clarifies that "the proponents of such a special forum emphasize that their initiative must not be mistaken for a separatist movement." 'Rather, they claim that if their shared goal of social, economic, and political equality and justice for all is to be fulfilled, strong coalitions between the dalit movement, the women's movement, and the dalit women's movement are required,' she continues.

In truth, this demand for solidarity isn't limited to dalit males and upper-caste women joining hands with dalit women. 

As stressed during the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and the World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001, the need for solidarity goes beyond international societies. 

Ruth Manorama recounts how her involvement in a cross-cultural research comparing African-Americans in the United States and dalits in India in 1986 helped her recognize the need of having talks between dalit and black women in an interview with Meena Kandasamy. 

Shailaja Paik argues, "Despite the seemingly vast differences in the history and contemporary politics of India and the United States, by focusing on the interlocking engagements between feminist work and histories of colonialism, nationalism, law, culture, the nation-state, capital, labor relations, religion, human rights, and struggles around sexuality, [practicing solidarity] helps to rethink and revitalize feminist theory and praxis. 

It demonstrates how understanding specificities and differences, as well as forging a common cause between dalit and African American women, is critical for building solidarity, laying out certain political possibilities, and combating various forms of Brahmanism in India and white supremacy in the United States. "

Dalit Feminism emphasizes discussion rather than antagonism by stressing the possibility of solidarity across gender and ethnicity without eliminating specificities and disparities. 

Comprehending Dalit Feminism in terms of the notion of difference allows us to illustrate how understanding the intersectionality of caste and gender may lead to more fruitful intellectual debates, rather than just highlighting the flaws in mainstream Indian Feminism or Dalit Politics. 

In Dalit Feminism, the notion of difference extends beyond distinguishing 'dalit women' as distinct from 'women' and 'dalits,' and includes the development of an affinity-based politics that acknowledges the potentials of the unique. 

The identification of two patriarchies: brahmanical and dalit patriarchies is another key contribution of the notion of difference in Dalit Feminism. 

The acknowledgment of brahmanical and dalit patriarchies has been crucial in exposing the reality that Indian women's subjugation is multifaceted. 

Brahmanical patriarchy, according to Uma Chakravarti, is "a system of laws and institutions in which caste and gender are intertwined, one molding the other, and women are vital in sustaining caste borders." The caste system may be repeated without compromising the hierarchical order of closed endogamous circles, each unique from and higher and lower than the others, thanks to patriarchal norms in this framework. 

Furthermore, brahmanical norms for women varied depending on the caste group's position in the caste structure, with the most strict control over sexuality reserved for the highest castes. 

Finally, it incorporates both an ideology of valued chaste wives and pativrata women, as well as a system of norms and institutions that sustain caste hierarchy and gender inequality via the manufacture of consent and the use of compulsion. 

The beliefs of brahmanical patriarchy are structurally intertwined into the caste system, providing separate sets of laws for upper-caste and dalit women in terms of sexuality, marriage, and labor, as codified in brahmanical prescriptive writings like as the Manusmriti. 

54 Because the word 'brahmanism' permits multiple sorts of repressive qualities impacting different groups of women, interpreting patriarchy as brahmanical patriarchy becomes an enabling aspect of dalit feminist politics. 

In their memoirs Karukku and The Grip of Change, Dalit women authors like Bama and Sivakami explain how institutional oppression of caste and gender act in simultaneity, with dalit women facing sexual and physical assault not just from upper-caste people but also from dalit males. 

Dalit Politics has sought to dismiss any such claims by claiming that there is no such thing as dalit patriarchy since all dalits are oppressed. 

Even if there are evidence of patriarchal oppression, they argue that brahmanical patriarchy is to fault for presenting dalit males with models of dominance. 

Kancha Ilaiah connects women's subjugation to brahmanical ceremonial practices in Why I Am Not a Hindu, pointing out that women in dalit communities do not face the same patriarchal domination as their upper-caste counterparts. 

A Dalitbahujan lady is not required to conduct padapuja (worshiping the husband's feet) to her husband in the morning or evening, according to him. 

She is not required to address her spouse in the same manner as she would a superior. 

In a conflict, word for word is the socially visible standard, and abuse for abuse is the socially visible norm. 

Although Patriarchy as a system exists among Dalitbahujan, it is far more democratic in this regard. 

While Ilaiah acknowledges that patriarchy exists in dalit communities, he emphasizes that it is emancipatory in comparison to upper-caste patriarchy. 

As a result, dalit women are only acknowledged in connection to brahmanical patriarchy in order to emphasize their distinction from upper-caste women. 

In his essay, Gopal Guru highlights this point: 'Dalit males are recreating the same methods against their women that their high-caste rivals used to oppress them.' The unexpected absence of scholarly interest in this subject also reflects a widespread belief that it does not exist. 

Challapalli Swaroopa Rani, on the other hand, believes that the concept of a democratic patriarchy in dalit culture is untrue. 

She writes,If we come now to the subject of patriarchy, as the saying goes, ‘the size of the tree dictates the fury of the wind’, indicating that a man would mistreat those who rely upon him to the degree that his authority permits. 

Because a dalit man lacks the same resources as an upper-caste landowner, he practices tyranny within his own boundaries. 

However, under that patriarchal structure, democracy does not exist. 

Dalit women are 'cruelly humiliated in public areas,' according to Swaroopa Rani, and they also experience domestic abuse and physical ailments. 

She labels the subjugation of dalit women as "brahmanical" and "patriarchal." She refutes this 'democratic' portrayal of the dalit society by stating that a dalit man "carries out tyranny within his own bounds." 

Furthermore, dalit patriarchy not only exists in a forceful form, but it often acts from inside, cloaked by the wider image of the dalit as a sinuous, fixed category in which caste becomes the only deciding element of analysis. 

Dalit Feminism focuses on the junction of caste and gender and the necessity to confront them concurrently by conceiving patriarchies in all of its forms and establishing Brahmanism as the main cause. 

The notion of feminism is also altered as a result of this research of patriarchy in its many forms.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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