chapter  5
18 Pages

The politics of Gandhi’s “feminism”

In 1982-1983, while conducting research for a review article on the women’s movement in India, I was struck by what seemed to me then to be a glaring inconsistency in Gandhi’s writings and speeches. On the one hand, Gandhi supported and strengthened tradition when he insisted that, because women were “naturally” different from men, they should perform tasks for which nature created them; on the other, he supported the potentially radical belief that one’s conscience was the only “voice” one need heed and obey. For example, Gandhi wrote,

It is not for women to go out and work, as men do. If we send them to the factories who will look after our domestic and social affairs? If women go out to work, our social life will be ruined and moral standards will decline. …I am convinced that for men and women to go out for work together will mean the fall of both.1