Women have come a long way since the hunter-gatherer societies of the Stone Age era. That era was defined by a sort of overarching machismo of the male species, so necessary for survival in those primordial times. We believe that as a society we humans have advanced to levels never even dreamed of by the hunting tribes, and that woman, so long a subservient companion to man, would have claimed her rightful heritage by now-as an equal in the scheme of things. But sadly, such is not the case. In the twenty-first century and in these enlightened times, most women continue to be denied basic rights that are their due, simply because of their sex. The feminist movement, which took off primarily in the United States in the middle of the last century was a protest against male-dominated society; in fact Germaine Greer’s ground-breaking book The Female Eunuch is a powerful rejoinder against male hegemony. The book theorises that the ‘traditional’ suburban, consumerist, nuclear family represses women sexually, and that this robs them of their vitality, rendering them eunuchs. But the book that placed female grievances against patriarchy firmly in the modern cultural imagination was indubitably The Second Sex, by the French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.
Armed with a Ph.D in Human Rights from Jamia Milia Islamia, Tanuja Trivedi’s Woman, Culture & Media, is a personal crusade against the injustices women have endured for centuries and continue to do so even now. As she states in the preface, the book ‘provides an introductory overview of issues related to women, culture and media with a focus on contemporary women and gender studies, culture and communication studies, and media studies’. It also delves on woman empowerment, which would mean women having a range of options from which they can make choices and have the ability to make decisions on their own, and work to earn their living, the prerogative of a select few. The author cites the example of working women in the United States aged 30 to 44 who hold university degrees, and yet make only 62 per cent of what similarly qualified men do. The author feels that one reason for this could be occupational segregation, which assigns women and men gender-specific forms of employment.
Although the book touches on all aspects of the feminist movement, along with gender apartheid, sexism and the role of the media and culture in shaping female consciousness, the defining chapter in the book is the one titled ‘Women, Gender Role, Gender Equality and Religion’. It is the core of the book and expatiates on topics as diverse as female employment, women in Islam, divorce and birth control, women in religious life, the role of women in the Christian Church and women in Hinduism. The last part of the chapter discusses the historical women figures in Baha’i history.
Backed up with formidable research, the book is a compendium of the major issues that constitute the state of women in present times. It is recommended reading for doctoral researchers who are looking for an authentic volume on the feminist movement, as well as for all those who are interested in women’s rights and feminine psychology.