Monday, February 9, 2009

The argument of Dr Letty Russel

By Sunny Kulathakal

Dr Letty Russel, one of the leading activists of Women’s Liberation movement and herself a priest has stated that in the US a new awareness has been spreading about the inevitable role of women in shaping the future of mankind and women have become a major force in bringing in social change.

She had portrayed a general picture of the women’s Lib movement of the US in an interview I had with her who was returning to America after a three month’s stay in India.

To my query whether the movement would turn into a movement to dominate men by breaking apart the chains of submissiveness her reply was the following: “the intention of women’s liberation movement is not to usurp power from the hands of men. The real intention is to work together for triggering necessary changes in the social set up so as to ensure a more dignified existence with more freedom for all suppressed sections of the society inclusive of menfolk”.

As if feeling that her reply was not clear enough she asked me whether any more explanation is needed.

“Certainly yes, I would like to have little more explanation”, I said. Following was her lengthy reply:

“Total freedom of mankind is a goal which is yet to be achieved. We are only on a pilgrimage to achieve that freedom. The compelling factor behind today’s social changes is also the same. In that process many social institutions will have to undergo changes. This change is affecting women-men relationships too. The tide of changes will no doubt make its inroads into all levels of social and political relationships.

Freedom is something that everyone has to aspire for and strive to achieve. If you look at this way it can be seen that women are not alone in this struggle. Women need to be part of this pilgrimage with others for ensuring a better tomorrow. Women could contribute a lot to mankind in their own perspective.

The women’s lib activists in the US and elsewhere had challenged the traditional concepts about men. They will not accept the traditional concept that human beings constitute only the menfolk and women is lower class of human beings.

For centuries women-men relationship were understood in terms of the tradition of men’s dominance and suppression. Efforts had always been on to re-establish this perception with the help of theological and other doctrines. It was only recently a creative and commendable initiative has come up under the emancipation theory of the gospel.

Dr Russel had published a book- “Women’s liberation, a biblical perspective”- questioning the efforts of a few to establish with the help of biblical quotes that men should have dominance and women have to stay behind and proving that such a theory is wrong. It was as per the suggestion of the YWCA she had written that book.

She said that many were trying to use biblical quotes out of place to serve their purpose. She was seriously concerned about this. Just because woman was created by using a rib taken out from man’s body, it is not correct to say that women are inferior to men. If it is so, men who were made out of dust should be inferior to dust she asks. She is also opposed to those who consider women as inferior because of the reference in the book of Genesis that woman who was created after creating man was the one who sinned first. She said it was regrettable that there are people who are not ready to accept that as per the creation theory both men and women have got divine nature in equal measure and both have equal role in the struggle of life.

When I pointed out quoting from a recent book of Edwin Louis that the women of the 20th century are destined to lead a life under the shadow of the 19th century women she said it was wrong. She said it was because of the defects of the existing social system that the women had to enact the role of their sisters of the 19th century. She and her colleagues’ effort was to remove such a perception and convince that men and women are the two sides of a single coin, she pointed out

It was through women’s liberation struggle of August 1970 that the women of the US got equal rights on par with men for education and employment. She said the present mission is to find new lifestyles and create fresh roles for women in the joint effort with men to build a new society.

“More than ever there is opportunity and need for women of today to find new avenues in life rather than just being a house wife, mother or a sex partner. As much as 40% of the American women, an employment is a financial necessity. There is no need for today’s women to spend the whole day for household chores. These changes are certain to lead to significant changes at various levels of the society. The role of both men and women in western countries which have achieved technological and economic progress was undergoing changes day by day. Will not changes happening in women’s life turn out to be revolutionary with advent of test tube babies and artificial insemination?” saying this Dr Russel came to the conclusion of the conversation.

She admitted that the mankind living in a world which is undergoing continuous transformation has the freedom and responsibility to develop different social systems so as to ensure an orderly life.

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