My own opinion is that, just as
fundamentally man and woman are one, their problem must be one in
essence. The soul in both is the same. The two live the same life
and have the same feelings. Each is a complement of the other. The
one cannot live without the otherís active lifeÖ.
But somehow or other man has dominated
woman from ages past, and so woman has developed an inferiority
complex. She has believed in the truth of manís interested teaching
that she is inferior to him. But the seers among men have recognized
her equal status.
Nevertheless there is no doubt that at
some point there is bifurcation. Whilst both are fundamentally one,
it is also equally true that in the form there is a vital difference
between the two. Hence the vocations of the two must also be
different. The duty of motherhood, which the vast majority of women
will always undertake, requires qualities which man need not
possess. She is passive, he is active. She is essentially mistress
of the house. He is the bread winner. She is the keeper and
distributor of the bread. She is the care-taker in every sense of
the term. The art of bringing up the infants of the race is her
special and sole prerogative. Without her care the race must become extinct.
In my opinion it is degrading both for
man and woman that woman should be called upon or included to
forsake the hearth and shoulder the rifle for the protection of that
hearth. It is a reversion to barbarity and the beginning of the end.
In trying to ride the horse that man rides, she brings herself and
him down. The sin will be on manís head for tempting or compelling
his companion to desert her special calling. There is as much
bravery in keeping oneís home in good order and condition as there
is in defending it against attack from without. As I have watched
millions of peasants in their natural surroundings and as I watch
them daily in little Segaon, the natural division of spheres of work
has forced itself on my attention. There are no women black-smiths
and carpenters. But men and women work on the fields, the heaviest
work being done by the males. The women keep and manage the homes.
They supplement the meager resources of the family, but man remains
the main bread-winner.
The division of the spheres of work
being recognized, the general qualities and culture required are
practically the same for both the sexes.
My contribution to the great problem
lies in my presenting for acceptance Truth and Ahimsa in every walk
of life, whether for individuals or nations. I have hugged the hope
that in this woman will be the unquestioned leader and having thus
found her place in human evolution, will shed inferiority complexÖ.
I have suggested in these columns that
woman is the incarnation of Ahimsa. Ahimsa means infinite love,
which again means infinite capacity for suffering. Who but woman,
the mother of man, shows this capacity in the largest measure? She
shows it as she carries the infant and feeds it during nine months
and derives joy in the suffering involved. What can beat the
suffering caused by the pangs of labour? But she forgets them in the
joy of creation. Who again suffers daily so that her babe may wax
from day to day? Let her transfer that love to the whole of
humanity, let her forget she ever was or can be the object of manís
lust. And she will occupy her proud position by the side of man as
his mother, maker and silent leader. It is given to her to teach the
art of peace to the warring world thirsting for that nectar. She can
become the leader in Satyagraha which does not require the learning
that books give but require the stout heart that comes from
suffering and faith.
My good nurse in the Sassoon Hospital,
Poona, as I was lying on a sick-bed years ago, told me the story of
a woman who refused to take chloroform because she would not risk
the life of the babe she was carrying. She had to undergo a painful
operation. The only anesthetic she had was her love for the babe, to
save whom no suffering was too great. Let not women, who can count
many such heroines among them, ever despise their sex or deplore
that they were not born men. The contemplation of that heroine often
makes me envy woman the status that is hers, if she only knew. There
is as much reason for man to wish that he was born a woman as for
woman to do otherwise. But the wish is fruitless. Let us be happy in
the state to which we are born and do the duty for which nature has
Harijan, 24-2-40, pp. 13-14
As Nature has made men and women
different, it is necessary to maintain a difference between the
educations of the two. True, they are equals in life, but their
functions differ. It is womanís right to rule the home. Man is
master outside it. Man is the earner, woman saves and spends. Woman
looks after the feeding of the child. She shapes its future. She is
responsible for building its character. She is her childrenís
educator, and hence, mother to the Nation. Man is not father (in
that sense). After a certain period, a father ceases to influence
his son; the mother never abdicates her place. The son, even after
attaining manhood, will play with the mother even as the child does.
He cannot do that with his father.
If this is the scheme of Nature, and
it is just as it should be, woman should not have to earn her
living. A state of affairs in which women have to work as telegraph
clerks, typists or compositors can be, I think, no good, such a
people must be bankrupt and living on their capital.
Hence just as, on the one hand, it is
wrong to keep women in ignorance and under suppression ; so, on the
other, it is a sign of decadence and it is tyrannical to burden them
with work which is ordinarily done by men.
The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. XIV, p. 31
I do not need to be a girl to be wild
over manís atrocities towards woman. I count the law of inheritance
among the least in the list. The Sarda Bill deals with an evil far
greater than one which the law of inheritance connotes. But I am
uncompromising in the matter of womanís rights. In my opinion she
should labour under no legal disability not suffered by man. I
should treat the daughters and sons on a footing of perfect
equality. As women being to realize their strength, as they must in
proportion to realize their strength, as they must in proportion to
the education they receive, they will naturally resent the glaring
inequalities to which they are subjected. But to remove legal
inequalities will be a mere palliative. The root of the evil lies
much deeper than most people realize. It lies in manís greed of
power and fame and deeper still in mutual lust. Man has always
desired power. Ownership of property gives this power. Man hankers
also after posthumous fame based on power. This cannot be had, if
property is progressively cut up in pieces as it must be if all the
posterity become equal co-shares. Hence the descent of property for
the most part on the eldest male issue. Most women are married. And
they are co-shares, in spite of the law being against them, in their
husbandís power and privileges. They delight in being ladies-this
and what not simply for the fact of being the wives of particular
lords. Though therefore they may vote for radical reform in academic
discussions over inequalities, when it comes to acting up to their
vote, they will be found to be unwilling to part with the
Whilst therefore I would always
advocate the repeal of all legal disqualifications, I should have
the enlightened women of India to deal with the root cause. Woman is
the embodiment of sacrifice and suffering, and her advent to public
life should therefore result in purifying it, in restraining
unbridled ambition and accumulation of property. Let them know that
millions of men have no property to transmit to posterity. Let us
learn from them that it is better for the few to have no ancestral
property at all...
The privilege of the awakened women
should be to spot and eradicate ago-long evils.
Young India, 17-10-29, p. 340
Man, the law-giver, will have to pay a
dreadful penalty for the degradation he has imposed upon the
so-called weaker sex. When woman, freed from manís snares, rises to
the full height and rebels against manís legislation and
institutions designed by him, her rebellion, no doubt non-violent
will be nonetheless effective.
Young India, 16-4-25, p. 133
Man has regarded woman as his tool.
She has learnt to be his tool, and in the end found It easy and
pleasurable to be such, because when one drags another in hi s fall
in the descent is easy.
Harijan, 25-1-36, p. 396
Of all the evils for which man has
made himself responsible, none to me, is so degrading, so shocking
or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity, the female
sex, not the weaker sex. It is the nobler of the two, for it is even
today the embodiment of sacrifice, silent suffering, humility, faith
Young India, 15-9-21, p. 292
To call woman the weaker sex is a
libel; it is manís injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute
strength, then indeed is woman less brute than man. If by strength
is meant moral power, than woman is immeasurably manís superior. Has
she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she
not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage?
Without her man could not be. If non-violence is the law of our
being, the future is with womanÖ. Who can make a more effective
appeal to the heart than woman?
Young India, 10-4-30, p. 121
I believe in the proper education of
woman. But I do believe that woman will not make her contribution to
the world by mimicking or running a race with man. She can run the
race, but she will not rise to the great heights she is capable of
by mimicking man. She has to be the complement of man.
Harijan, 27-2-37, p. 19
Woman, I hold, is the personification
of self sacrifice, but unfortunately today she does not realize what
a tremendous advantage she has over man. As Tolstoy used to say,
they are laboring under the hypnotic influence of man... If they
would realize the strength of non-violence they would not consent to
be called the weaker sex.
Young India, 14-1-32, p. 19
Refuse to be the slaves of your own
whims and fancies, and the slaves of men. Refuse to decorate
yourselves, donít go in for scents and lavender waters; if you
(women) want to give out the proper scent, it must come out of your
heart, and then you will captivate not man, but humanity. It is your
birth-right. Man is born of woman, he is flesh of her and bone of
her bone. Come to your own and deliver your message again.
Young India, 8-12-27, p. 406
Woman must cease to consider herself
the object of manís lust. The remedy is more in her hands than
manís. She must refuse to adorn herself for men, including her
husband, if she will be an equal partner with man. I cannot imagine
Sita even wasting a single moment on pleasing Rama by physical
Young India, 21-7-21, p. 229
The woman who knows and fulfils her
duty realizes her dignified status. She is the queen not the slave,
of the household over which she presides.
Harijan, 12-10-34, p. 277
Equality of sexes does not mean
equality of occupations. There may be no legal bar against a woman
hunting or wielding a lance. But she instinctively recoils from a
function that belongs to man. Nature has created sexes as
complements of each other. Their functions are defined as are their
Harijan, 2-12-39, p. 359
I make no distinction between man and
woman. Woman should feel just as independent as man. Bravery is not
Harijan, 5-1-47,p. 478
Today few women take part in politics
and most of these do not do independent thinking. They are content
to carry out their parentsí or their husbandsí behests. Realizing
their dependence, they cry out for womenís rights. Instead of doing
this, however, women workers should enroll women as voters, impart
or have imparted to them practical education, teach them to think
independently, release them from the chains of caste that bind them,
so as to bring about a change in them which will compel men to
realize womanís strength and capacity for sacrifice and give her
places of honour.
Harijan, 21-4-46, p. 96
Therefore, I advise women to resort to
civil rebellion against all undesirable and unworthy restraints. All
restraints to be beneficial must be voluntary. There is no
possibility of harm resulting from civil rebellion. It presupposes
purity and reasoned resistance.
Harijan, 23-3-47, p. 80
Women may not look for protection to
men. They must rely on their own strength and purity of character
and on God.
Harijan, 15-9-46, p. 312
Man should learn to give place to
women and a community or country in which women are not honoured
cannot be considered as civilized.
Harijan, 11-1-48, p. 508
Chastity is not a hot-house growth. It
cannot be superimposed. It cannot be protected by the surrounding
wall of the purdah.1 It must grow from within, and to be worth
anything, it must be capable of withstanding every unsought
Young India, 3-2-27, p. 37
Women are special custodians of all
that is pure and religious in life. Conservative by nature, if they
are slow to shed superstitious habits, they are also slow to give up
all that is pure and noble in life.
Harijan, 25-3-33, p. 2
I do believe that it is womanís
mission to exhibit Ahimsa at its highest and bestÖ For woman is more
fitted than man to make explorations and take bolder action in
AhimsaÖ For the courage of self-sacrifice woman is any day superior
to man, as I believe man is to woman for the courage of the brute.
Harijan, 5-11-38, p. 317