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The Transcendental Role Of Women In Manipur History

Dr. M. C. Arunkumar & Irengbam Arun

13. Individual vs. Collective Womanhood

Reverting to the specifics of gender-paradigm, the relevant moot question is whether the Manipuri womanhood need be henceforth depicted truly by the collective womanhood in the Panthoibi-mould, representing only one extremity to which gender empowerment can be pushed from the other extremity (the Imoinu mould). Individually, she still has a legacy as the Imoinu mode in the feudal-patriarchal social system. Both her real and perceived images in the major domains of kinship, religion, politics are still on the submissive bottomline. Her action is still evaluated within the traditional value system.

Of course in the feudal period of the gender history, some individual women could have achieved positions in the power-hierarchy of the state. These successful ladies used to mainly belong to royal families or noblemen's households. In order to develop the facet of a democratic personality of the Manipuri women, the women still need to get themselves liberated from the trappings of traditionalism. However, in the present context this poses two major questions: (a) the pragmatics of the extent and degree of liberation from traditionalism (mainly concerning women's own movement); and more importantly (b) adoption of such a cultural policy as formulated and directed to foster optimal social change irrespective of gender concerns.

In the contemporary Manipuri society there are, admittedly, quite a few individual women who could have targeted the age-old tradition and its impact on gender-relation and female images. They tend to focus on the women's capacity to develop their own personalities. They are more associated with the American brand of liberalism and feminism or a local hybrid of some sort. Their voice is more confined among the middle class women.

Liberation from the traditionalism and patriarchal image of womanhood is also targeted from the second angle. On the whole therefore the society has to be transformed holistically to achieve a new social order and the question of women should be primordially considered in shaping a new social order. This is what many voluntary and formal women associations (Manipuri Chanura Leishem Marup, All Manipur Women's Voluntary Association etc.) seem to be heading to. They question the patri-oriented society but they do not deny the society. The only impediment is perhaps their own sexist cultural order. They also aim towards developing the quality of individual womanhood so that each and every woman can become free and all-powerful volition-based social actor. Such associations are gradually gaining momentum and have already covered a wide area.


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