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Relevance of Women Studies

Kumud Sharma

By Girija Khanna  & Mariamma A. Var­ghese 
Vikas, New Delhi, 1978, pp. 212, Rs. 50.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 3 November/December 1978

During the last couple of years a num­ber of books on women have appeared which reflect the current interest of many scholars in this area. The present volume sets out to explore woman's role as wife, mother and working person, how she is placed in the social structure of modern India, how she has changed in the last three decades and what the areas are where she is reluctant to change. The book is primarily based on the data collected from interviews of one thousand women selected from different socio-economic groups and regions. The sample consists of twenty-five per cent women from the upper and twenty-five per cent from the lower socio-economic classes. Fifty per cent of the sample is from the middle socio-economic group. ‘More weightage has been given to the middle socio-econo­mic group as this group was expected to respond with a wider perspective of the issues involved’. Twenty-five per cent of the sample has been selected from the lower strata as ‘their views might be res­tricted because of imperfect education and limited exposure to the outside world’. The tendency to generalize from the middle class perspective seems to be all pervasive. This is responsible for the relatively inadequate understanding of the extent to which on-going changes have affected basic aspects of life in different strata of society. With a purely urban sample, the title of the book seems to be a misnomer as it does not reflect the realities of life of the vast majority of rural women. The authors are primarily concerned with the ‘average Indian women, her life, ideas and the image she want s to live up­to’. Who is the average Indian woman? Despite the fact that the sample covered different caste, religious and ethnic groups these factors have not been taken into consideration while analysing the data. It is claimed that ‘the basis of caste being varnashram or occupation of a person, caste ceases to be a dynamic factor shaping the thinking of urban people. Even in rural areas a woman has no caste of her own as she takes that of her husband after marriage. To whichever caste a woman may belong she is primarily conditioned by her sex, her position as wife, mother and custodian of the house’. In the Indian context such an unwarranted assumption cannot stand the test either of established theory or of empirical ...

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