A Talk on Dalit Feminism with Sunaina Arya

November 19, 2019


EPCC hosted “A Talk on Dalit Feminism,” on Nov. 12 where phylosophy proffesors invited Sunaina Arya, an Indian scholar and femmenist, to talk about gender inequality in her community.



Kristen Barraza/ Tejano Tribune

(L-R) Manuela Gomez, EPCC Philosophy Professor, Kim Diaz, EPCC Philosophy Professor and Sunaina Arya, Indian Scholar, demonstrating the ranking of Dalits.


Kim Diaz, a phylosophy proffesor who helped organise the event started off by explaining that being a feminist is wanting equal opportunities for both men and women.



Feminists believe women deserve the right to own property, the right to an education and the right to work with equal wages.


Arya, shared her story with the audience of life as a Dalit woman.


She explained that Dalits are considered to be at the lowest level of humanity.


They are part of the “untouchables” in the Indian caste system.  


They work as street sweepers, they clean up human and animal waste, deal with dead bodies and do the work that keep their society running, yet are treated as sub-human.


Arya shared some of the struggles and dicrimination she faced such as a time she had to live with people who considered themselves higher than her. 


She was forced to clean rooms and vomit on her own and was not able to pick her own bend. 


She also explained that men have tried to pursue her romantically, even wanting to propose to her.


Their opinions would change completely once they found out she was a Dalit and they would lose interest immediately.


She went on to discuss some of the atrocities done in the name of what some people call “Brahmanical patriarchy,” which is a form of patriarchal beliefs based on Brahmanism.


This is an ideology that is believed to precede Hinduism, a religion that is widely practiced in India. 


She explained that believers of Brahmanical patriarchy perform inhumane rituals like Sati, where a woman is forced to burn with her husband when the man would die. 


They do this in order to maintain the numerical balance of the sexes in Indian society according to Arya.


Indian culture enforces widowhood, where a woman cannot remarry while a man can.


She went on to explain that child marriage is not uncomon either, a practice that forces young girls to marry suitors that have been picked out by their families.


Arya concluded by talking about the “Dalit difference” which she explained is feminism that recognizes differences, appreciates intersectionality, is logically coherent and universal.


This means it does not discriminate against anyone.  She hopes to continue speaking on the subject and make a change.


Philosophy professor Manuela Gomez also shared information on why feminism is important such as the fact that 67 countries have had female presidents except for Mexico and the United States.


She also explained that women are 47% more likely to suffer severe injuries in car crashes because safety features are designed for men and that 33,000 girls become child brides every day.


During the panel the audience got the opportunity to ask questions. One participant asked what men can do to combat Brahmanical patriarch,


“I think men have to play their part. It is important that men speak and share their privileges because they are privileged and it requires courage to admit you’re privileged,” said Arya.


Gomez added “men have to recognize that in order to become allies, you need to recognize your privilege and use that privilege towards helping women but also to disrupt your own expectations of men not being allowed to cry.


It’s very hard for us to change others but as men you can say ‘it’s okay to cry because I’m human.’”
Diaz also addressed the issue explaining what men can do, “help your mom, help your sister, help your wife, your partner to clean, wash dishes, cook.


Respect her and love her because not only are you helping her but if you have children, your boys or girls will learn that it’s perfectly fine for mom and dad to share housework.”


“When we see others joking and we participate by laughing or being passive at jokes that are sexist. Instead of being passive, be disruptive by simply saying ‘why do you think that’s funny?’ be that disruptive force in everyday interactions.” Gomez concluded.


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