Autonomy versus integration | Pakistan Today

Autonomy versus integration

  • A Gender analysis

By: Changezi Sandhu

The concept of “autonomy” in gender studies means a woman should be independent to lead her life as she wants. Self-directive modes and a self-governing approach are the core ideological crux of autonomy. The feminists who float the idea build their narrative that violence against women can be traced to her subordination before her male relations. She remains dependent economically, morally and culturally on her partner, and that paves the way of man superiority by compromising on women rights. Thus, if she will be independent and follow her own self-directive modes, gender-based issues can be reduced. Many feminists oppose the stance by terming it a “noxious concept” like Sarah Hoagland. John Christman terms the concept as metaphysical and impractical.

“The ideal of the autonomous individual could only be created by abstracting from the relationship of dependency between men and women. The relationships which people require to nurture them are considered private, and not truly relationships with outside others. Thus the other is reduced to an appendage of the subject– the mere condition of his being- not a being in her own right. The individual who cannot recognize the other or his own dependency without suffering a threat to his identity requires the formal, impersonal principle of rationalized interaction, and is required by them.”

However, the concept of ‘integration” means that male and female cannot live separately. They have been created for each other to fulfil their innate desires. There must be an understanding and compromising attitudes from both sides to stamp out their differences and issues which disturb male-female relations because of violence and male dominance. All types of resources must be distributed equally among both sexes, and legal provision must be given to their fundamental rights without any discriminatory and biased policy. Protagonists of the integrationist school of thought further build their narrative that issues relating to women mobility, control over earning, family planning decision and sharing gender roles must be dealt by the couple through mutual understanding to lead a happy life.

There is a dire need to empower women in all sectors, not like the West, but according to our religious teachings and human rights, preserving cultural norms. Government and the public ought to call to halt all sort of gender-based violation in the country by empowering women, initiating awareness programmes and self-accountable methods

The debate of autonomy versus integration is among most paramount and preliminary concepts and theories of gender studies that sprouted in 1979 between participants of the National Women Studies Conference. It refers to figure out gender-based issues between men and women. Scholars, legislators, feminists and activists detect the major and minor causes under the mechanism of gender analysis which play their role making ineffective the man-woman relation, women subordination, economic marginalization, gender-based violence, gender disparity and ascendency of the patriarchal family pattern.

Both groups developed their own lens to investigate women oppression and gender-based issues by projecting their ideological foundations. The question about status of the subjects Gender Studies and Women Studies was also brought under consideration divergently in the conference. Supporters of autonomy proclaimed to not merge women studies in gender studies. However, followers of the integration school of thought favoured and floated the suggestion to deal with both sexes under one subject of Gender Studies to trace out both sided issues and flaws.

There are certain types of concepts of autonomy as moral autonomy, individual autonomy and moral autonomy. Moral autonomy was presented by Immanuel Kant whose philosophy is based on the “intrinsic value of human life”. The value is possessed by all and sundry naturally. So, nobody has right to disrespect others and discriminate against them on the basis of gender, sex and cultural practices. The ideological foundation of moral psychology is to deal with all genders through legal provisions for security of their rights. Nobody must be given the right to violate others’ rights. However, individual autonomy refers to self-dedicated and self-directive modes to lead a life independently. These ideologies, especially Kantian philosophy, provided sound footings to “autonomy in gender studies” to deal with androcentric mentality and women issues with special reference to their male relations.

Later on, the majority of feminists and activists termed “autonomy” as a problem creator and metaphysical rather than problem solver. Jessica Benjamin, a psychologist, and Gillian, a dramatist, reject “autonomy” and project “integration” by stating that men and women should develop their relation on mutual understanding, and consciously mental changes are required to root out or reduce gender-based violation. Special attention must be given to mental chemistry and formation of both sexes’ mental mechanism by altering it following the exponential changes. Furthermore, Kimrele presents the concept of “intersectionality” by building the narrative in favor of “integration” that male and female are factual realities, and are created to live together. They are inseparable. Neither male nor female can survive without the other. So, there must be the element of integration and intersectionality in their relation to deal with all gender issues through mutual efforts.

The condition of gender disparity has been declining with the passage of time in Pakistan. Even teenage girls are not safe from rapists. Women population increased to 52 percent of the total population of the country according to the recent census, but their role and opportunities are limited in all arenas. The World Economic Forum also expressed its grievances on poor gender disparity in the country. Unfortunately, parents, teachers and religious scholars have specified their role on the name of cultural relativistic norms and values of our society. There is a dire need to empower women in all sectors, not like the West, but according to our religious teachings and human rights, preserving cultural norms. Government and the public ought to call to halt all sort of gender-based violation in the country by empowering women, initiating awareness programmes and self-accountable methods.

The writer can be reached at [email protected]



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