I never thought that picking up a topic to pen down my thoughts would be such a challenge. I have a bag full of things that I have been thinking about to write but just couldn’t decide on what to sit down with.
Finally, today as the world celebrates the ‘International Women’s Day’, I thought why not write about this! I don’t think that I need to say that ‘I am feminist’ but just in case it is not evident enough, I will say it out loud - ‘I AM A FEMINIST’.
There is this movement around the world where suddenly there is a flood of ‘hashtags’ on Instagram saying ‘#iamfeminist’ or ‘#empowerwomen’. Everywhere you go, people want to show that they are all about equal rights and they are supportive or in approval of a woman being equal to a man. You really want to ask yourself- ‘Really, is a woman considered equal to man?’ (Especially in the Indian societies)
Yes, the world is progressing and India too is on the progressive path. But this boat will not sail for long if we just live this idea just in the ‘letter’ of it and not in the ‘spirit’ of it! Meaning, its doing no difference if you just talk about being supportive when in public to show that you are a part of the larger movement but when in your own house, you believe that your mom just should mind her business by doing household chores or your sister shouldn’t be career oriented because at the end she only has to marry a man! The years of injustice or rather inequality in the way a woman has been treated compared to a man, cannot be just taken away or made right in the blink of eye. It is going to take years and generations to have a world where man and woman are thought as equal ‘humans’.
The Indian society is patriarchal and this patriarchy is also associated to your faith and religion. Starting from the time a girl is born to the time she gets married or gets older and has grandkids, everything is pre- decided in the Indian society and there isn’t any room for her to make any decisions. The fact that she is a ‘girl’ disqualifies her from making the right decisions and so this power is giving to the ‘man’ in the household. Whether she should go to school or not, what courses to choose, what career is better suited considering she is going to give birth to a child, how to talk and present herself because she has to be likeable by a man, when to have children, how to live her life because now her kids are grown up- Everything is decided and is suppose to fix this box. I am going to call this box as the ‘CLAUSTROPHOBIC BOX’ because that’s exactly how I felt growing up and even now, I struggle to not get caught up in it. The Indian societies are so deeply fixated on this ‘CLAUSTROPHOBIC BOX’ that you just become blind to it existence and don’t even realize that it is so unjust. Be it a man or a woman, you just learn to accept it and continue living your life.
When I was growing up, I had no brother but I have been extremely lucky to have supportive parents who never thought me to be any less than a boy. However, I still grew up in a society where my decisions were already taken and every single event of my life had to fit into this ‘CLAUSTROPHOBIC BOX’. I could never accept this and have always been extremely rebellious about it.
People who have known me closely will agree that even as a child I would fight when I was told that my life had to be different than a boy only because I was born a girl. Talking about my own rebellious movements, I ended up loving short hair (because I was suppose to have long hair being a girl), wearing shorts (because being a girl I had to dress in a way that my body was covered), having male friends (because they had this power that the society gave them in doing anything and were considered ‘Superior’), studying (because I was not suppose to be more smart than my future husband at the time), reading about history, politics and watching news (because these are things that only males would have insight into and females couldn’t be intelligent enough to understand this) and many such things that were a stereotype set by this Indian society. I never stopped fighting or putting forward my opinion and I will confess that most times in adult life I felt that I was a misfit in the Indian society. But I didn’t let the ‘CLAUSTROPHOBIC BOX’ take me into it. I came out as a ’stubborn’ ‘Indian’ ‘girl’ (I want to emphasize on all the adjectives here) but that never affected me!
Today when the world is changing and everyone wants to be a ‘feminist’ and talks about ‘empowering woman’, I want to say that it takes altogether a different thinking process specially for the Indian men to come around as ‘Feminist’. A woman being ‘feminist’ is not going to change the world as much as a man being ‘feminist’ will do. This is because the man in the Indian society have always lived a privileged life when compared to their female counterparts. Again, I just talk about the Indian society or Indian man because I have lived experience of it. With that being said, I also don’t blame the man in our Indian societies for this inequality because being woman we have also allowed our power to be taken away and we have also tried to fix in this box even thought it is ‘CLAUSTROPHOBIC’. I also don’t mean to say that there are no Indian men out there who are not truly ‘Feminist’. I had a father who raised me to be this and there are millions of us who have a male in their life who truly is a ‘feminist’. So we cannot just stereotype the entire male fraternity for the unjust society. We, as women should also be owning up equal responsibility in creating this unequal and unjust society.
To bring some real change, I firmly believe that it is going to take beyond empowering women. It is equally important to empower our men. We should focus on changing the mindset of our Indian families where the man in the house doesn’t feel the burden of running the show by himself and that will shift the sense of entitlement that he has. It may also take away the entitlement based on which they easily objectify woman!
The ‘feminist’ movements should not be only supported by women. It should be equally supported by men! (Hello to all my Male Friends! Go out there and bring some change). The ‘feminist’ movements should not be to put the growing up boys or young male adults in the same ‘CLAUSTROPHOBIC BOX’ that have sucked the women of our society for years!
Snapshot of what I mean and hope for:
Boys (Desi ones), next time when you sit down with your family,
Do not take any decisions on behalf of your sister or girlfriend!
Do not look down upon your mother who may have given up her career or hobbies to raise a family!
Do not blame your actions on a girl thinking that she is weak and be humble to own up for your mistakes!
Do not depend on a girl to feed your own self! (Walk into that damn kitchen and learn to cook! At the least try to familiarize yourself with what goes on into making your favourite dish!)
Do not crush on an independent girl but then hope for a ‘homemaker’ as a partner! (Curse Bollywood for making romantic movies & song but then end up dancing in your own ‘Sangeet’ to one of the Bollywood songs and not Drake’s God’s Plan!)
All this will truly need some empowerment! So here’s to you all, ‘Empower Man’ as much as empower your female counterparts.
Happy International Woman’s Day! You make the world go round! Continue being a misfit in the stereotypes of the Indian societies!
(Born Feminist, Raised to be a ‘human’)