Let me confess… this post has been on my mind for past many months. But what in the world could I say that hadn’t already been said about the atrocious thoughts that women in India are subjected to? I say thoughts because most of the times the insult is a mental one, blatantly visible if you happen to notice the eyes. Now that I am in a new city, the difference in the two behaviours towards women is too conspicuous to be brushed away as a slight annoying itch at the back of the mind. So, finally I am putting to words the emotions I have been harbouring for so long.
I have been accused of being a feminist many times in my not-so-long life. I used to take it as a compliment but the intent was mostly always contempt. Hell, I wasn’t even aware of the meaning of the term until one day I googled it. Google defines a feminist as someone who “supports feminism”. “Feminism” in turn yields “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. What is so wrong about that? Why has the word acquired such a negative connotation over a period of time? Why is it that if you say a girl can drive as well as a man, perhaps better, you get labelled a hard core feminist? If you perform better than a boy at some exam, you are called a ‘ghissu’ or a ‘nerd’ but never ‘smarter’ than the guy? If a guy cooks well, he is an artist, but if a girl does that, well… that is her duty, ain’t it! If a girl is a better athlete than a boy, then she is a masculine specimen, not really feminine you know.
Feminine! Now that’s a word to reckon with! I went through the works again to understand what feminine really means… Google defines ‘feminine’ as “having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness”. So try and imagine a ‘puraane time ki heroine’, and you will know exactly what feminine means. The petite frame, the shy, come-hitherto lifting of the eyes, the coy smile, the trembling-like-a-leaf on being addressed in a harsh tone… that and more constitutes a true feminine figure. Well, that is what people and old books and old movies tell us anyway. SHE is the perfect woman – docile, sweet-tempered, quiet, respectful, un-opinionated, does what she is told and most importantly, knows her place! So while it is okay for a guy to be loud and disrespectful, it is considered downright unacceptable coming for a girl (“her parents haven’t taught her anything”, “haath se nikal gayi hai”, “who would marry her” – really?!).
Considering all that, I am incredibly glad that people have called me a feminist time and again. I would rather be thought of as a tough, un-womanly person than a sweet girl who doesn’t have two thoughts to her credit. Initially, I was too timid to do anything about the inappropriate behaviour that I faced. I stayed quiet while I was groped indecently repeatedly… I turned a blind eye to the cat-calls that came my way… I ignored when those cat calls turned from ‘hey fatty’ to wolf whistles as my size reduced… I pretended not to notice when men’s eyes never met mine and stayed down (and no, that was not out of respect or deference)… I cringed when women were condensed to a set of figures to dissect and fantasize about… But now, I would rather be a feminist if it gives me the liberty to defend myself, my body, my dignity. I would rather look the person in the eye and tell him to fuck off than look away pointedly. I would rather that people thought of me as a crude and unladylike person than hide behind glazed, averted eyes.
The people of my land are not going to forgive me for being a woman, but that is an apology I am no longer willing to make. I am a feminist to the core and am proud of it.. Perhaps there will come a time in the near future when there will no longer be a need to append a v/s between ‘feminist’ and ‘feminine’!