Do You Still Think You’re Not A Feminist?
I belong to the time when ‘’Feminism’’ was a dirty word. Very few women wanted to get counted in as feminists. It brought images of strident,aggressive women who were considered cranky man -haters.
These women were unapologetic at a time when being apologetic was considered an essential feminine trait.
While most women took it all, fed with notions of selflessness,sacrifice, forbearance and tolerance,a feminist risked everything - the coveted marital status, social distaste and even women who looked down on them as oddities.
They spoke out, rallied other women to speak out and took out the marches and morchas.To go back in time, when a young Roop Kanwar, supposedly willingly, committed Sati, it was the jhola and bindi sisterhood that read out the Constitutional riot act to silent politicians and pushed for viewing it as criminal rather than an act of glory.
When women were set alight as easily as matchsticks for dowry, they relentlessly highlighted the brutality of lack of safeguards for married woman. When female babies were not given a chance to be born, they tenaciously kept up the noise in media till it pierced our peculiar Indian apathy.
When 14 year old Mathura was raped in custody, they lashed back to get the new Anti Rape law. Because Bhanwari Devi stuck to her job despite threats, intimidation and rape and kept trying to lodge a FIR, we have recourse to the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act and safer workplaces.It was these fiercely singular women who ensured that women today can legally inherit property as naturally as their entitled brothers.
These women took the issues close to their hearts, whether it was rising prices, sustainable livelihoods or the environment and brought them to national limelight by turning them into campaigns that were real game changers - think Nav Nirman, SEWA and the Chipko movement.
The real lesson here is that the ‘’feminists’’ were but ordinary women who spoke out and stood up for what they believed in. Not to forget the role models from the more privileged backgrounds who held their own and gave us the window to hunger for more.
To the point where the young today can challenge the unspoken traditions and customs .And breathe out, speak their minds about taboos and embrace everything about their bodies and minds fearlessly.
To share an example, as young adult in the deeply chauvinistic north,we girls regarded sexual harassment as something to be ignored and lived with rather than spoken about or reported. It was just a natural byproduct of stepping out to get educated or work. Speaking up meant sticking your neck out and it took a Rupan Deol Bajaj to reclaim the right to speak out and make Sexual Harassment a four letter word.That brought things full circle for me. I would like to think it is the 'Feminist' in each of us that gives us that spirit to speak up, knock on closed doors and set the ball rolling.
We all have strong role models we believe in .For me it was my grandmother who took charge of running the family’s farm and mom who returned to work after I went to college and an uncommonly talented and assertive mentor in my Doctoral guide.One of my reasons for returning to work was to perpetuate the chain to become a role model for my own daughter - to let her know that the answer to fulfillment is to go for what you want and when you want .
To any woman who stands up today and claims ‘’I am not a Feminist though I believe in women’s rights’’, here is a suggestion - Go back home ,shut the door and stay put .If we can’t respect the ones who fought for themselves ,for you and for me, let’s stay without what they fought for.
Do you still think you are not a Feminist ?