2017 was a year of change for me. A year when I moved out of my comfort zone, travelled across seas, leaving my friends and family behind, to join my husband in his ambitions and explore new horizons for myself. It was a year that made me question what I wanted out of life, inspired me to take up writing more seriously, and emboldened me to share my thoughts across a wider platform.
2017 was also a year of challenge on a more personal front. When I say personal, those of you who know me well would understand how personally I take the issues that I believe in. I have always been a staunch feminist, being someone who has always questioned the reasoning behind the myriad patriarchal customs we so stubbornly continue to follow. The more I spoke, the more I was challenged. Needless to say, I have had my fair share of debates and arguments, which, while discouraging me several times, also brought out the rebel in me. Professionally, working in a team that is predominantly male, gives you a glimpse and understanding of how deep rooted the patriarchal thought process can be. Friends and family too, while supportive, many a time tire of your constant ask for change, making you question if you should have adopted a more chalta hai attitude for a few things.
I am still not an established blogger and I shudder to imagine the way my more successful feminist blogger counterparts would be getting trolled. But the biggest struggle is always that of changing minds in your immediate vicinity, because those are the trolls that hurt the most. I have often been told I take life too seriously, that I take the feminist culture a ‘bit too far’. After all, what is the big deal if someone thinks I should love pink since I am a girl? So what if someone expects me to fast for my husband’s welfare while he feasts, why must I react, I can just nod and do my will later. So what if someone jokes on how girls gossip or are physically weak? I must learn to see humour for what it is. Tags such as Nari-Shakti, Nari-Mukti-Morcha are just a joke, after all women seem to be raising their voices for every other thing and the men are now just bored. These things got me thinking, am I mistaken? Am I truly fighting for trivial issues, the nothings that only seem to matter to me and no one else? Am I moving the focus away from the significant in my quest for changing the inconsequentials?
While pondering so, I got reminded of an incident from a couple of years ago that has stayed with me ever since. My sister and I took my nephew along to a fast food joint we were heading to in Bangalore. He was just under a year old and I remember we were fussing over him. Tthe guy at the counter very kindly offered him a treat – a balloon or a chocolate, I can’t remember which. My nephew looked back coyly, eager, but too shy to accept the gift. This prompted the guy to say “C’mon, don’t be shy like a girl!”. A simple human emotion, considered too ‘weak’ for a ‘real’ man, deemed the sole propriety of silly girls. How often have we heard statements like these? Little boys being told not to cry like girls, not to giggle like girls, to ‘Man Up’ or the ‘Be a Man’. Trivial, yes. But have we thought of the impact these statements have on the minds of our children? Right from their birth, we make our boys understand that traits possessed by girls are of weaklings, and that to be ‘worthy men’, they must shun them. And yet, we expect them to respect these weaklings as they grow. I realised, for all the fun I could have had not worrying about these nothings, I would rather leave this world a more equal place for the next generations.
Today I ignore statements like ‘Pink is for girls’, tomorrow I embolden someone to mock my nephew for loving pink. Today I accept the so-called ‘humour’ around me with a pinch of salt, tomorrow my own son would grow up making jokes at the expense of his sister or female friends. Today I come back home after 11 hours to head straight to the kitchen to cook my husband a meal, tomorrow my own daughter keeps her own aspirations aside to do what she has always seen her mother do, be the ‘perfect woman’. And then what? Where does this stop? Where does this patriarchal mindset change? If every woman decides to ‘just go with it’, when will this change? For every word that I write today, for every freedom I enjoy today, I have the backing and hard work of hundreds of generations of women who have fought for me. And today when it is my turn to contribute, I let go because certain minds cannot understand my passion? No can do.
So I shall be offended. I shall be offended every time you say ‘Be a Man’ instead of ‘Be Strong’. I shall be offended every time you say ‘Do you have Balls’ when you mean ‘Do you have guts’, I shall be offended when you say a sport is ‘too girly’, I shall be offended when you say a ‘kitchen is a girl’s domain’, I shall be offended when you say my identity stems from my husband’s, I shall get offended when you make statements against Feminism without an iota of understanding of its ideology and I shall get offended when you ask me to remain silent. I shall get offended, and I shall speak, like it or not. Because when I speak, I make a change for a little girl or a little boy in the next generation or the next, who would like to decide for themselves what they must play with – a car, a robot, a kitchen set or a Barbie, without their gender defining who they are. I shall speak till we let go of the thought that patriarchy has so successfully embedded into our minds, that a stable society demands for genders to be playing their assigned roles.
So here’s to a new year of renewed vigour and of relentless pursuit to change mindsets. Here’s to a 2018 where we march ahead to a more equal society that embraces all the gender and sexual identities for who we really are! Here’s to being a rebel like never before!