Editor’s Note: FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth for January, 2022 is Our Evolving Relationship With Feminism. We invite submissions on the many changing aspects of the feminist discourse, throughout the month. If you’d like to contribute, kindly email your articles to email@example.com
I am not part of feminist circles or mass struggles and movements. Yet to me, I am a feminist in my own little corner, trying to bring down patriarchy brick by brick and build a path of equality and justice. My journey of feminism began way before I heard about the term. As a child growing in a big joint family, I remember often picking up arguments with adults on why women have different rules than men.
‘Women should not sit with legs wide open’ or ‘men should not touch brooms’, drove me up the wall. I would insist on doing everything the boys in my family did, including wearing shorts & t-shirts, and playing cricket (even though I was terrible at it). May be because I was the girl of the house and not married into it, or because I was too young, I didn’t face much backlash.
I was angry at men for their discriminatory practices and also against women for putting up with it. But for most of them, that was how life was meant to be and they did not see why it was a problem. Going to college, I joined a course for many reasons – one being that they said it would be too difficult for girls because it involved some big machinery. Out in the world I also succumbed to the pressures of patriarchy in many ways including relationship choices and dressing choices. But I continued to be aware and vocal in my circles about our rights as women.
Finishing graduation and progressing into adulthood, I had more clarity about what I wanted to do with my life. That led me to totally change my career course and join post graduation in social work. It was then that I learned a bit about terms and approaches associated with feminism. It was so empowering to see that my analysis, anger, understanding and journey was not in a vacuum, that many before me had pondered them and paved guidance for me.
Over the two decades following that, I have not worked in big feminist movements or with feminist stalwarts. I have made choices which have kept me in relatively conservative spaces. While moving into a heterosexual marriage, parenting boys or working in conservative religious spaces, I have strived to make personal and professional choices that honor my deep rooted belief in equality.
I have not always succeeded. I have chosen easy life options sometimes, and other times, I have fought such choices. There have also been times when I have felt I am hitting my head against a wall, when it comes to taking down patriarchy.
I have also realised that my experience as a savarna, middle class, English educated, urban cis woman is one of much privilege. Intersectional feminism has challenged me to take a closer look at my own privileges and ascribed status that I often take for granted. I am trying to find what space I inhibit in between all this privilege and patriarchy.
I have also recognised that the freedom to be human and not to be boxed up in how we experience or express ourselves is liberating. So is the case with the awareness that we do not have any right to withhold others or judge them in their freedom to be themselves in whatever way they choose to be. The more we let ourselves and others (especially children) to be unboxed humans, the less there is to fight.
The challenge for me, in this fourth decade of my life is – how to relate with others who hold views different from mine without being judgmental, how to engage with the other. My anger and judgmental attitude often leave me bitter and broken. Yet I am convinced that there are other ways for me.
If I/we cannot find a way to do that, then what hope is there against the fundamentalist approaches that are gaining ground, which say my way or the highway? My anger and judgmental responses beat my listening, and my open approach to people most of the time. This is where I look forward to grow in the journey ahead.
I think we need to find ways to resist injustice and build peace that do not use weapons borrowed from oppressive systems. The means is as important as the end. Justice and peace cannot exist without each other. We need to find ways of dialogue and assertion that do not undermine the experiences of anyone who has been marginalised. Here is hoping I and we can grow in such ways – in solidarity, in community, giving each other space to grow at our own pace.
I am increasingly aware that there are countless unseen feminists out there, fighting their own battles, making this world a better place. More power to each of you, thank you for your tireless efforts. Hope you have others to journey with, laugh with, cry with, dance and sing with. Here is celebrating you and your journey!
Chitra is a justice worker, passionate about justice, peace and sustainable living.
Featured Image Source: The Lily