Editorial Note: Being Feminist is a fortnightly column that features personal narratives documenting the emotions, vulnerabilities and innermost contradictions every feminist encounters while trying to push through various degrees of patriarchy in private, professional and public spaces.
I am from a middle-class nuclear family where I was never restricted to anything just because I am a girl. I was taught to aim higher and grab opportunities that came my way. Both my parents are well educated and can be classified under the ‘modern generation’ of parents. However, the culture they have been brought up in was imbibed in me as well. The idea of marriage has been both consciously and unconsciously instilled in me from an early age. I was taught by my family and community that marriage is an irreplaceable element in my life.
If you would ask me to describe one such instance it would be my attendance at Sunday School. This is not just my case, but of every student who attended the school. Every student needed to attend to gain a completion certificate from the church; one after tenth grade and the other after twelfth. This certification will give the students eligibility to get married inside the church. One without the certification is not eligible for church marriages.
My road to feminism and the process of self-discovery started with my enrolment for graduation. I was for the first time away from home and shared living spaces with individuals from the same age group. This ensured a process of learning and unlearning in me. College years moulded my personality, living alone in a different city I was able to gain control of my thoughts, actions and the responsibilities that came with it. I evolved as a person aware of one’s likes, rights and dislikes and this exactly created a lot of conflict with my parents as I was straying away from their ideologies.
Every single decision I make in my life is strictly co-related to the likes of my prospective alliances. Being an only child comes with a lot of expectations from the family and community. The pressure I feel from relatives and the community is far more than what I feel from my immediate ones. Now nearing 24, I am mostly targeted in every social gathering with questions like ‘have you started seeking alliance‘, ‘you have to put down weight so you will be more desirable for marriage‘ Etc Etc.
Suddenly people who used to be curious about my education earlier now shifted to the commodification of my body as marriage material. The very idea of commenting on one’s body and brutally discarding one’s opinions is seen as quite normal. When voiced against it, it turns out to be because they are ‘concerned’ about me hurting the chances of prospective alliances.
My values do not align with any of these people, however mostly I am burdened with my values and duties of a daughter. I am often told by my parents that their ultimate and most important goal in their life is to celebrate my marriage and from the time I was born, they have been saving up for my ‘big day‘. My values and denial to get married before 30 have shattered their dreams and plans and this is where I am exactly torn from being a feminist and a daughter.
With years of conflicting ideologies, they too are in a process of unlearning however, changing their thoughts and going against the norm is considered shameful, thus I am silenced to voice my opinion beyond my home. I am advised by them to constantly be the girl with ‘adakkam‘ and ‘othukam‘, gracefully receiving others’ comments paired with their ‘concerned‘ advice on my body and marriage.
A huge change in mentality can be observed today, however respecting one’s boundaries and body shaming still exists in the form of ‘love‘ and ‘concern‘. However, years after my first introduction to feminism and women’s agency I have evolved since then and not only me but my parents too are slowly evolving with time.