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What it means to be a Feminist in India

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Those who know me, know about my happy childhood and pampered upbringing. My parents made sure that I had everything I wanted. I grew up with a sister and thus there were three women in the house and one man. My Dad often gets asked “accha aapke bete nahi hai?” (Oh you don’t have sons?) I am not even sure why people ask this or what it means or what they are trying to imply. Anyway, my Dad proudly replies “nahi toh isme kya hai” (No, what’s the big deal)

I have grown up watching my parents divide the household chores and responsibilities equally between them. My Dad would cook an entire meal if my Mom was away or unwell. There was never the ‘you can’t do this because you are a girl’ discussion in my house. My first encounter with sexism was when I was 13 or 14. My male cousin was at our place and so was our grandma. My sister, cousin and I were folding the clothes which we had put out to dry. We were talking and gossiping while doing the chore. When my grandma came to the room she asked my cousin to stop doing it and come sit with her. At first I thought maybe she just wants to spend some time with him but then I heard her saying “why are you doing work, those two are girls, they will get it done” I remember getting really angry but I didn’t say anything. You can tell how much it affected me if I remember the incident even after 12 years.

Over the years, I have heard, seen, observed many more incidents of sexism. But let’s fast forward to 2016 and what it means to be a feminist, which I proudly am in India.

As a 25 year old, urban born and educated Indian, I voice my opinions fiercely and confidently but the number of times I have been mocked at for talking about feminism by my peers is appalling. And what scares me most is some girls’ attitude towards the issue and their comments like “yaar if you start talking about this topic, you go on and on” That’s because we are being discriminated against!

I’m gonna put down some of the things I’ve been told while discussing feminism and some things which I’ve overheard

“Dude I’m all for girls getting equal opportunities but I’m not a feminist” – What does that even mean? Get your definition right! The issue is that some men think feminists are feminazis. That we want more than equal opportunities.

“If it’s about equality, why is it called Feminism and not Equalism” – This is exactly what Tanmay Bhat spoke about in his Snapchat stories (yes, he talks about serious issues too, save the judgement) We need to uplift the oppressed. The US had a movement called Black Lives Matter because the African Americans were oppressed for years. Women have been oppressed in India for 5000 years and now we want to rise above it. We don’t want to bring men down, no sir, we want equality. Since we are the oppressed here, it is being called Feminism.

“I will marry a girl who is also an MBA, works at a top company like me, is my intellectual equal but yaar she has to cook for me everyday like my mom did for my dad.” – Good luck finding her bro! Wonder Woman mile toh bata dena!

“I will help by cutting the vegetables” – Wow. Matlab wow.

A man to his five year old son – “Why are you crying? Are you a girl?” – yes, by all means tell the next generation that girls are weak and whiny; that boys are super strong and it’s a shame if they express themselves by crying.

Even if some boys my age and with the same educational background as me understand the importance of girls feeling self confident and being independent, their parents or grandparents (just like my grandma) will practice sexism and the boys will have nothing or little to defend their wives/ sisters/ friends. Girls asking for independence are termed as rebellious.

Being a feminist in India is a constant battle between being the perfect daughter/ daughter-in-law/ wife/ mother in the eyes of others and a self sufficient, independent, confident woman for herself. A struggle men will never understand. The least they can do is not mock the movement.

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