It’s been a week here at TISS and it feels like I’ve been here for almost a month now. This is not a consequence of the fact that we have too many classes but that they’re too erratic. A day of three lectures is followed by a day of just one. Such seems to be the pattern only initially, as we’re soon to have what they’ve carefully named “Foundation Courses”. So, I’m thinking twice before sighing in relief or agony.
After a three-day orientation programme that began on Friday and ended on Sunday, thus effectively ruining our weekend, regular classes commenced on Monday, wherein we were formally introduced to our learned faculty, while we also interacted with our seniors. Subjects like “Women’s Movement(s) in India” “Feminist Science Studies” and “Women: History and Society—Theories and Perspectives” may sound heavy, but that’s just an understatement. From what I’ve understood of each course and the approach of my faculty, we are all set to question stereotypes, explore their very existence, attempt to break out of hierarchical structures and celebrate differences of opinion at a very fundamental level. One of our early lectures was to make us understand the definition of feminism, or rather the F-word. That it is beyond a fixed definition. That it is not rigid. That it is fluid and growing in every sense of the word. And that it respects and acknowledges multiple perspectives arising out of diverse opinions on class, caste, gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality. At one level, all this sounds overwhelming, while on the other, I’m glad to look at so many streams, some of whose existence I was ignorant to.
Every lecture makes me question some of my own set of beliefs, while simultaneously strengthening a few others. Perhaps, that is what makes me enjoy the course and the kind of discussions and debates we have in the class. No one is essentially right or wrong. In fact, even essentialism is questioned and conventional norms explored. Every class is like a learning experience. A sharp reminder of the vastness of knowledge. An opportunity to learn and unlearn several concepts that had been otherwise taken for granted.
As mentioned in my “About Me” (Moi) section, I’m neither a man-hater nor a lesbian (as most feminists are conclusively associated with). Not yet.
I love the presence of men in our society (at least, most of them) in addition to being curious about lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals and other sexual minorities. One of our first few lectures was about identifying oneself as a feminist and the necessity (if any) of doing so in the first place. As one of my teachers has taught me: “Being apolitical is also a political statement.”