I have been struggling to ooze out words. Words that best describe some dominant as well as dormant thoughts that have settled on my mind over the past couple of months. Thoughts that link my personal, political and professional experiences. As a feminist, I have always found it difficult to separate my personal from my political, which I believe, gives me the greatest satisfaction: the ability to link what seems personal to the larger politics of life and society. And to link what seems a political issue with deepest and most intense personal experiences.
My feminism and the way it has grown in me (and it continues to spread its wings) has impacted the way I look at life and its (in)sanity. But the brunt I have borne and continue to bear on account of the fact that I am a feminist (and have no qualms about it) is incomparable to any of my other political or non political identities. People have unfriended and blocked me on social media (I have reciprocated in similar way on some occasions), some have created my image to be that of the “rebel without a cause”, some have questioned this particular ism and its irrelevance in, what they see as, a post-feminist world, some more have avoided eye contact and being in touch with me out of fear of yet another “rant” by me on women and their rights. On the other side of the spectrum are those who have engaged in constructive criticism, made me rethink my feminist politics, challenged my assumptions about rights and privileges that individuals are entitled to (regardless of their gender), some have friended and followed me owing to my political leanings and inclinations, while few have simply nodded along and built solidarity on common grounds.
My own desire to study and specialize in subjects had some link or the other to feminism and feminist politics. It’s hard to put a pin point on when exactly did my body and soul opened up to the liberating idea of feminism. But from whatever I do recall, I think it began with my first period. An unforgettable event in my life that confirmed my worst fear: that men and women, indeed, are different. That this monthly bleeding is something that only bodies with vaginas get to experience. Why so? How so? Is that really so? These are some of the questions I mulled over later which helped articulate my experiences better. The desire to question status quo. The curiosity of never stopping to wonder why. The itch to unpack the equality presented and the inequalities hidden. The eye to recognize the marginalized. The knack of identifying what privileges exist and what rights we still need to fight for to rightfully claim as ours.
I continue to engage in feminist activism. Though my work. Through my observations. Through my writings. Through my readings. Through my very existence. But I often pause and reflect on how exhausting it sometimes gets to defend my feminist politics to an ignorant and skeptical audience. An unaware audience wanting to know more is different from an ignorant audience wanting to belittle every little ounce of your efforts. I have fatigued myself trying to explain to folks what feminism is not. Debunking the myths. Eliminating the stereotypes. Making a sincere effort to clean its unnecessarily tarred image in popular media, belief and opinion.
Things are certainly changing on all fronts and one mustn’t give up hope. For all the right and/or wrong reasons, being a feminist and being a supporter of “women’s empowerment” has become ‘cool’. While it saddens me to see the overuse and misuse of such critical words without first making an attempt to understand and place them in their contextual realities, it does give me hope to see that people find it easier to adopt and accept the F-word. I do simultaneously hope that they also read a little and make an attempt to dig deeper into the history of the feminist movement that varies across the globe.
My feminism and its continued understanding has been the cushion to rest on particularly difficult and tiring days. When I lose hope or feel demotivated, I seek comfort in its arms. I write. About myself. My experiences. My friends and family and the kind of discrimination we all practice knowingly and unknowingly in our everyday lives. I read. About feminist struggles and battles that were fought and continue to exist to weed out the oldest forms of oppression our society has ever known: patriarchy. I observe. Things, people, objects and individuals that remind me to never let go of my consciousness. As a woman. As a citizen. And as an individual worthy of equal rights, dignity and respect.