Gaining Confidence In My Feminist Id

Editorial ObserveBeing Feminist is a fortnightly column that options private narratives documenting the feelings, vulnerabilities and innermost contradictions each feminist encounters whereas attempting to push by varied levels of patriarchy in non-public, skilled and public areas.

On the age of 13, I used to be launched to the time period ‘feminism‘ by my first cousin who had just lately graduated. One thing concerning the confidence with which she usually mentioned, “I’m a feminist“, made me surprise what the time period really meant. Why was she so happy with referring to herself as a feminist and why was it solely her and never I who may very well be one? Taking a look at her, I made a decision that I too wished to do no matter it took to be ready the place I might declare proudly that I recognized as a feminist. 

Transferring ahead, I started observing my cousin extra intently which wasn’t precisely tough contemplating she had shifted to my metropolis to pursue her grasp’s diploma. Feminism, in her phrases, was travelling within the basic compartment as a substitute of the one reserved for girls within the Delhi metro, not taking entrance examinations the place the registration price for feminine college students was lower than that of the male ones and never partaking a lot with Delhi—properly, largely North-Indian—ladies as they have been too “loud“.

Whereas all of those did depart me feeling deeply unsettled, one thing good that got here out of emulating her was that I used to be quickly in a position to level out how misogynistic Yo Yo Honey Singh’s tune lyrics have been and the way problematic Kapil Sharma’s comedy tropes have been, as properly. Thus, as an eighth grader, I might inform myself that I used to be “not like other girls” simply because I not consumed the identical media content material as those who surrounded me. 

To impress my cousin additional, I began studying extra books—largely Agatha Christie’s crime novels. I additionally made it some extent to sound smarter in kitchen desk conversations by changing into extra politically conscious. Nevertheless, inside a number of months of fixing my complete persona for her, I realised that she would by no means see me as her equal; I might, on the finish of the day, be nothing however a “loud” Punjabi woman to her. That was once I started hating the idea of being a feminist altogether as a result of it appeared to me that I wanted to belittle and patronise different ladies with a view to cross as one. 

Over time that adopted, there have been quite a few discussions within the Indian media concerning the girls’s liberation motion. Whereas Vogue India was being criticised for its video which, based on many, equated gender equality to misandry and Bollywood movies with robust feminine leads have been additionally lastly being created.

Additionally Learn: ‘Does Being A Feminist Mean I Cannot Enjoy Jokes?’: Responding To Sexist Humour While Being Feminist

Round that point, I started realising that I had been fed a lie about feminism—it had nothing to do with me having to think about myself as somebody who was superior or totally different from different ladies. It was additionally not an aggressive ideology as many individuals round me had made it out to be. As Emma Watson acknowledged in her speech for the HeForShe marketing campaign, “it’s not the phrase that’s necessary, it’s the concept and ambition behind it”. I, thus, understood that I didn’t want to make use of the label of a feminist to say myself at school; I might try this by remaining clear about my private values, as a substitute. 

By the point I used to be in highschool, I had a transparent concept about what being a feminist was not essentially imagined to entail. Nevertheless, I nonetheless felt extraordinarily hesitant and unconfident when it got here to brazenly calling myself one. Fortunately, I used to be in an all-girls boarding college at the moment and was far-off from the individuals and concepts that would cease me from unlearning all of the misconceptions I had about feminism. One of many key moments once I lastly started gaining extra confidence was once I obtained chosen for a national-level debate after sharing my ideologies with a number of English academics at my college.

My ideas have been fairly easy and stemmed from private examples of incidents the place I had witnessed my mom’s college and faculty pals saying harsh issues to her solely as a result of she had modified her final title after marriage or as a result of she would select to quick for my father on Karva Chauth yearly. My opinion on these points was that such decisions didn’t make her any much less of a feminist. It was, thus, unfair for individuals to dismiss all her struggles and achievements by limiting her to those identification markers. 

As a faculty woman, nonetheless, the concepts I had about feminism have been very a lot restricted to the books I might flip to—primarily written by Indian girls authors reminiscent of Sudha Murthy, Jhumpa Lahiri and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni—and the conversations I might have with individuals each time I’d symbolize my college for debates. Most of these talks would begin as idle chatters however would ultimately flip into heavy discussions.

It was throughout one such tête-à-tête that I got here out as queer for the primary time after denying that a part of my identification all through my teenage years. Issues, after that, most definitely modified for me fully. 

All through my time in boarding college, I discovered myself complaining concerning the methods through which we ladies have been handled otherwise from the scholars of an all-boys college ten minutes away from ours. Whereas they have been allowed to have laptops and Instagram accounts because of that, we have been solely given an hour each week to electronic mail our households and pals. Regardless that college was good for me in loads of methods, I quickly realised that it wasn’t conducive sufficient for somebody like me who recognized as queer. Someway, that triggered me to silence myself as a result of I feared being outed publicly—after being outed in smaller teams a number of occasions—and fearful about how that will impression my remaining experiences at school. Maybe, that’s what made me suppress my queer identification even once I joined the college. 

Coming from an area that hadn’t allowed me to embrace my sexuality, it was definitely not simple for me to be open about it as an undergraduate pupil. Nevertheless, one thing that labored for me was that I lastly knew I recognized as a feminist. After all, there have been numerous issues that I wanted to unlearn and relearn—nonetheless do—however, nonetheless, I might be part of the feminist collective of my college even when it was throughout the pandemic. 

When many people have been busy determining who we have been throughout the first covid lockdown in 2020, Divyangna Trivedi launched her video in opposition to feminism. That made me recognise the very fact that there have been nonetheless a number of individuals—surprisingly, grown-ups—who continued to have the identical misconceptions concerning the ideology that I’d had as a thirteen-year-old. Quickly after, one other subject got here to mild when JK Rowling printed a transphobic essay on her web site that led me to know one other factor about feminism—trans girls wanted and deserved it way more than I did.

Additionally Learn: Navigating By The ‘Marriageable Age’ As An Solely Youngster Whereas Being A Feminist

Throughout my time at college, I discovered feminism within the smallest of acts that those round me dedicated. I noticed a feminist in a senior who guided me by a sexual harassment continuing with out having met me even as soon as. I recognized one in one other one that, regardless of having been at loggerheads with me, supported me once I felt threatened. Feminism, to me, all of the sudden began which means assist and solidarity which clearly contradicted what my cousin had made me imagine or what Divyangna Trivedi had felt the necessity to criticise. 

I don’t precisely bear in mind how and when my voice—a minimum of when it comes to my writing—turned stronger, however what I do know is that I ultimately stopped watering down my opinions simply because individuals thought of them to be “aggressive” or “too robust”. Precisely a yr again, one among my opinion items on a Bollywood movie went viral and that made me realise how even feminist views might change into mainstream, very similar to the misogynistic ones that we’re all properly conscious of. 

At present, as somebody who’s in grad college, I’m cognisant of 1 factor—feminism exists in all spheres of our life and is an on a regular basis factor. Being concerned in activism and having information of feminist concept may be features of 1’s feminist identification, however they’re positively not replacements for respectable behaviour.