From active participation as the Indian suffragettes in the Women’s Coronation Procession in 1911 (pic) to many a movement today, women have had to fight for their rightful place in the world.
I’ve always thought of myself a feminist. I’ve known no other way. Even if the word ‘feminism’ entered my lexicon late in life, I’ve believed in it since the time I’ve recognised that women have to fight for their rightful place in the world.
In a country like India, you’ve got to be bold and fearless to start conversations on feminism, because of the intensely patriarchal society we’ve been raised in. How many of us have been told, repeatedly, to not raise our voices, to sit daintily, be coy, to not roll our eyes, or not talk back?! Being able to express your opinion is a privilege of a few. As is being able to say no.
Over the course of my career, as I spent time speaking to thousands of women, it was evident that a majority of Indian women are forced to garb their real self, and patriarchy came packaged in everyday things. As a result, most women didn’t have a voice.
In recent years, feminist movements have attracted significant attention across the world, and yet, so many women still say they don’t identify with the term! It’s 2020, and we’re still ‘wondering’.
Here’s my bit to help.
Feminism isn’t about reserving seats in a metro or making rides free on a bus. It’s about creating a public discourse on rights, sexism, behaviour, discrimination, class, culture, genders. We all need to talk. Not behind closed doors, but out in the open. And loudly. And clearly. And together. Men and women. This is what led me to found SheThePeople, which has championed the dialogue on everyday feminism.
Feminism isn’t about bashing men, but about lifting women. Being a feminist is important to me because I need to speak up against anyone who reduces my worth as a woman. I’m a feminist because, among other things, I believe in equality of men, women and other genders—I want to raise my son to be a better man, and my daughter a better fighter of patriarchy. Feminism advocates equal rights for both men and women. Many women don’t get promotions, or sometimes even jobs, because of marriage and maternity. As a woman, I must have control over my body, my reproductive rights, and safety.
I can raise my voice or choose to be silent and both will be an act of feminism. Each of us has our own brand of feminism. It’s an unseen belief and force that empowers us. It urges you to believe that there’s no one definition of feminism...it comes draped in ambition, vulnerability, power, fundamental rights, motherhood, singlehood, wealth, opportunity (or the lack of it), and depravity. It’s ultimately about creating access to opportunity and having agency.
So, if you simply remind yourself that ‘feminism is really about having the right to be who you want to be’, we’d end further debate on whether or not we are feminists, and get down to championing each other and lifting each other intellectually, physically, culturally, financially, and emotionally. Women in India are a community still waiting to be mainstreamed, and I think feminism is what promises to change that.”