Why are you a feminist?

“You were pretty cool the last time we met. What happened to you now? Why are you wearing your feminism on your sleeve, like a label. Has the West caught up with you?”

I am a feminist. I was always one. I am a woman, how can I not be a feminist? I was born to a sigh of disappointment, that my genitals were not aligned with the wishful expectations. I was a feminist all those moments when I was told to leave a room, or to just go away because I could not handle seeing a dead uncle, or talking to doctors and lawyers about important things. I was a feminist when I was yelled at in public by my brother and no one told him it was wrong to do so. I was a feminist when I had to absorb, to tolerate, to let go, to not take things to heart, to be pious, to be religious, to have a heart the size of a whale that just engulfs enormous masses of pain, anger and injustice. I was a feminist when I saw over and over again how girls around me were diminished for the love of a boy. I was a feminist when a man could divorce easily but a woman could not. I was a feminist when I saw my brother-in-law eat mounds of meat and sleep all day where my sister worked as a ‘house wife’; I was a feminist when he did nothing for his family but my sister was continuously expected to remain within the sham of a marriage because ‘a woman must always have a man in her life’ and ‘so what if he is good for nothing? At least he doesn’t go to prostitutes.’ Well guess what, she doesn’t either.

I was a feminist when my best friend told me that he wished his wife was pregnant with a boy because raising a girl is a lot of hardwork. I was a feminist when I met women who were slut-shamed because they chose not to wear a headscarf. I was a feminist when I met women after women hiding their scars under their make-up: gas lighting, physical abuse, relegated to invisibility in relationships, at work. I was a feminist when I was treated as an inferior because my cleavage would not show, because I am more comfortable being covered.

I was a feminist when I saw how a serial sexual abuser was covered up by family. I was a feminist when I saw all the shame became the burden of the girl. I was a feminist when all the religious examples of great women were those who birthed, absorbed, tolerated, died from within but did not say a word. I was a feminist when I realised that my value was in my silence. I became a feminist when in my 30s, I started undoing cultural baggage that convinced me I was a lesser human being, that I deserve to be lesser because that is in my gender role.

I became a feminist when my niece was born because my hand trembled at the thought of handing her this baggage. I am a feminist because I am now trying to live unashamed of who I am. I became a feminist so that others won’t take so long to realise their feminism.

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