Getting straight to the point, I feel like Feminism is a pretty relative term. What I consider to be feminism may not be your idea of it. What I think of as insignificant act might be the most courageous thing you have ever done. And thus, that would make it your single greatest contribution to this ‘Good fight’ of Feminism.
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I recently had a chat with a friend about patriarchy. She mentioned how women, since generations have passed on this herculean task of getting done with patriarchy for good, to the next generation without ever batting an eyelash. We questioned how could women, for generations, suffer through the injustice doled out to them, socially, by their own families and still recreate the same injustice with their daughters. I agreed with this point to a certain extent before a simple realisation hit me about how our situations and environments we grow up in, can have a lasting effect on how we think and act. Patriarchy did not come into existence in one generation. Thus, consequentially, cannot and will not be rolled back within a generation either. It’s a constant battle that we, as feminists, will have to fight.
My grandmother grew up with the values that were taught to her by her mother, who grew up with principles from her mother and so goes the lineage that could be traced back to the sprouting of a male dominated society. My grandmother has raised me with ideas of how girls are expected to behave and how I need to adhere to these in order to live in the society we live in. These values, today, I would reject in a heartbeat because they just don’t fit in with my world view and the kind of person I am and am trying to be. This might make her seem like an anti-feminist but on the other end of the same spectrum, I have also heard of stories about how intimidating she could be to a lot of people around her and how she always had her way and won arguments like a Boss! She fought with her parents to complete her school education at a time when educating girls was just an option to be discarded (It still is, in many parts of our country!).She raised my mother and my two uncles to be the people that they are. She encouraged them to study and make a life for themselves. She would tell my mother to study and make a living so she never has to financially depend on another man, ever! She also raised a grandchild who turned out to be a pretty staunch feminist! (ME!)
Doesn’t that make her a feminist in her own way?
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The other day, I had a conversation with my father about how I would never be comfortable moving to another person’s house [IF] and when I do get married. I put out some detailed logical points and explained how I can’t even imagine doing that. He answered with a simple “That’s a FACT of life” [NO IT IS SO NOT!!!]
This might portray my old man as being an anti-feminist. Yes, Compared to my views and beliefs, what he said and thinks might be anti-feminist (Maybe. Who am I to make that distinction?) But compare that to scores of girls and women out there who can’t have their voices heard in their own homes, who don’t have the freedom to work and make a living or choose their life partner, women whose right to education have been discreetly snatched away from them, whose opinions are drowned in a pool of patriarchal male chauvinism; compared to all that, I would say my father is a pretty stand-up guy! His insistence on my education, him coming to me for advice from the smallest to the biggest decision, him feeling proud of my well-thought out arguments (which he sometimes loses to)!
Aren’t these acts of Feminism?
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My mother is not a very outspoken person. She has her view on things, which she prefers to keep to herself, but is also very understanding of my opinions, especially when mine are the complete opposite of what she believes. She’s the kind of person who will listen to me put out reason after reason where I try to rationally make her understand the Bullshit-ness of the period taboo, then agree to my logic and still end the conversation by saying, ”I get what you’re saying, but, for now, you do you! And I’ll continue doing what I am comfortable with”. For a person who was raised by an ultra-conservative woman, to have the will to let go and be open to a plethora of new ideas.
Isn’t that a kind of feminism?
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These three people, who have had an immense influence on my life, seem very conservative from afar. That was my opinion too for the longest time. Although, what I have recently realised is that these same three individuals have collectively raised a girl who time and again tries to form her own opinions, struggles with things only to come out stronger, questions things and is unafraid of speaking her mind when she thinks it is required. Without even realising it, they created an atmosphere where I felt safe and comfortable enough to raise questions and fight for my answers. The provided me with the privilege to contest their strong value system. They listened to me intently when I put across rationalized arguments at the table and they encouraged me to go ahead even when it went against what they believed in. They let me travel alone when surrounded by people warning them against it only because they wanted me to be as independent as I have ever dreamt of being. Most importantly, they saw me struggle to find and create my own values and opinions and gave me the freedom to do it anyway. In short, they inadvertently raised this Feminist.
Now would that not be considered as their contribution to this ‘Good Fight’ that I have to fight? Isn’t that a fabulous act of feminism?
I certainly think so!