By Tanya Singh, Age 17
“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
I grew up in India. It was a time when the word feminism had not made its way into my vocabulary. And somehow, I was a feminist even before I knew what it meant. I didn’t yet realize that names carry such immense powers, which can alter the course of many lives. I talked of things that mattered to me as a woman, without realizing that my voice had hundreds of other voices behind it reciting a similar verse, loud and confident. Sometimes, unknowingly, we become voices that sing as we bind ourselves in a tryst with courage and wisdom. Feminism is a trust, a regenerative belief: a strength that doesn’t quite age.
“Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.”
― George Carlin
You are always a feminist as long as you believe in the ideals of equality for all. You are a feminist because you know what the right thing is, and you have found the strength within yourself to stand up it. So, often I sit down to ask myself, “Why did I choose to be feminist?” Sometimes, it feels like asking what it means to be human. When I was a kid, my parents taught me the most important lesson: Only when you learn to stand up for yourself, can you possibly stand up for others. I find this lesson gyrating with my heartbeat every time I hear the word feminism. It gently makes its way into my heart, pouring its words like lullabies that ignite the world in flames, capable of extinguishing all darkness and ignorance. Feminism reaffirms why I should be standing up for myself. And, to be able to stand up for one’s self is one of the most beautiful virtues.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Gender inequality is presently pervasive in society. It is like the shackles that hold us down, almost personifying gravity. I chose to be a feminist because I am not going to take whatever society throws at us. I wonder why women have to fight for the things they rightfully deserve. I chose to be a feminist because I know that all women are worthy and deserving of the rights they are asking for, which are the same rights duly given to men.
“We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
As a girl, I was told that I ‘ought’ to know how to cook, or else my parents would be ostracized for not having taught me anything, even if I was better at something else. As a girl, I hated when the word ‘housewife’ meant something inferior, as if a woman’s right to choose what she wanted for her life meant nothing. As a girl in a typical Indian family, a lot is expected of you. You are expected to do all the household chores, because if you don’t, apparently ‘No one will want to marry you’. Guess what? I don’t care if no one marries me. No man could make me happy the way I can make myself. Marriage isn’t a route to happiness, nor do I consider getting married my priority.
Like any other girl, I hate it when wearing skirts or shorts outside the house means explicitly asking for attention. When did my dress choice become a mean to question my integrity? It always saddened me in class when someone said someone was ‘acting like a girl’ as a way to insult a guy. They acted like being a girl meant being weak, but the most powerful, inspiring people I have ever met have all been girls and women.
“Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.”
Feminism for me is not trying to be strong, it is the realization that I was strong all along. I’m a feminist because I believe that my merit should define my standing, not because of my gender or my sex. I am a feminist, because I am still asked why we need feminism.
“Wherever you find a great man, you will find a great mother or a great wife standing behind him -- or so they used to say. It would be interesting to know how many great women have had great fathers and husbands behind them.”
As a kid, I remember reading a number of mythical stories: epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, stories about Krishna, amongst others. One thing was common to all; when the world was suffering, a savior emerged. I have begun to think of feminism in a similar fashion- wrapped in guts, and justice. So, being a feminist was not just about fighting for my own rights, but for the rights of everyone else- women and men included. Though I don’t think men are denied any rights as such, if they were, they can count on women for taking a stand. To be a feminist means to be as much as a human as a man, and often all the more humane and empathetic. Feminism to me is righteousness wound in compassion, strength, and womanhood.
I chose to be a feminist because I needed a hero to believe in. And so, I became one. It is always nice to have a hero around, but it is the best when you are one yourself.