F for Feminism

Feminism (noun)- The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

I heard Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie give a TED talk titled “We Should All Be Feminists”.
I read a book called ‘ Second Sex’ by Simone de Beauvoir.
Maya Angelou shaped my imagination, perspective and being through her poetry.

I am who I am, because of them.
I do what I do, because of them.
I dedicate this piece and my heart to them.
.
.
.

What will I tell my son if he asks me,
Mom, what is feminism?

I might wince, or shrug my shoulders or drink some courage,
Before making him sit on my lap and telling him,
That “Feminism by definition, means political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.”

I might look into his big brown eyes as more questions glow into them like stars on a moonless night.
Then, I might try to narrate to him some pieces from my anecdotes.
I don’t know whether I’ll be ready for this conversation.
How should a mother prepare one’s child for this harsh world?
I might take a deep breath and ask him to do the same.

Let me tell you a conversation between your uncle and your grandmother when he was 16.

“How many birthday parties do you attend?”
“All of them.”
“How many parties does your sister attend?”
“Some of them.”
“Have you thought why?”
“No.”
“Because we’re worried about her.”
“Aren’t you worried about me?”
“We are, but it’s different.”
“What is?”
“The world’s not very safe.”
“Then why am I allowed to go out?”
“Because you’re a man and you can take care of yourself.”

Here’s another conversation between your uncle and your grandfather when he was 18.

“What’s wrong, son?”
“I’m being bullied by some of my classmates.”
“That is wrong. What did you do about it?”
“I told our teacher but they hit me for it.”
“Did you hit back?”
“No, I was scared.”
“What a chicken-hearted son you are! When I was your age, I would be the leader in our class, no one dared to say anything to me.”
“I am not like you. I just don’t want to get involved.”
“Grow some thick skin. Be a man. Your sister is stronger than you, you should be ashamed.”
“I’ll ask her to do something about it.”
“What is wrong with you? Will you hide behind your sister’s or mother’s veil your entire life? Handle your own problems.”
“Why?”
“Because you’re a man.”

And here’s another one between your uncle and his friends when he was 23.

“Did you look what she was wearing yesterday at the party?”
“She already is so beautiful, she doesn’t need to try so hard.”
“But she did try, for you.”
“What are you talking about, for me?”
“Have you seen the way she looks at you, talks to you, she definitely has a thing for you!”
“But when I approached her last time, she declined politely.”
“That’s what girls do, they want you to woo them.”
“Are you sure? Because she clearly told me that I was just a friend.”
“She’s inviting you, don’t worry. Girls mean yes even when they say no.”
“What should I do?”
“Show her that you’re a real man.”

And here’s a final one between me and your grandfather when I was 26.

“When are you planning to learn these household chores?”
“Why would I need to? I’ll keep someone to do this for me.”
“When you’ll go to your in-laws’ house, you’ll have to do this on your own.”
“Why? I’ll go to the office, we’ll find a housekeeper.”
“If your husband’s okay with this. Then you can do whatever you want.”
“But it’s my life, why would he grant me his permission?”
“Because he’s a man.”

When I’ll ask my child about what he thought was wrong in these conversations,
My moon will look up at me with a puzzled look and say, why is everyone so obsessed about ‘Being a Man’ phrase.
And why should a girl obey her father/brother before marriage and husband/in-laws after her marriage? Isn’t it her life?

I might skip a heartbeat upon realising that he is able to observe toxic masculinity and the status of women in a conversation.
I would then go on and tell him,
That this is the reason we need feminism.
And if I had to define feminism in two words I’d say, Equality and Choice.
That feminism is for all of us.

That men need it as much as women do.
That nobody should have to seek permission to live their own life.
That he should or shouldn’t do something only because he’ll be a man someday.
That he shouldn’t tell his sister or girlfriend or wife or mother to do or not do something only because they’re women.

That he should be able to be whoever he wants, without fearing what others might expect of him.
That he should be a feminist, not because that’s how he’s been brought up but out of his own will.
That he should read about it, and understand the weight this word carries and not throw it around like a joke.
That feminism is for all of us.
And that we need to talk about it now more than ever.
.
.
.
What will I tell my daughter if she asks me,
Mom, what’s feminism?

I might wince, or shrug my shoulders or drink some courage
Before making her sit on my lap and telling her,
That “Feminism by definition, means political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.”

I might look into her big brown eyes as more questions glow into them like sparks from a bonfire.
I might try to narrate to her some pieces from my anecdotes.
The same ones as before.
Or I might add some more to them.
The stories might change and the protagonist too, but the message remains crystal clear.

That we need feminism.
That feminism is for all of us.
And when the time comes, we’ll all need to educate our children and keep them aware.
We’ll need to teach our children that though a bad word starts from the letter F, it sure ain’t Feminism.

There are several things that I’m unsure of, however one thing that I’m sure about is,
That this is how it’ll begin, the conversation and then, the revolution.
And yes, I’m scared that I might not pour down every single thought that I have about Feminism.
But maybe it’s alright. Maybe they’ll learn on their own.

Maybe they too will write down their experiences into a memoir
And narrate it to their children someday,
Who might ask them,
“Dad, what’s feminism? Mom, what’s feminism?”
And I’ll be proud if I hear them say,
That “Feminism by definition, means political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.”

 © Apoorva Bora

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