And so are you, every woman out there… Only you don’t know it or some of you don’t wish to acknowledge it.

… because as a post on Facebook pointed out…

fem-i-nist: advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.  – Dictionary.com

It went on to say: “Seriously, what kind of person doesn’t want this? When anyone claims they aren’t a feminist, I assume they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

I’ve always been aware of my rights and what I wanted to do as a woman as long as I can remember. Since I pretty much grew up on my own, fashioning my own ideals and sticking to my own principles, I can say I’ve not turned out that bad. But somewhere along the line, I also adjusted… simply to keep the peace. Though in my heart, I trembled, seethed, questioned and in cases, when I couldn’t take it any longer, rebelled.

My family has been quite liberal that way… with Appa not practising gender segregation and believing that women need the same opportunities as men, if not more. I must admit he did allow me to travel alone to far-flung cities, come home late and choose advertising/journalism as a profession. But sometimes, again to keep the peace, he kept quiet when other elders still followed rigid customs and superstitions.

Growing up, I always wondered why paati wore a saffron saree, had her head shaved at all times and wore no jewellery. I was told that was how a widow lived in those days. I was and am still told by some people that women have to be segregated during periods and am still fighting what I will never give up as a lost cause. I was told that women shouldn’t chant the gayatri mantra or the Vedas. I was told a lot of things I didn’t believe in. But I adjusted.  Yes, to keep the peace.

But then there comes a time when you realize that you have an identity of your own, and you shouldn’t be what others want you to. This sense of individuality is most important for a woman. So I did what I thought was right and did not harm anybody. More importantly, this was caused by a spiritual awakening. A sort of redefinition of my relationship with God that was until now, bound by threats or coercion (if you do this, God will be pleased or if you don’t do that, you will incur His wrath). As my cousin in one of our lengthy conversations pointed out, “God is within you. Have you discovered that?”

I guess the spiritual awakening saw me awaken as a woman too! I am more aware and assertive of my rights than ever before. Why? Because empowerment comes with self-belief. If you do not believe in yourself as a woman, nobody is going to take you seriously.

Feminism or championing women’s rights and causes does not mean ‘burning bras’ as a friend pointed out or putting men down. It means, ‘I am an individual too with my desires, aspirations, beliefs and rights. I deserve to be seen, heard and understood!’

Thirty years ago, I had a neighbor who would loudly voice his displeasure if we played with the boys in our neighbourhood making remarks that would make us want to puke. Years later, I met his granddaughters who are professionals and have travelled all over the world. Am thinking aloud that perhaps they did all this without talking to any man.

Three years back, a supposedly well-meaning relative remarked: “Enna periya journalist-na nanappo? Mudiellam vettindirukkai? (Do you think you are a great journalist that you have gone and cut your hair short!)

It’s a struggle. But it will nevertheless go on…

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10 thoughts on “My name is Rekha and I am a feminist…

  1. Bravo Rekha! Well said. We are answerable only to our own consciences, not to every Tom, Dick or Harry in the street who thinks he can decide how women should lead their lives.

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