Being a Brown Feminist in a South Asian country is not easy. Not easy Folks!
It’s darn difficult. Feminism here is a bad word. Feminism here, is almost a crime. Feminism here, is foolishness that will make your suitors flee. Feminism here, is surefire way to never get married and never be loved. Feminism here is an ugly rebellion against the society. Feminism here is dishonor to your family. Feminism here is an excuse to not dress “properly”. Feminism here is an excuse to be a “slut”.
On that note, (Yes, this post is going to be a rant) I am now inclined to narrate an incident. Couple of weeks back, we had a bunch of relatives coming over to our place for a visit. While we sat down and chatted, the man recounted how someone grabbed his daughter’s legs from the window while she was sleeping. Basically, his twelve year old daughter was blissfully asleep in the middle of the night, and the window of her room was open. Some pervert just decided to push his arm in through the window and yank at her leg. Naturally, the child was frightened to near death. She screamed for her parents, and went into a panic attack. The culprit in the meantime, had of course, fled. One of my family members picks this exact moment to exclaim, “Well, it’s your fault! You let your daughter run around in inappropriate clothes and go wherever she wants! Of course she was attacked! I always ask you to cover her up, make her wear modest clothes! But you didn’t listen!”
I sat there the whole time listening to this obviously illogical and ridiculous line of argument and felt obliged to butt in.
Me: *with a laughter* What are you talking about? Are you saying she should be covered from head to toe while she’s sleeping? (What I really wanted to say was, Shut up you ignorant idiot! You woman-hating good-for-nothing!)
Family Member: No! But she should be covered up when she’s going out and when people come over to her house. That is when she must have attracted all the attention. Someone must have seen her prancing about in her frock and followed her home.
Me: *with a dizzy head by this time* She is twelve!
Family Member: She is old enough! If her dad doesn’t make her wear proper clothes from now, she will rebel when she grows up! She must be kept in control!
Me: At the end of the day it’s her choice whether she wants to dress conservatively or not. You can’t force her!
Family Member: Keep your twisted ideas to yourself! Stop poisoning the minds of the women! Don’t try to influence them!
Me: You’re influencing them too.
Family Member: I can! I am a man and I am responsible for the women in my family. They must learn how to conduct themselves. They must be kept in control!
Me: (in my head) God, please kill me now!
So this is what being a feminist in a patriarchal family and society looks like. Ughh!