Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Feminist?

I often faced the question, whether I am a feminist? I try to think what in me qualifies me as a feminist. I am a woman, daughter, sister, wife, mother. But does that make me a feminist?

I was born as the eldest of two children in a nuclear family. Dad, a professor; Mom, a school teacher. My schooling was in a girls' only - convent school. That was my parents' choice for us, the two daughters. While growing up, my single point contact with the other gender was my father, who never allowed gender affect his attitudes, activities or aspirations. I was 'raised human'. And I thought that was normal. After more than two decades of completing high-school, NOW I realize almost every day, that it was a BIG deal. I had a rare chance of being 'raised human'. When I moved out of the tight, secure family to start college, I started facing gender issues. Confident about myself, I retaliated every single time. I shouted, protested, got agitated, but never remained quiet. I fought ideological battles, demonstrated irritability, aggression and intolerance to gender differentiation. I was either liked or disliked by many in both genders, for that. But interestingly, no one was neutral.

The years following graduation were of hands on, practical battles. I fought against odds, walked through fire, took brick-bats (not very gracefully). I survived stares, groping, filthy comments, and name-calling but I never doubted myself. I got a social tag - for being arrogant, unpredictable, Alpha female. As mom puts it, my struggles may very aptly qualify as a fight against own shadow. I did invest time in my post-graduation while many got married. But then it dawned on me - Marriage is inevitable. I succumbed to family and society pressures, got married. I struggled post-marriage till the birth of my girl, resisting patriarchy and notions of 'wife-dom'. I chose to walk out of a married set-up where I wouldn't be respected for what I am. I did that to establish my independence and believed that, by doing so I would've given courage to a few women around me. I 'did it all' for a few months and that burned me out. I reconciled with myself that I am responsible for another life, so returned to life as 'new found family'. I kept wondering why I deserved what I went through. I was depressed, and resorted to aggression on multiple occasions, at times thought of ending my life.  

Then one fine day, after lot of soul searching, reading and discussing with kind souls, I thought it is time to move on. I decided to manage expectations and stop looking for answers. I decided that I will take anything that comes to me and give a tough fight. I became a working mom, kept my child in day-care, did enough damage to her little psyche and the same time, reached out to heal her wounds. I finally got a chance to have a house to raise my child; I made the most of it, running the household. I took on all the irregularities that were thrown on a young family, from chores to illnesses. I was nearly extinct. That is when I found some help - maids came in, giving me some space and I tried to do well in my job. I decided to stop complaining, I decided to become stronger, but lost my kindness and prayers in the process. When I found my child's demands growing, shifted from full time to part time jobs, juggled responsibilities and maintained to do well in whatever I undertook. 

When I was pressed for more time, instead of fully giving up job, I moved back to the world academics (more suitable for idealists like me), enrolled for a PhD program. That's when life looked settled for a while. Daughter was a little grown, to be independently doing tasks, and I got to build a community where I belonged. It felt like a fairy-tale and in this 'neverland', I had another baby. My son. That’s where my life is now - A mom of a 10 year old daughter and a 2 yr old son, focused on bringing up the kids. A final year research student pressed to put in that last leap in work to work on the many open ends of the research that has taken shape in the gone years. Still, the person who absorbs all irregularities of life, be it in mine or my family's. 

Does all these make me a feminist?

I am more of an idealist, a 'human'-ist. That's the reason that I failed in what I failed, succeeded in what I succeeded. I think I have failed more that I succeeded. I find the Hindu Concept of 'Ardhanarishvara' so very convincing and compelling. I believe the human is complete with masculine and feminine traits when we look beyond biological differences. And I want to live like a human. I do wish all women to be free from the long history of type-casting, oppression, exploitation and subjection to double standards. But I wish even more that opportunity for 'growth' never be denied to anybody, male, female, transgender, no-gender whichever category the world adds one to.

I may have failed for being stubborn, non-comforming, emotional and idealistic, but my story is not over. I will have to wait and see before recommending to anybody, including my own daughter. And. I am NOT a feminist.