By Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan for Youth Ki Awaaz:
Maybe it would help you picture me better if you thought of this—our new beginning—as an actual physical meeting. We’re in your favourite coffee shop; or, if you don’t have one, I’ll lend you a favourite bar. We’ve just ordered two glasses of red wine, or iced lattes, and they come with the crumbly melt-on-your-tongue biscotti, and I lift my glass to my lips, and you are about to tell me all about your life. Maybe you need perspective on why your boss is being so mean. Maybe your boyfriend hasn’t called you since the two of you had a fight which you thought was just a little argument but which you are now realising went much deeper than that and hurt his ego. Maybe your mother is asking you to do something—even if out of a place of love—that sits uncomfortably with you. So you cross your legs and you look at me straight in the eye and you say, “What do I do now?”
So, let’s begin.
It’s quite exciting to think you and I are starting here, there’s nothing but blank pages ahead of us. And yet, what better time for a safe space addressing sexism and gender questions? Here’s what’s going to happen: some weeks, I’ll answer questions, any question, like the examples above, and we’ll look at those questions and problems through the lens of gender issues and how to be better human beings. Because that’s basically what feminism is about—when you raise women to be equal to men, with equal rights, then you have human beings who are elevated and aware and able. All the things our society desperately needs.
Some weeks, we may not have questions. And in those weeks, I’m going to answer questions that no one’s asked me. Why does this new budget seem to not address women? Why are a third of Japanese women sexually harassed at work—and why does no one seem to care? Is opening all combat roles to women a step in the right direction? You get the idea. I might turn my attention to the micro before widening the lens again going for a sweep across a broader problem. But it’ll be something we’ll figure out as we go on—because that’s the beauty of blank pages. We have only the merest scratch-in-the-sand version of plans and we’ll let everything bloom organically.
Feminism begins at home. Before I was Aunty Feminist, I was a feminist aunty, around the zillion children my friends seem to have produced in the last three years alone. And, lucky for me, they’re mostly little girls, and I tell them they’re smart or talented or clap enthusiastically when they do something, but I don’t normally tell them they’re pretty. They’re all quite young still, and I don’t know if they understand me, but they’ll have so many people telling them they’re pretty or cute or whatever their whole lives, I want them to have some people in the other corner besides their parents, some people saying, “It’s fine to be pretty or cute, but it’s amazing that you’re so smart!” I carry this over to my adult friends as well, offering up compliments on things they may not have noticed about themselves–“how nicely you handled that”, “wow, you can park really well”, “I wish I had your negotiation skills”. Little things which may or may not make that much of a difference to their lives, but are important to mark.
You are so much more than the first five adjectives people will use to describe you.
Come again. Let’s break down some walls.