The very first time I felt furious against gender discrimination, inequality and politics, I suspected there might be more like me who dared to raise their voice. I sought help from the Internet and in books to find out if there are others like me. That was my first encounter with the word feminism.
The more I learnt, the more I was haunted by the stereotypes and fixed behaviour patterns that were expected of those who identified themselves as feminists. For example, most of the feminists from Tamil Nadu were supposed to look similar. They apparently shunned makeup and did not pay much attention to ‘external beauty’. They mostly wore loose kurtas and ratty old jeans. And a majority of them had short hair.
I also realised that this extended not just to feminists, but to some ‘intellectual’ women. I found them restricting themselves from paying attention to beauty and also shunning other women who like to wear makeup or pay attention to beauty as being dumb and stereotypical. Somehow, for them, being ‘presentable’ was enough and anything beyond that was considered attention-seeking and intellectually shallow.
I was not very comfortable with any of this.
We used to have a gender equality circle in Bharathidasan University, Trichy. I participated in the circle after 5 pm every Wednesday for four years. I realised I never saw anyone with long hair, shiny outfits, make-up, etc. Although for most of them, it might have been a personal choice, I felt there must have been some people who did not want to attend the gender equality meetings looking ‘girly’.
Is it like an unwritten dress code? Why?
The cosmetic industry keeps feeding beauty myths to women to increase their sales. But if I know all of this and still want to do something just because I like it, what is wrong in that?
I am completely aware of the whole commodification of women scenario. But what if I don’t want to wear those jasmine flowers for objectifying myself but just because I like their smell in my hair long after I have thrown them away?
Why can’t I be a feminist who wears large dangly earrings?
Why can’t I be a feminist who chokes up during a romantic movie?
Why can’t I be a feminist who would not step out of the house without wearing kajal?
Why can’t I be a feminist who likes her long, albeit difficult-to-maintain hair?
Why can’t I be a feminist who wears pink sparkly gowns and admires herself in the mirror?
I kept thinking…
There is no reason for me to shun my desires and character traits just because I believe in gender equality. Does my ideology dictate each and every move I make? Professionally? Yes. Personally? Not always.
I have interacted with many women regarding this and they all agree that their mood somewhat dictates what to wear on a particular day. Women who are reading this may or may not agree. There are dressy days, jeans and t-shirt days, chiffon saree days, cotton saree days and sometimes, there are even I-just-don’t-care-at-all days.
The same goes with other things that are dictated by our moods. Funny as it sounds, I have felt that I react very differently to the same romantic comedy or ‘chick flick’ during different times of the month. It may seem very cliched but I have felt it and I guess this is totally fine as long as my ideology has not taken a complete u-turn by the end of the month. This is just my situation. Many women do not experience mood swings at all. It is their situation.
As much as I hate people shoving ideas down my throat because I am a woman, I also don’t like people expecting me to be different in every possible way just because I am a feminist.
The sooner everyone realises this, the better.
I like blue. Not just that, I hate pink. This has nothing to do with my feminism. But if I had liked pink and you say that’s so stereotypically feminine and that it beats the whole point of me being a feminist, then my respect for you starts falling flat.
‘Girly girls’ are not dumb. They are not ‘silly, floaty and shallow’. Your intelligence is not measured by the amount of sunscreen you wear or the lack thereof.
I am not saying we should all start being ‘girly’. I am just saying that it would be ironic if we start casting ourselves into a stereotype in the process of fighting against oppression.
I feel we need to accept the little things, idiosyncrasies, crazy cravings and random mood swings that come with the whole package of being a woman. Celebrating womanhood is not just about menstrual hygiene, sexual freedom and empowerment. Celebrate the craving for that chocolate cake! Celebrate your urge to share that useless information you got with your best friend! Celebrate those reflex tears whenever something touches your heart! Celebrate it all!
I like wearing big earrings; I (sometimes) like romantic comedies and cliched ‘chick flicks’; my mood decides my outfit for the day; I am into fashion; I love cooking and I cry more often than you think I do.
Go ahead, cast me into a stereotype all you want. It doesn’t matter one bit.
Gloria Steinem is my star. When someone harasses me, I make sure they get punished. I stand up for what I believe in. I have little tolerance for misogyny and would go to any level just to make sure I am not discriminated against. So deal with it.