The term ‘feminism’ has gained momentum in recent years. People are opening up their eyes to understand how the disparity between the two sexes has been so vast and yet unacknowledged for decades. Being a woman myself, I am still learning what it means to be a feminist and to put myself above the sexist norms that have been prevalent in our society. I am not here to talk about me though; I’m here to mention a person who raised me to believe that I am no less than any other man and that my talent, skills, and knowledge is what it takes to succeed in this world. This person is my friend, my mentor, my crying shoulder, my pillar of strength and just someone I am so thankful to call ‘my father.’ My father is a handsome, almost 60-year-old ex-army hunk I love showing off to my friends as the coolest dad ever. He combines wit, strength, compassion, and confidence so effortlessly that I’m still in awe of him in my 24 years of being.
Growing up, I was what most people call a complete tomboy, playing video games, watching WWE, injuring myself while playing sports. I’m not being sexist and saying girls don’t enjoy those things but in the ’90s, most of my girlfriends grew up mostly enjoying dolls and dress up more than I did. I still remember my childhood days where if I were to ever go on school picnics, my dad always made me recite his instructions, “Always stay in a group, if anyone behaves inappropriately then do not keep quiet – ALWAYS SCREAM,” he made sure it was ingrained in my mind that if any person was behaving indecently, I must yell to catch everyone’s attention. This somehow instilled a sense of confidence in me where I was never reluctant to speak up or raise my voice if I saw any wrongdoing, either with me or with anyone else.
Sharing your childhood with an elder brother is a different ballgame all together. It may sound clichéd but every brother-sister household has constant bickering, ego battles and parents being emotionally blackmailed to take sides. In the fights I had with my brother, my mother would usually tell me to keep quiet because I was younger and smarter (yeah she was tactful). It was in those times, that my knight and shining armour (aka my dad) would always explain to me that it does not make you a bigger/lesser person to take the back seat in an argument but if something was being said or done, that I would feel was morally wrong, then I must not back down. Sure, his teachings led me to be a little bit of a rebel who would say anything on her mind, but never anything that was distasteful.
My dad’s advice was the same for both the kids irrespective of our genders. If my brother could party then I could too, if my brother could drink then I could, if I brother could smoke then I could (not that he gave permission or would ever want me to), but the basic premise of what he said meant that anything a man could do should not be wrong for a woman to do. His advice was pretty black and white – what is right is right for all genders and what is wrong is wrong for everyone. There is no ‘grey’ to it. I had an amazing school life and an even better college life because I was never barred from night outs, partying, travelling.
I understood the essence of feminism even before I knew what it meant. I was allowed to question societal norms if I did not understand them. I sure got into trouble many times for questioning traditions. Asking, why the son of the house gets to represent the family at pooja’s and not the daughters or why during my periods was I not allowed to attend religious functions or why was it a crime if I ever raised my voice at the dinner table but my brother got away with even cuss words. I know these questions are not the most comfortable for our parents to answer and the most common reply is “this is how things have always been and you can’t go around questioning everything”, but to these questions my father would reply, “You are an individual independent beliefs and if you should be empathetic to others beliefs, but question the ones that clash with yours, then you have all the right to question them in a respectful manner.”
My father has shown me what it means to be a true feminist without being a woman. I have seen the pain and anguish in his eyes when he witness’s women not being given the opportunities that men do. Feminism is not about one gender being superior, it’s about all genders being treated equally. I have heard so many statements thrown frivolously like “Once the girl gets married she’s not technically a part of the family”, “A woman must sacrifice and comprise to keep the marriage happy”, “Women should get married before their 30’s or it’s too late” or the best one “A man can get married to a girl 20 years younger but if a woman marries a guy who’s even a year or two younger then it’s a complete mayhem”. But all that I have ever heard from my dad’s mouth was that he will be the happiest if I stayed with him forever, I can marry whoever I love, if someone was to mistreat me in a relationship/marriage I must not hesitate to walk out to save my self-respect and lastly, that whatever happens, he is always there for me no matter what.
I can go on and on writing about how my father moulded me into the confident, opinionated and strong individual I am today. I pray every daughter gets the love and support of a father who treats his daughter not as a princess but like a deserving queen who can conquer and achieve wherever she might be and pave her own way in this tangled world.