I had an English professor and she was brilliant. She would always encourage all her students to have healthy debates about feminism by acknowledging different perspectives and forming individual opinions. For example, during an engaging discussion on women’s safety on roads or public transport, she made a point that it is very tough for most women to stand up for themselves when faced with lecherous glares or unwelcome touch on the streets. To this, one of our classmate answered, “But Ma’am the girl/woman can be strong and slap or fight back such predators. I have done so myself a time or two in certain situations, it shocks them and they learn to back off.”
To this my teacher gave a smile and replied, “Beta, it’s good that you find the strength in you to do that and I feel sad that you have had to do that, but one of these days you must look past your privilege and you will realise its not that easy, there are girls like you who would think twice, thrice or a hundred times before taking that step. And yes it is terribly unfair, it is painful, it is not ideal – but it’s a form of survival. I do not ask men and women to start finding solutions without giving them a thought, especially if one can’t see them through… as progress in such matters is not a short sighted five year plan. The only thing that I ask for is that the majority must admit at a personal level that the current gender system is biased and flawed.”
This was followed by an uncomfortable silence in the class and a surge of anger and it stayed there. This anger gave way to self pity and then some more anger.
A good learning came out of it though. One of the key learnings of such interactions and the ones that have followed is the lack of observation, empathy and a misunderstanding of the change we ask of ourselves and of others. We must not generalise in this respect. However, more often then not the entire argument on feminism is based on anger and deeprooted hurt for what one has faced.
It is crucial that we must feel this anger and pain. At the same time it is a crime to let our emotions and intellect get stuck at anger and the loudness which after a point paints issues depending on awe and shock value. As the shock wears off, we realise that we felt everything but did not do anything to improve the situation. A cycle of punishment was created but there was no talk of transformation and restoration. It is important that we move from the status quo to a more aware and equal environment for every individual in the society, but it is also important that we do it with hope and peace within.
Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Our thinking and solutions whether at a personal level or a societal level in dealing with issues of feminism must stem from a positive mind frame rather than anger, awe, and shock at events of rebellion. We must be capable of hoping, aspiring for a world which is better for every individual. All forms of media and communication after the experiences of disappointment, hate, anger and punishment must talk about transformation.
Young minds are distracted by a cycle of negativity and thus find it more difficult to think beyond the anger. The repeated visual of oppression must be combated with visuals of change and equality to set an example. This is not to hide the ongoing cruelty of a biased system with tokenism, but as an example of what to practice everyday to make things better.
We must go within ourselves to find peace and envision a better solution for change in our day to day lives. And we should be ready to understand that solutions might be flawed in the beginning, we shall fail but the key is to begin anew everyday. We must understand that we are not perfect and complete feminists and it is an ongoing battle to be won. And yes, this is terribly unfair, painful and not ideal – but it’s a form of survival and eventually progress.