The First time I heard an idea for women security and felt optimistic about our chances
For the first time, I attended a women security seminar that wasn’t sinfully literal. Getting yourself enrolled for the next self-defense workshop ad you see, holding on to your pepperspray like your elixir- did not find itself at the heart of the discussion.
Don’t get me wrong, as important as these are for sharpening your survival instincts, they are hardly the solution to the larger problem. And in the event where it comes down to having to use any of the two, the odds are already slipping out of your hands. But my point is- you can’t pepper spray a person’s mentality to annihilate all the medievalist evil it houses, can you?
The problem isn’t how to survive attacks, the problem is how to ensure that no one ever feels the need to attack. And in that- the solution isn’t prevention or cure of the disease, it is the complete eradication of the virus. Patriarchy. If you thought violence against women is about sex- the truth is far from it. It is about men establishing their power, thrusting it down your throat even, because they feel they are the superior gender.
For the first time, this was a panel preaching that the conversation around the women’s movement, needs to emphasize more on conversation ABOUT the women’s movement. Even if this statement is proving to be too tangled for your tired Tuesday brain to process, notice the recurring word: conversation. And this seminar managed to proceed and make sense without throwing around words like “sensitization programs” in its context.
For the first time, it didn’t pedestalize activism. It tried to break down activism to its fundamentals- as being active.
Here’s what I took home from it. There is no less patriarchy or more patriarchy. It can’t be quantified. Sure, power-battles and crimes against women- the consequence of patriarchy- can be quantified into stats and figures. But patriarchy is a phenomenon in itself. It exists or it doesn’t. It surrounds you or it doesn’t. It affects you, or it doesn’t.
So when everyone telling you to “choose your battles,” you choose them all, or you don’t. And that’s all that feminism is, in my opinion. It is a simple choice you have to make. To be or not to be. And believe it or not, you can be a feminist without holding up placards and candles and tying black scarves around your mouth or tying yourself down to regime of shouting at 500 decibels a day.
For the first time, I saw more clearly what this Feminism contract thing really needs out of you. Turns out, it has all of two clauses. One, you gotta believe in equality of treatment and opportunity for everything that walks the earth on twos. And number two is just as simple, if you do believe in equality, start to make others believe it too. Through, you got it- conversation. Not up on a podium. On your dinner table. Not in an auditorium, on your sofa. Not addressing a few hundreds, maybe conversing with a single person, but invoking his soul, at that.
For the first time, I realized the importance of my words, and how much more they are worth and how much more they are capable of- because they are coming from a heart that is sold on the idea that everyone is one; and reverberating in a mind that is governed by passion for that harmless cause; before they make it out of a mouth that has learnt and can speak the common tongue and fall on fortunate ears that are about hear an immensely liberating idea. Words that may succeed to resonate with someone who did not quite understand the unending legal jargon on pus-like white paper.
So, the next time someone asks you to choose your battles, choose THE battle. Imagine yourself in a hospital, treating the injured during this battle. You are in a ward full of people with different levels rots in their limbs- but at any level, they threaten to render that limb completely useless. Do you just remove a section of the infected area in everyone, so they all have a uniform average level of infection first? Or do you waste no time, treat every case separately, nip out the rot completely no matter what its extent?
Feminism is that. It is not about bringing everyone down to an average level of biases, before coercing them to get rid of it all. Feminism is about finding the level of rot in every individual’s mentalities- and nipping it out entirely before you move on to your next battle.
One can’t take a break from being a feminist. One can’t think of “saving their energies” for problems that are more grave. While you may worry about a child in a village getting assaulted by her own father, closer home is that male friend you have who wants to marry someone who hasn’t “been with anyone else” before him. I know I have one- I told him a girl, heck- any human being, does not owe you anything but their loyalty when they are with you. Their decisions before they even met you, I’m afraid, do not concern him and haven’t a thing to do with him. He saw reason.
While you do worry about genital mutilation of unsuspecting little girls of the Bohra community so they don’t enjoy sex, closer home is that worried mother who feels that pronouncing your indignation vehemently every time you feel like you are being treated with less respect than you command because of your gender, will cost you your friends and family and loved ones someday. I know I have one, I told her I’d rather not be surrounded by people who see me as inferior. My self-respect transcends my superfluous need for people to fill my Friday nights with. She relented.
Sure, the thought of that wife who was burnt to ashes over a dowry dispute may keep you up at night, but closer home is your girl friend who can never gather the confidence to wear her favorite body hugging red number that she got as a gift, because she feels it attracts unwanted attention. I know I have one, and I told her nothing you do or wear spells your consent to be gawked at, apart from your actual words. And if anyone violates that right, you raise hell. She finally put it on and looked stunning.
‘Saving your energy’ is a void concept anyway. If you do feel your resolve faltering and your energy reserves dangerously low, go back to seek it in the same place in your heart that beats in the single hope of equality.
In the classroom that is life, patriarchy isn’t a math problem of a fraction that needs to be divided and reduced to a lower value; it is a chapter in your history book that has gone on far too long, and like every legend of oppression, it must be given its grand happy ending.