Five times friends helped me unlearn my patriarchal conditioning

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It is not easy realizing that being a woman, your own thoughts have fallen victim to patriarchal conditioning. There were numerous times I have unknowingly viewed things from the male gaze. But good company is all it takes to right such wrongs. I had been blessed, in every sphere of life, with some super-smart girlfriends who made me see the fault in my ways. Took some years, but they eventually managed to help me out of many patriarchal conditionings I had learnt as a child.

Calling Out Everyday Misogyny

I usually kept my silence when I heard somebody pass a snide misogynist comment. I’d constantly try to keep myself out of situations that would entail furious debacles. But making new friends in the university, and seeing them stand up for the right thing is what changed me as a person too. A few of these friends would call out every boy who passed a sexist comment. And every girl who would encourage such behaviour. Suffice to say I also came under the calling-out-radar for being the latter. But that was only once, for it took that one time for me to mend my ways. Today I don’t hold back to chastise anyone who tries to mansplain or encourages sexist behaviour. Thank God for feminist girlfriends.

Dress the Way You Want

For the longest time, I was convinced that certain clothes did not look good on me. I would hardly ever wear sleeveless shirts or skirts, for the fear of being judged on my clothing. But a few of my friends pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. They made me try new and bold dresses. And helped me rethink the patriarchal gaze through which I viewed my own sex. We, as women, are taught always to cater to male expectations. So much so, that we forget about our own likings and pleasure. Today I dress for myself and my comfort, and the credit for it goes to my lovely girlfriends.

Stop Giving Good Boy Awards

I was a person who used to think highly of men who weren’t blatantly sexist or homophobic. My friends in university made me realize how that thinking was itself problematic. I put men on pedestals for simply achieving what should be the baseline for human decency. My friends taught me to raise my expectation bars. Otherwise, I was just engaging with an easy idea of feminism that didn’t deal with more difficult questions. They taught me that while women need allies, we need to stop accolading men for not being the absolute worst. And that bare minimum decency should not be the parameter to judge the ‘goodness’ of any person.

Sexism/Homophobia in Slangs

I did not used to think much about slang language when I was in school. One day I was part of a conversation where some girlfriends were talking about misogyny in daily slangs. It was only then that I realized how our slang language always revolved around women and homosexuals. The maa-behen gaalis that people find cool are merely ways in which patriarchy embeds itself within its subjects. Kudos to that conversation, and to those friends for making me see such an important truth!

Women are not the Enemy

This male-dominated world has a habit of pitting one women against the other. In the tussle, women often forget that their enemy is patriarchy itself, not their own gender. I was also someone who partook in these wrong measures. Jealousy, resentment and anger came easily to me, and I usually ended up directing it against womenkind. But a band of good, woke friends helped to redirect my negative energy to a positive direction. They not only made me see the fault in my ways, but also pushed me to stand up for other women, strangers or otherwise.

While unlearning many of these were no easy tasks, it was a freeing and fulfilling experience to say the least. The process is far from over. There is still much to learn, and a long way to go. But all I know is if you have good friends by your side, the ride gets a lot easier.