My teenage was nowhere near the fairy tale idea of ‘sweet sixteen’. I was struggling between the pressure to be a good daughter and the need to be true to myself. At a very small age, I made my heart a box of secrets. I spent my teenage years smeared with the disgust of sexual harassment by men in my house. I also spent days and nights witnessing the worst fights between my parents, bloodshed and adultery.
At that time, I had no one who could tell me what is the right thing to do. I was surrounded by people who upheld patriarchy that only taught me to be quiet. But today I have a voice.
I know I am not a teenager now. But my teenage self has never left my memories. She still sulks, ponders and cries for justice. However, I could never muster the courage to talk to her. After walking far into adulthood and working for the cause of women, I have decided to finally confront her. So here are a few things that I would say to my teenage self.
15 Lessons In Feminism I Will Share With My 16-Year-Old Self
1. Your gender doesn’t define what activities suit you. Your interest does. You can cook and clean and yet drive and loiter around without any hesitation.
2. Periods are a part of the healthy function of your body. Period blood is not impure as to destroy the vibe of holy places, kill plants and pickles or reduce the life expectancy of men. Sure, it is important to maintain period hygiene.
3. Do not shy away from buying pads or tampons. If possible, refuse to let your pads be covered in black polybags. These are essentials of a woman’s life and not matters of shame.
4. Talk about periods and pads with men around you. Awareness can kill misinformation.
5. Speak up if anything wrong happens to you or to others. Your gender is just a part of your identity and not the thread that sews your lips.
6. Sexual harassment is wrong. And you are not at fault. Raise your voice against the harasser without any fear and shame. Talk to your friends or parents about it. If nothing helps, approach for legal help.
7. Pursue any subject or career that interests you. Don’t let your gender limit your ambition.
8. Marriage is a stage not the goal of life. You can delay marriage or motherhood as per your convenience or never choose it at all. What matters is your happiness.
9. Sex is not bad. It should be always consensual. Always keep in mind to have protected sex.
10. No matter how hard it gets, never lose your self-respect. Always prioritise yourself – your rights, your needs, your health. Stop feeling guilty for being a little selfish because if you don’t value yourself, no one else will.
11. It is not your fault if your parents fight or if you witness them fighting. Neither it is necessary for you to forgive them. If you can’t take action against them, then don’t let their actions affect you.
12. Do not worry about being labelled as a bad girl for being who you are. The idea of good and bad girls is subjective. Speak whatever you want, wear whatever you like or eat what you like.
13. Don’t feel guilty for having a crush on someone. It is normal to be attracted to someone. Moreover, also learn to take the first step in expressing feelings and handling rejections. Proposing first or being rejected doesn’t make you small or desperate.
14. Getting bullied in school is not your fault so don’t be afraid of it. Complain about it straightaway to authorities, parents or friends.
15. You need not respect or touch the feet of elders just because they surpass your age. If you don’t like what they do, oppose them.
The views expressed are the author’s own.