I don’t think I’ll ever be able to call myself an absolute feminist, said Vidya Balan in an interview. Her statement resonated with my perspective of feminism too because despite being vocal about women’s rights, I cannot say with confidence that I am a feminist. Being brought up in a patriarchal family, it is not easy to take a feminist stand in every situation. No matter how much you resent it, you will fall prey to certain patriarchal norms, knowingly or unknowingly.
My friends often ask me to come on a trip with them, meet them in different cities or join them for a late-night dinner. But advocating women’s right to live life on their terms, I deny it each time. The reason is, I know that my parents won’t like it. Because I am a woman, my parents will be suspicious if I suddenly go out alone. This is just one of the many patriarchal norms that I have to follow. I always come back home on time, I wear “decent” clothes, and I endure these day-to-day norms so that I get to have a say in bigger decisions of my life- like career and marriage.
I frequently write about how women should have the freedom to do whatever they want or that they should raise their voices to quash patriarchy at home. But when it comes to action, I often fail. Maybe it is this contradiction between my words and my actions that makes it difficult for me to consider myself a proud feminist.
I am sure I am not alone in this. Many women who believe in feminism often find themselves caught in the web of patriarchal norms. But what is the reason behind this? Why is it difficult to be a feminist in our society? Why do we unknowingly or knowingly follow certain patriarchal norms to have the freedom to not follow others?
In her interview, actor Vidya Balan also said, “Sometimes I catch myself saying, doing and thinking in ways that are not feminist, and that’s because our conditioning is so deeply embedded that we don’t realise that we are perpetuating patriarchy ourselves. We are not just victims but also perpetrators of patriarchy.”
Yes upbringing is one reason why we find it difficult to unlearn patriarchal conditioning. The bias is so deeply rooted in our conscience, we often find it unnatural or weird to go against it. We either don’t identify that certain problematic behaviours and practices have been shaped by patriarchy or ignore them as harmless.
Secondly, it is not easy in our society to be a feminist. One needs to fight your loved ones, let alone strangers. You have to sacrifice some people and pick a fight with your loved ones. Sometimes you become the reason behind conflict in family and society. You are blamed for putting family reputation at stake for your selfishness.
Reasons are many, but the point is that calling oneself a feminist is a stand that requires a lot of sacrifice. This is despite the fact that being a feminist must be the norm. But how long will women camouflage their feminist outlook to maintain the status quo of patriarchy?
This is the reason why it is important now to encourage feminist upbringing so that the future generation will not have to face the dilemma like us. If you can’t oppose them, then at least don’t pass it on to the next generation.
Views expressed are the author’s own