10 Year Challenge as a Feminist
The onset of the #10yearchallenge made me reflect a lot - about my lifestyle changes, the evolution of my fashion sense, my body, my mind, and the development of my brand of feminism. The last one seemed the most interesting to me because of how far I’ve come.
The word feminist was introduced to me pretty late in life.
I must have been in the first year of college and my sponge-like brain that was soaking up all sorts of new information at the time, promptly absorbed all the negativity with which the term was uttered to me. The implication was that a feminist can only cause havoc (bra-burning images included), and is a selfish woman who discriminates on the basis of sex. I was also told the very common tale of how feminists hate men and love getting them into trouble through false accusations. Naturally, I eschewed any association with the term and the movement.
However, something deep inside didn't feel quite right. These so-called violent bra-burning women wanted the same thing as I did after all - equal rights as the men around me. So I figured it's probably the method, and not the message that's wrong. Since I had pretty good access to the internet back then and had just started exploring the world that Facebook offered, I decided to keep reading about it and learning whatever I could.
Fast forward almost 10 years and the world around me has changed tremendously. I no longer have a Facebook presence and most of my feminist information comes from blogs and Instagram, where I follow a bunch of feminist accounts.
My journey with feminism hasn't been a smooth one. There were steps where I reached thinking I had finally mastered being a Feminist only to realise I didn't and that I needed to correct my understanding of the movement. From the first time someone spat the word out at me, insinuating that I was a troublemaker, to preferring to call myself an egalitarian, to taking the stance that I'm better than the 'Damsel in distress’ woman just by virtue of not being her, to not including enough groups of the society in my feminism and subjecting them to the same degradation that I so vocally fought back against, I often found that I was misinformed and sought ways of betterment. It was a learning experience at every step. I've lapped up different viewpoints, read experiences on the internet and in books, heard them in real life, and assimilated all of that to get to where I am today. Despite the progress I've made, as I'm exposed to new realities in feminism which constantly make me ponder upon whether I'm moulding the movement to my convenience or vice versa, I can only call myself a learning feminist.
So what are some of the things that I've found over the years of misinformation and corrections?
The movement is anti-patriarchy, not anti-men.
It supports the struggles of all women, even if they're not the exact struggles a majority faces.
Also, putting someone else down for the sake of your feminism doesn't make you a feminist; it only reinforces your internalised misogyny and stigma.
Men can be feminists too, and are supported by the movement as well.
It is possible to be an egalitarian and not be a feminist.
It is also possible to call yourself a feminist and still discriminate against other people.
Being a Feminist doesn’t automatically make you a better person.
These were just a few of the many things I realised along the way. Perhaps the most important learning was that calling yourself a feminist is just one of the many steps towards becoming one. It is a long process of learning and reviewing and letting go of some ideas while re-learning/ building upon others. The more you read and introspect, the more you learn.
Will I always be a learning feminist? Probably yes, because I feel that the closer I get to feminists around the world, the more I will find that there's always something new to learn. The internet brings to me the stories of people who fight the fight against all odds, each with a different set of constraints than the other. Offline, I share experiences with the people in my life - some have managed to climb mountains while others are still trying to find their voice in misogynistic and patriarchal environments. Each story has something new to add to my understanding of the movement and of how I practise my Feminism and where I can improve, and therefore, as a feminist I commit to learning, un-learning, relearning all my life.