“Why are you so serious about this shit?” they often ask me. Do you really want to know why I get agitated when I hear about a clear violation of women’s rights? You want to know why I proudly call myself a feminist and fume when someone states everyone is equal in 2016?
Maybe because right after I was born, some family friend remarked to my dad that he would have drowned himself in alcohol if he had a girl child. I hadn’t even lived a few days before someone thought I, or someone who shared the same physiological makeup as mine, warranted certain death because it was oh-so-shameful.
Maybe because when I was five, my best friend’s mother thought a kitchen set was more appropriate of a toy for me than a football. That when we played “house” I should be serving my husband hot, delicious food and then ask him about his tiring day in an air conditioned office as I cleaned up after him and my child.
Maybe because in fourth grade, our principal stood on stage and said that clothes are meant to cover up bodies and not show them off and girls should always remain modest unless they wanted to invite trouble. When a model for hundreds of students sexualised bodies of girls from ages 3 to 15, nobody raised their voice.
Maybe because an acquaintance said to me that I wasn’t supposed to be trying to compete with guys in sciences and mathematics because that was a forte open only for boys. That’s why, he said, our teacher for physics was male. English was fine, he then consoled me, because that isn’t as difficult and girls can manage.
Maybe because when I walked on the streets after hitting my teen years, I was told to wear loose clothing and keep my gaze down. Ignore the stares, it’s the best for you. If you fight back, they’ll probably hurt you. The people won’t help you, I was told. That’s the way of the world and you can’t really change it. And so, here I am, shielding my body with my hair and my backpack.
Maybe because a distant relative defended honour killings and domestic violence. Women are, after all, honour of the family and they have no right to deviate (read: have their own independent thoughts, feelings, and emotions) and disgrace the family and community.
Maybe because in high school people stated that I had the choice between pleasing men by looking beautiful or never being successful enough because it was and always will be beauty over brains. And so came the heels and the winged eyeliner, and out went the self-confidence. How I dressed suddenly decided my worth in society.
Maybe because a taxi driver casually remarked that he didn’t understand why I went to college. But it was a relief that I was studying humanities because men don’t like to be married to girls who are over-qualified. After all, education for girls doesn’t have much purpose beyond ensuring the vegetable vendor doesn’t cheat them and that her children learn their spellings well.
Maybe because in college authority figures asked the one guy in our class to control the girls, and we were told to make sure we don’t ask for it by sitting on stairs or hugging our friends. That if I were to wear a skirt (gasp!) to college, I shouldn’t be too surprised to find men being distracted and provoked.
Maybe because even after all this, I am well aware that I am part of the lucky, privileged section of the society that gets to question, critique, and rebel. If that doesn’t put things in perspective, I don’t know what will.