Sharing an email from The Vamp.
I am writing to you today, just to say thanks.
I wrote to you because I find a kindred spirit in you; reading this blog has saved my happiness and life.
Earlier, being a part of the patriarchal system as a DIL married into an orthodox household, I was upset without realizing what exactly I was upset for. Like I said earlier, I unsuccessfully tried to kill myself. Although I had been suffering from these suicidal bouts ever since I was in my pre-teens, the depression exacerbated itself after marriage when things got more real.
In your blog, I found some rationale for a lot of thoughts that were going on in my mind.
My parents were the best. Still, why was it that many of their thoughts upset me?
Why was I angry with so many people who were fat-shaming me? After all it happened to everyone else.
Why was I constantly pushed by a need to prove myself the best everywhere and constantly worrying about it, be it academically or professionally?
Why was it an ultimate feat for me to pass two SSC exams, one CLRI interview, and one public service commission exam, topping two university entrance tests, but without being really interested in them?
Why did I want to slap everyone who had ridiculed me for a totally unrelated thing (my being fat) with my academic and professional achievement?
Why did I dress badly and eschew feminine appearance just to prove myself strong, although I really loved delicate, flimsy and hot pink ‘feminine’ clothing?
Why did I take pride in being a tomboy in my teens even though I was quite the opposite internally?
Why was I trying to show off my skill with patriarchal beliefs, customs and traditions after marriage?
But even when being lauded for these efforts, why was I still unhappy and suicidal?
Though counseling helped me calm my mind, your blog answered a lot of these questions.
Today, I am still the same introvert. I am still what you’d call overweight, although pretty. But, I am at peace. I am no poster child for feminism. But, I have found my own comfort zone between conservativeness and liberation. At least I know what liberation looks like.
The most important change, however is, regardless of my beliefs, I am willing to push myself for others’ rights to live the way they want, whether or not I agree with it. I may not wear minis, but I will advocate someone else’s rights to wear them.
Some people say feminism goes too far. They think I have everything anyone would want so what is this whole fuss about? It seems that a woman being a postgraduate, wearing jeans and going to work in a corporate company represent the pinnacle of gender equality. It is not. As in my case, taking things for granted can kill you.
These people saw my post graduation. They never noticed that had I been less inhibited about myself living as a woman with limits, I would have done a doctoral in Scotland. They would have noticed that the very reason I chose Science was not because it was my passion, or I was good at it, or I was intelligent (the latter two, I am, truth be told), but because that was what my brother did and other peers considered smart. I chose this stream because I was ashamed of choosing English literature or History, lest I be looked down upon and teased further for being so benign. I abandoned my real passion and chose a stream that was considered more ‘male oriented’ and therefore, ‘intelligent’.
These people saw my jeans. What they did not see was how much I fought everyday to assert my right to wear them, no matter what others thought. What nobody saw was me walking into a clothing store to get a jeans my size (I’m not that big; I wear 34/36) and the shopkeepers giggling at me as if I had asked for a condom (which too isn’t fair). They did not notice how self-conscious I felt about my not so slim figure and always had reservations walking out, which my parents tried to fix by advising me “not to wear jeans as you don’t have the figure for it”. Nobody cared about all the subtle jibes and stares I was subject to, not because I looked bad in jeans (which is totally false as I know I am pretty and fashionable), but because I defied all those invisible rules set for overweight women, overweight fair women, overweight fair women from a conservative community, overweight fair women from a conservative community who wanted to look ‘respectable’. Finally, nobody stood by me when my in-laws passed diktats against jeans, citing that “married girls must look married” and that “you are not a college student anymore” and “what willchaar log think”. Nobody knew that the very act of wearing jeans was a battle I fought every day.
These people saw me working. They never noticed the compromises I made by moving in to my husband’s home after marriage, thus putting me 10 km further from my workplace. They never cared that after ‘work’, I had a second shift at home. They thought I had a maid so I must be having fun at home because after all that’s what working women do; neglect the home and go mad about their career. They never cared that my in laws have an eating/sleeping schedule which just does not support the wavelength of an average corporate employee. They watched me go to movies with my newlywed husband but never noticed me falling asleep on his shoulder due to severe exhaustion.
Feminists told me to get a divorce. Patriarchs told me to suck it up. Feminists said my husband was a jerk. Patriarchs said I was a loser. Everyone said I and my husband were idiots. But, nobody helped me live. Nobody helped US be. Everyone said we ought not to have married, but nobody guided us, two confused people and victims of Indian culture, on the right path to go about.
Your balanced views, on the other hand, helped me find that right zone where I was happy, being a non-confrontational person, without giving up on my rights. For once, I knew what, considering my strengths and weaknesses, I had to do to protect my rights. Firstly, I got to know what my rights were. With this strength, I got about making my life happy. It’s still in progress, but I can say I and my husband have both found that place where we are happy and respect each other’s differences. We only have to walk up there.
Thank you IHM, for all this.
And then in response to my email:
Yes, of course I am at this stand today because I staunchly believe in feminism, that is to say, the textbook definition of feminism. I don’t however, support radicalism or militancy that many people do in the name of feminism.