Living in a patriarchal household in India is difficult considering the usual misogynistic responses to everything that you do. I was brought up in a middle-class family, where my parents provided me with love, affection, and the usual expressions of disappointment and dissatisfaction. My father brought me up to be independent and encouraged me to speak my mind, but the rest of the family wasn’t down with the way I acted.
You know how when you’re young you seek love and approval from your family, and all they say is what they think you need to change about yourself? That’s how I have lived my life for the past 20 years. Nobody, apart from my father, has validated my zeal for asking questions and exploring new ideas. I am a vocal intersectional feminist who tries to express her opinion in a house where nobody cares, and that bodes as well as you can imagine.
My mother always pressured me to act like a ‘lady’, whatever that means. I was supposed to remain hush-hush about topics like periods and sexuality and refrain from preaching about intersectionality, men, and politics. So to my mother’s amazement, I turned out to be everything I was told not to be.
I was told to speak like a woman, softly and quietly, and not shout out or question authority. Turns out I love expressing my opinions, and love to shout back at someone who’s speaking absolute shit (for example someone who’s cracking racist ‘jokes’ in my family). I have always believed that mere age isn’t enough to demand respect. Respect is earned. This ideological difference causes a rift in my family.
In India, parents believe in the idiom, ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. This means Indian parents feel obligated to hit their kids in order to punish/condition them into being good kids. Thus, I have been physically hit by my mother when I have raised my voice during an argument. I know many parents love this hard-parenting approach, and I don’t have a kid to comment on parenting procedures, but trying to beat your kid’s opinions out of them is not the answer.
I have been body-shamed every day of my life, been told I need to become ‘fairer’. I’ve been asked not to shift to menstrual cups because apparently inserting something into your vagina makes you a ‘bad, dirty woman’(literal translation of words said to me by my mother). I have been slapped countless times for arguing against illogical practices. I think if someone chooses to be quiet upon hearing such statements, it is just wrong. What is the point of being an educated woman in the 21st century if you can’t articulate your views?
My family members have urged me to consider meditation in order to ease my restlessness (which apparently makes me opinionated.) They thought I was faking my depression and even considered that my therapist was trying to turn me against my own relatives because through therapy I had finally realized how toxic our family actually is.
I have learned to be blunt, and open about everything, taught myself the meaning of honesty. Hypocrisy runs deep in my family. I am called a terrible person, berated about my “behavior”, and told that I am selfish. What would you do if you heard an Islamophobic joke or a misogynistic comment?
Yes, I am painting my family in a bad light. I am grateful to them for providing me with a good life, but they don’t own me and my voice just because they paid for my education and gave me clothes to wear and food to eat. No girl should be asked to remain quiet.
So, Mom, I am tired of asking you for your approval. You don’t care about how I fare mentally; rather you just want me to be a “fair lady.”
So, to hell with being a lady.