Feminism has gained such a negative and contorted reputation. Over time, people have associated feminism with bra burners and men haters. Bollywood celebrities have refrained from calling themselves feminists. Strong, independent, and assertive women are considered feminists. I don’t see the harm in that, but many do. For me, feminism is nothing more than a movement to achieve equal and basic human rights. If you are somebody who is fighting to see women and men treated as equals, then you also are a feminist.
It wasn’t until I moved back to India after years of living abroad that I realized I was a feminist. I grew up in an environment where equal treatment was a given. I lived a generally satisfying life in the United States, in extremely multi-cultural places where people were very open-minded. As a shy, self-conscious middle-class Indian girl growing up in America, I fortunately never once felt discriminated or bullied against. From a young age, I had friends of mixed race, gender, and sexual orientation. I was always treated with equal respect and appreciation, and learned to do the same.
Even as a child, I was the apple of my parents’ eyes. Being the only child, I was never compared to or pressurized for much. It was a safe and comfortable world for me. Now that I look back, I realize I was perhaps even given more attention as the only girl between my two cousin brothers. But in my family, every single child was and is still treated equally. My grandparents made sure that we were never limited to or restricted against anything growing up. We were all equals, no matter the gender.
However, the older I got, there were nuances that began to stand out for me. When I moved back to India, I grew much more observant and sensitive to the stark comparisons between life abroad and life here. I realized that unfortunately discrimination exists in many forms due to divisions and complexities in our society. I learned that being a girl may not necessarily work in your favor living in India. Over the course of five years in India, I have felt objectified because of my gender. I have felt mocked, humiliated or embarrassed because of my gender. I have felt my opinions weren’t valid… because of my gender.
It is when these things happened that I realized I was one of the strongest feminists ever. If a man can work 80 hours a week and run a company, a woman can too. If a man can drive, a woman can to. If a man can work after marriage, a woman can and should be able to as well. If a man is allowed to go to school, a woman should be able to as well. If a man can freely walk down the streets, without ever feeling threatened or unsafe, a woman can and most definitely should be able to as well.
These are basic human rights. Being a feminist means fighting for these rights that every human being, despite gender, class, race, religion, or sexuality, should be able to have. I write with fervor and extreme passion about these issues now, because I have never felt disadvantaged or disabled due to my gender. And to me, that’s troubling and unsettling!
Growing up in a safe, healthy, and stimulating environment, and having equal freedom and respect from society is a basic human right for all. Every single woman in every single nation deserves this right. I strongly believe in this, and want to fight for it until it becomes a reality. I can say I feel blessed and privileged having experienced this, but if I do so, I will stray away from the true meaning of feminism. Equality and freedom is an unspoken right, not a privilege, that I feel every individual in this planet deserves.
About the Author
Arushi Dutt is a 25 year old feminist, restless with the creative germ. She runs a YouTube channel, is a freelance writer and is also looking to work with NGOs in gender development, mental health, and animal welfare sectors.