Three or four years ago, I went about telling friends who ‘accused’ me of being feminist that I wasn’t one, but that I was a firm believer in gender equality. Although I slowly revised my stance even before starting my Master’s, remembering those instances makes me cringe now – I wish I’d met earlier those brilliant people who explained to me why being a feminist isn’t a bad thing. Before coming to Bombay, I’d laugh with a friend who teased me about becoming a part of Nari Mukti Morchas. Now I’d tell him, what the heck, I’m proud to be a part of it now.

Besides intense discussions, heated arguments (and the faster heartbeat that accompanies these) or the pure joy of reading something that puts into words something you’ve been struggling to explain, feminism has introduced some externalities in my life. Many positive ones, the life-changing things. The negative ones are unavoidable, I guess, but they relate to some everyday things which now make me guilty when I indulge in them, or which make me positively worried about how future in this world is going to turn out. 

Those scenes in Mouna Ragam when Revathi plays up marital symbols: watching it last year, I stifled a cry when the scene came where she pulls out her thaali to explain that her husband was injured – why would an educated, English-speaking woman need that when she could convey it perfectly well to hospital staff? It’s not a recent phenomenon, I remember getting annoyed as a child when in Vikram Kamal asks his female friend when she says women can do anything men can: “I roam around without a shirt when it’s hot, can you do that?” But it’s gone to exponential levels now. I want to beat up anyone who writes a dialogue ‘poi oru selaiya kattu…’ as the worst possible insult to a man, or where there is a soup song that squarely places the blame on women, along the lines of ‘adi da avala…’ or ‘venaam machan venaam indha ponnunga kadhal…’ F$%*#r leave the women alone if you feel so bad then, won’t you? I’m scared to watch KLTA because I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at the humour without thinking of forms of misogyny embedded in it.  

Giving a gender-related argument to drive any point home (it just seems to the simplest, most obvious example!), so much so that one friend sighed and asked not to look at everything through this lens.

Getting alarmed when niece/nephew/other children say things like girls can’t be superheroes they have to be princesses/boys don’t cook or wear pink, and trying to get them to understand they can do whatever they want without thinking about being a boy or a girl (only to fail miserably because I just can’t do baby-level talk). Will these kids grow out of it? I don’t remember what I was like as a child, but I do remember enjoying my toy machine gun, my cars and asking for a football while enjoying my dolls Mini, Meena and Skipper, and fighting with parents to buy a Mattel kitchen set in Bombay.

Or going the lengths to tell my mother that I will not be kanya-daan-ified whenever I get married – am I an object? Or trying to convince her that I will edit out I-hope-I-die-before-my-husband- or Please-give-me-a-hundred-sons-type mantras: who wants to start a married life wishing for these things? I have other ways to prove love to man besides wanting to die before he does, and anyway, I should have a life outside of him, isn’t it?

Trying hard to take a joke. I don’t know when I should just laugh it off and when I should rise up in anger and tell the person to get the hell out of my Facebook feed. I’m tempted to try to verbally slap some sense into female friends who share with pride how motherhood is ‘divine’ (come out of it already!) or those who share (as if it’s a gem) Chetan Bhagat’s article about how men should allow their wives to work because it will make for a more productive household even if the phulkas come a little cold (oh, how dare you ….)

I’m not much into swearing anyway, and have never used mo-fu, bc or even ‘gay,’ but trying not to even say bastard when I want to hurl an abuse at some man – say, a harasser on the road – is proving to be quite difficult. Add to the mix trying to avoid ‘lame’ or ‘stupid’ because it is disrespectful to people with such conditions, and I’m trying to resort to good old English – as  friends put it, maybe it’s time to go back to ludicrous, ridiculous and the like (see, I can’t even remember too many of these words).

It’s been a wonderful journey so far, even though I wonder how I’ll make my peace with the aforementioned minor dilemmas in everyday life. I also wonder if this is just a phase I’ll grow out of when I get out of cushy student life and have to tackle the everyday pressures that come with working life. I desperately hope not. The last two years have been so life-changing that it would be a pity if I have to leave the learnings behind just because life demands that – but somewhere, there is a teeny, tiny hope this won’t happen. Ten years hence, I hope I can still read this blog and be proud that I am still living my life as an individual, as a Vani Viswanathan with an identity that is not tied only to a family, a man or a child, but also to something that is uniquely my own. And that I will still roll my eyes and try to explain why women shouldn’t have to cook, can enjoy movies wholeheartedly because they don’t really have sexism in every other scene, or tell little girls they can play superheroes too.

P.S.: And I’m officially out of excuses to start working on my thesis this morning. Work, woman, work! 

P.P.S.: The blog turns EIGHT!