Sometimes society forgets that feminism isn’t a singular aspect on a colour spectrum. Within the movement and desire to advocate and fight for my equal rights and representations is the balance that I need to strike with my heritage and my nationality.
Born an Australian, raised an Indian-Australian, hailing from an Indian heritage. I am a brown feminist.
To quote Vicki Soogrim’s poignant piece on this issue, within my classification as a feminist, I strike a balance between my heritage, nationality and feminist ideal to understand that my culture and heritage cannot be mutually exclusive to my being a feminist. They must work together to allow me to be true to myself and my values. I cannot be roped into a constructed view of “correct” feminism, which normalises feminism for a white body, when my own experience is so different.
To be raised in a culture where colourism, misogyny and clear gender roles still prevails; these experiences have to act as a guide and a lesson book so I can be a true feminist.
I cannot be boxed into the western world’s vision of the feminist I am. Yes I am bold, outspoken and confident. Yes I am independent and outgoing. Yes I am my own person, and I am not submissive. But that vision of a fierce brown woman rejecting common Indian tropes like arranged marriage and gender roles is too narrow to truly explain what and who an Indian feminist is.
Yes, as Indian feminists, we all embody those characteristics.
But one key thing society fails to understand is that what makes feminism so important to me as someone with an Indian heritage, is how I personally react and mould myself to changing the systemic anti-feminist viewpoints embedded in Indian culture. What I don’t do, is reject every “anti-feminist” cultural element. That would be alienation.
I am a feminist. I believe in choice. But I also believe in not having sex before marriage. To save oneself until after marriage is inbuilt in Indian culture. However, I make the active decision to do so. I use my power, my choice, my voice to say that I want to wait. I don’t want children, I love working and I’m not in a typical career path. I won’t give up my career to sit at home, and I’m not shy about letting my voice be heard. But I’m not going to give up my culture and the traditions I was raised with.
I will wear my shorts with pride. I’ll fight back against the comments about my height, weight, body hair, skin colour and clothing choice. I won’t be that sanskari submissive housewife. I will be that uncontrollable successful young woman chasing her dreams. I will be that woman who marries a man she loves. I am that woman who will have the final say.
I won’t give up the act of touching my elders feet as a sign of respect. I won’t give up the fact that I help out around the house, in doing chores and cooking.
These facts about me don’t make me submissive or any less of a feminist. They simply mean that I entwine my heritage into my lifestyle so I can be true to myself.
I will wear whatever I please. I will use my voice and exert my power. I will fight for my rights. I will tell men to stay the hell away from me, and hit back. I will pursue what I desire instead of crumpling to society’s wishes. I won’t be held down by the words of society, and conform. I am a feminist.
But I’m also an Indian.
And I cannot be true to myself or my feminist value if I alienate myself from such an integral part of my composition.
After all, feminism isn’t a white concept. While Amy Schumer is a wonderful woman, we all aren’t like her. And one feminist experience cannot be a holy grail. Because we’re all different and therefore all our fights for the collective feminist movement will be different.
Success in our desire for equality will come through an acceptance of culture and feminism amalgamating together, so we can allow equality to infiltrate our past, present and future.