I still remember that slap on my face, I still remember all the shaming from my ex, I still remember my closest friends going behind my back telling people I am a horrible girl because I drank and I stayed with my boyfriend and how it made all the people around me judgemental towards me- how it left me alone doubting myself, being depressed for a year.
It’s been long since I have had people sneering at my face about the fact that I am feminist. “Oh! She is one of those who can’t take a joke.” “She is a ‘feminist’! Haha! She thinks only she knows about women.” At first it really pestered me, but now I have got so used to the fact that this is the response I can expect from people who either misunderstand the entire concept or think that it is some kind of joke or an insult to be a feminist.
Well, at times, there were so many ridicules at a time, that I even questioned my own beliefs and values. But then, is it not what they try to do to you when you are just being yourself and stating unpopular opinion- push you to a point where we start questioning ourselves rather than standing strong on our viewpoint?
But this article isn’t about this. There is always a personal journey and tough life experiences that make us realise the relativity of an idea. The first and sophomore years of my Graduation days were the time when I had enough encounters to understand how difficult it can be for young women in the open world. That is how I became a Feminist and this article is about that journey.
Just like any teenager long away from her house for the first time, I was in a place where I was trying to adjust to my new location: Varanasi, which was nothing like I expected. It started off with short campus visits in my Alma mater with my new friends of that time, who also happened to be my roommates. Also, I was in a long-distance relationship. Ever heard of the first innocent one where you think this is the person with whom you would want to settle? It was that kind. All of these put together in my life and it was going off as a breezy time of my life with people to trust and love. Little did I know it was not long-lasting!
The long distance had its toll on the relationship- the obvious ones: insecurities, time issues and trust issues. I would not say I was very mature or totally out of any fault. I went out with and talked to people over social media, which my ex had a huge problem with while being unavailable for most of the time. I tried to find people in my university. But what I really wanted the most was to be honest and work the relationship out in anyway possible, which also included spending a lot of time with my ex-boyfriend as and when possible. May be it would have worked out if it stayed this way. I was willing to give up everything that I wanted to do for his sake. I remember giving up going out with my friends because I chose to stay in the room and talk to him over the phone when he got busy. I prioritised him over everything. I did not go out so that he didn’t suspect me of being disloyal. I came back before 8 PM because that is how he likes it to be. Even after changing my entire life pattern and revolving my entire life around him, it was not enough to make him happy. It went on for a year that I begged him, stopped saying whatever I wished to or doing what I wanted so that he can like me and be with me. It did stop him from coming to my house drunken and insult me in front of my parents. No matter what I did, all he came up with was, ‘ You broke my trust once, you are going to do it once. It’s you who is ruining my life-giving me no space, choking me.’ I spent one and half years being disgusted at myself, blaming myself for being a ‘slut, unfaithful girl’ who was just too ‘indulged in trying to fit in the trend of being a Feminist'( as he would say) by trying to live on my own terms. I was even willing to put up with his controlling and dominating nature just to prove that I loved him and would go to any extend for him. After 1.5 years of all of trying to prove myself worthy of him, I realised I can’t really do that because he has already understood that he can feel the power and prominence in the relationship by making me vulnerable, filling myself with self doubt and criticism. His abuses, curses, the mental pressure and also the memory of his slap when I went out and he couldn’t find me were something that became a part of my daily life. I decided to end it when I realised no matter what I do he will end up shaming me and taking every small opportunity to leave me. Do you know what he said when I broke up? ‘I had told you long before that I wanted to leave you. You were the one who clang on to me’. Well, yes, I was clingy because I wanted his time and every opportunity to prove myself which was ultimately of no use.
While all this was going on, my then-roommates when behind my back not only to judge me but tell my ex- boyfriend what I did in my daily life, god knows, what spices they must have added there! Also, they complained to the authorities and also other hostel mates about my personal space and daily life- that I went out, party-ied, got drunk, went and stayed with my boyfriend and everything possible to make people think I am a rotten little girl who could only ruin lives and had a loose character. I dont know what they expected of me at that time- that I should have had my life as per their terms? Or should I have taken their permission before leading life in my way or having a relationship? Or were they just projecting their jealousy and insecurities on me? Anyway, as you must have understood I believed it was my fault again that I didn’t spend much time with them or prioritised my boyfriend. But it was not that and it was not about friendship too. Well, I guess what they had in mind was to shame and side-line a girl to the point where she crumbles and they can rejoice at that view.
I remember I was on a train to my college and I was talking to my co-passenger- a total stranger. I was so mentally low that I cried out in front of him telling him that it’s all my fault that my friends and relationship have fallen out. It was in my sophomore year that things got worst. I felt all the closest people in my life had left me, and I blamed myself to the point that I was depressed. I did not have a eating or sleeping schedule. I used to stay lonely, had no real connection and I kept on blaming myself for it. I did not say anything to anybody no matter what problem I faced because I thought it was me with major adjustment issues. I walked through the lanes and ghats of Varanasi alone, because that is where I felt at peace. It also made me horribly weak and vulnerable when I saw how lonely I was. I kept questioning myself everyday before going to sleep: “Is it all my fault? Was I being dishonest? Am I a bad person?”
But then I started interacting with new people and broke off with my ex and over the times , I realised that I WAS NOT AT ALL FAULT. It was NOT MY FAULT that I chose to go out with other people and make new friends because I felt unhappy in the relationship I was in. I realised I stayed in that relationship for so long not out of love but out of guilt and self blame. It WAS NOT my fault that I chose to live life on my own terms to the fullest, without “seeking my friends’ permission”. It WAS NOT my fault that they chose that the time when I was vulnerable to go behind my back and make people think so wrong of me. It WAS NOT my fault that my ex could not deal with an opinionated woman and that my so-called friends projected their insecurities on me, BECAUSE real friends understand you and do not use your vulnerability against you. IT was NOT my fault that I am strong, bold and not a typical women playing games and waiting to fulfill other’s expectations. IT WAS NOT MY FAULT THAT ALL OF THEM PUT THE BLAME ON ME, PUSHING ME INTO ABYSS OF DEPRESSION AND NOT EVEN RETHINKING ONCE ABOUT THEIR ACTIONS.
It was with all these realisations I became a Feminist. I understood it’s always easy to slut-shame/judge/shun a woman for every little action of theirs- to mentally and emotionally harass them for being themselves. They would always take advantage of your kindness and vulnerability to push you down. That’s why it’s important to be strong for your own self and voice yourself to keep yourself protected from all these oppressors. That is what Feminism is all about- to stand for oneself, one’s dignity, rights and let not the society pull us down. I just realized that if I, a woman with all means of awareness and education could go through all this, what about women who have no realisation of their rights and taking a stand for themselves? What about those survivors of rape or domestic abuse who have no support to them? I realised the necessity of Feminism and why it’s important for also being the voice of those who don’t have a voice.
Now that I look back, I feel so foolish that I even took the blame for things I was not remotely responsible for. I stopped being myself. They filled myself with so much self-hatred, it took me a year to realise how much toxic they were actually and what was it doing to me. I should have just said what I wanted to and did what I wanted to because that is what has helped to be alive and live today. Even though it was only due to these life experiences, that today I have trust issues and difficulty in coping with my feelings. I act distant when I feel I have started having fondness towards anybody because I don’t want to get hurt again and go through the same thing- although I am sure that won’t happen because of all the lessons I have got the last time.
It was very difficult for me to even write this article. I know the same people will be offended very much and can come back to have a jibe at me or shame me again. But after battling depression along for a year and overcoming all of this negativity, I couldn’t care less about them and what they think.
I write this today to answer to all that hatred and comments I hear on saying that I am a feminist, ” You don’t know what one has gone through in their lives to be what they are today. May be its a joke to you but it was their source of inspiration at one time to get out of their struggles.” Also, it is most important that we stay loyal to ourselves and love ourselves the most because there will be thousands of toxic people out their who would not bat an eye before dipping you in abyss of self hatred and self doubt. I won’t say I am the most ideal Feminist since I have had my share of mistakes as well but I have learnt through them and have grown to be this strong woman who doesn’t feel guilty for being herself and doesn’t let other people bring her down by projecting self blame on her.
I am very proud of this journey of learning to take a stand for myself, realising what is worth me and what is negative for me and being a person who must voice her opinion and stating her views. I am who I am now, what I have evolved into, I will stick to this and evolve through it.
#feminism #life #lifelessons #strong #feminist #selflove #mentalhealth