I was initially afraid to call myself a feminist. There were many silly reasons. The main one, that as soon as you mention you're a feminist, people assume you're an angry, alienated, girl-boy whose vagina is out to eat you. Feminists can't take jokes, they hate men, they have no sense of fashion, and their hair is cut really short, they're lesbians, they're perpetually bitter, they have cats, lots and lots of cats, they live in a bubble, they've been abused, and they're broken.
I know that this notion of what a feminist is as close to the truth as what the world thinks, of Pakistanis and of women in general, I know because I am all of those.
I didn't want all these labels on me, but I wanted people to know that I stand up for women rights too, so I would always explain myself when I said I was a feminist.
“I'm a feminist but I'm not angry like you think I am.”
“I'm a feminist but not like those you see on tv being made fun of.”
“I'm a feminist but I'm not violent.”
“I'm a feminist but I don't hate men.”
“I'm actually more of an equalist.”
“I believe in men’s rights too.”
Well, long story short, I've never been a push-over, and I'm not insecure, so I figured if I could handle the rest, I could handle people thinking me this cookie-cutter, cardboard, monochrome stereotype. Because this is what I needed. I needed to stop explaining myself, to stop watching boys snigger, the other girls roll their eyes, from "yeah but-" NO. I've watched marriages fall apart, I've watched a man beat his wife and take away her kid, I've heard a man threaten to beat his wife because she works to support the family and isn't home in time to serve him food.
And WHY shouldn't I be angry? Do you know, do you know how much there is to be angry about? Why do I have to watch what I wear? Why do my friends tell my not to walk out in the street even with them around because it's dangerous? Why can't I sit alone at a dhaba? Why do I have to tie up my hair? Why am I afraid that if I want to go ahead and get drunk I need a friend who's sober because I might get raped?Why do I have to put up with men twice-thrice my age stare at me with intent? Why can't I just go to sea-view? Why do I need to make sure a park is safe before I choose it for my early-morning walks? Why can't I be sexy? Why am I to be shamed for having a boyfriend, for flirting, for kissing, for enjoying sex? Why do I have to hear about "rishta-aunties" and prospective in-laws look me over like I'm a piece of meat? Why do I have to hear that a woman is like a diamond, you don't show it off, or that I'm like gold, way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock; you've got to work hard to get to me? I'm not an object. I'm a person. I'm a person. How dare you compare me to something that doesn't breathe, doesn't move, can't think? What does it matter how valuable that thing is? HOW is it more valuable than I am?
Yes, there are a lot of mad feminists. And they're merciless because a lot of bad things happened to them and/or to people they love dearly.
Feminists are feminine, they're tomboys, they like to put on dark lipsticks, they like to play football, they don't cut their hair, they cut it all off, they're happily married, they are single, they've been through ugly divorces, they have kids, they have cats, they wear no make-up, they're actresses, they're journalists, housewives, models, daughters, lovers, writers, artists, engineers, doctors. They are women. They are men.
We don't have to make excuses for ourselves. We don't have to explain ourselves. We are feminists. We're proud. And we are not going to let you get away with it.