I can never escape the scowled disapproval from others at announcing my love for Feminism. It's swiftly followed by: "So you're a man hater then?” - It is then at that point in the conversation where I get huffy, lose all will to articulate the English Language and take on the persona of Neil from The Young Ones, "Well, y'know, I like, y'know believe we should all be equal, y'know, we're all human beings. Boom Shanka." At the age of 17 my main concerns should be whether I can get some Fake I.D for student night, whether the ticking time bomb of my virginity shall ever metaphorically explode or if Topshop are having a sale. Though there is a small side factor that eclipses these first world white girl problems: I'm Indian.
Feminism and Indian culture is a tricky thing. Feminism in India, by and Large, in its infant stages. My acute view, accumulated from my two week family visit there and well ... being Indian, is that India is a very patriarchal society in which equality laws do little to break staid traditional and religious cultures, especially in the more rural areas. It's more of a complex mix of contradiction than it is in the western world; the expectation that marriage validates a woman when thirty or forty years or so down the line it will become her twisted matriarchy, her husband long since past away, left with a farm and a slew of grandchildren you hope to see marry, all of whom will more likely emigrate to Canada in the next 2-3 years.
My Grandma brought this culture to Blighty, got her Kids married off and was bestowed with very westernised grandkids. Poor thing.
For me, it's a strange balance to strike. I'm acutely aware that my Mother and Grandma have mapped me out a life plan: Go University. Become Lawyer/Accountant/Doctor. Get married to a Sikh Boy of the same Caste. Live with Mother in law. Have Babies. Get them married off. Die. A part of me feels bad in knowing most of that shit will never go down, or perhaps that part of me is just befuddled in self pity because it's not what I really want; that the passive aggressive parenting I've received whilst being in my teens has put me off abiding a large majority of the unwritten rules laid down by my previous generations. Don't get me wrong, being indian has a few positives; big families, several religious holidays entailing money and nice food, but it's a curry pot of confusion that even ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ can't appease within me.
At the hazy ages from 11-15 I believed the Caucasian girls in my school had it so easy. "I hate being grounded" 'Bitch, I don't even have the chance to be grounded.' I'd silently fume, "My Mum only gave me £10 to get new foundation, how the hell will that get me [insert generic cheap ass makeup brand here]" 'I don't even that much money a week for lunch, you're fucking 13. Make up? One time I touched my mother's eyelash curler and I was verbally burnt for the next 10 minutes', the voice in my head would reply. "Oh God! My mum only bought me a bottle of Bacardi, I wanted to get totally wankered down at [insert the name of public park] tonight" by this point the voice in my head had combusted at the sheer injustice of it all.
I got Pube removals, I got cankle worries and I got those wobbly bits on my top inner thighs. I got white girl problems with a healthy dollop of Indian girl problems and extra poppadoms.
Then, my Mother annoyingly realised I was growing tits and pubes in a school which I had a certain knack for not befriending my Indian female peers, so she let me privy to all the family gossip that I had been restricted to and it turned into the garbled moral message of this: *SHOCK* The horror stories of disowned (female I hasten to add, always almost female) cousins marrying people from the wrong Indian caste,*GASP* sexually active female cousins before the shackles of marriage AND LO AND BEHOLD the above board and legal drinking at university. The corrupt, debauched, disgraceful little cretins, how do their parents live in the shame that their female offspring have dumped on them? How dare they adopt the culture that has ruined their family name, that goes against the whole notion of being an Indian Female. Of course, to me such tales had an air of attraction. Oh to be free and wild on a Saturday night past 10pm, that was the stuff fantasies.
Later down the line (after some considerably good GCSE'S I may add, and HUGE lies) fantasies were becoming reality. I got drunk! I got high! I got boys! I got the bitter realisation that I was in a whole new world of pain. I got Pube removals, I got cankle worries and I got those wobbly bits on my top inner thighs. I got white girl problems with a healthy dollop of Indian girl problems and extra poppadoms.
"That's what you get for hanging around with those white friends of yours" my mother prophesied. But this was freedom! Breaking through the Asian girl's glass ceiling, I'm not bound by misogynistic cultural norms! HUZZAH! Well ... no. It opened up a whole new precarious balance; which bits do I abide by if I didn't want to be oppressed? Abandon the norm of arranged marriages - open a new can of worms in finding a husband through the beautification of my lady parts and perfecting my womanly wiles.
A grim epiphany appeared; growing up in the mould of a western 21st century female was not the holy land for equal rights, but a mine field of social grievances that is barely a glint in the third world feminists non-lacquered eyes. Is this the next step of progression for women in India? Has the western woman foreshadowed the Eastern Woman new struggles? And isn't it screwy that not one person I knew got slightly alarmed that the film Bride & Prejudice based on, yes you guessed it, the 19th century novel Pride & Prejudice was entirely adaptable to modern day! I'm trying to work this out just like this unnumbered wave of feminism is trying working itself out and I've only really scratched the surface of this cultural puzzle, as I've only really scratched the surface of being the owner of a womb. Right now though all I'm left with is the little feminist inside of me that is running around in a wild fear screaming 'IF I CAN'T TAKE REFUGE IN THE WESTERN WOMAN'S FEMINISM, WHERE CAN I?!'. Poor thing.