The struggles of being a feminist in a society where love and self-love are “apparently” two ends of a spectrum

I have been a loner since childhood. I was five and the youngest and poorest kid in the neighborhood. My playmates would always bully me or scare me with ghost stories. When I complained to my parents, they suggested an easy way out. Stop going out to play and read books. And the only books available at that time were mythology and religious books. I know what kind of emotions the words “religion and mythology” evoke in us nowadays but on the contrary, reading these books helped me understand and accept different point of views. And if I could point out one take away from this experience- it would be that with time, though my knowledge of stories remained the same, my perspective continued evolving. I evolved from fearing God to blindly loving God to questioning God yet loving them.

My experience with feminism also has followed a similar trajectory. My teenage years were spent in aspiring to be a perfect human being- someone with a successful career and a loving family. I wanted to be the epitome of ambition and selfless love at the same time. Only later did I realize how complex my dream was. Being ambitious means putting yourself above everything else and love means prioritizing others. And in real life, it was more of a tug of war, especially for a woman who is expected to love and sacrifice at every stage of life. To be honest, I am not a woke person, who read about gender equality, understood what it means and decided to take a stand. The feminist in me was born out of desperation, helplessness and anger when I recognized the disadvantages of being a woman in the current society. And experience had been my biggest teacher. I am sure not 100% of my statements are politically correct but I also know that I am trying to learn something every day.

My latest read is “Dharma Artha Kama Moksha” by the renowned author Devdutt Pattanaik. One of the chapters in the book speaks about human’s relationship with God across religions. It talks about how in Greek mythology, humans are rewarded for exhibiting bravery against the Gods who are cruel while in Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), glory lies in obedience and compliance where the Gods are loving. However, Hinduism believes in rebirths. It believes in compliance as well as defiance as in case of Lord Ram as well as Lord Krishna, who were incarnation of Vishnu.

And I cannot help but wonder as a feminist who also prioritizes mental health, in a society that has handed over the rights of self-love and duty of selfless love to people based on the relationship and gender, which behaviour is actually rewarding? The awareness of being a victim is often painful and so is the realization of being a perpetrator. In this system, all of us are both until mindfulness hits us. Then how do I hate the women and men in my family for expecting me to be submissive when I also sympathize with them for living a life as per the society’s expectations, against their will? But how do I also get rid of the frustration of carrying the weight of this knowledge alone? There are times when I want to comply too- to be loved, to be accepted and to be rewarded as well. And the inner turmoil continues- like a pendulum in motion.  

Not looking for a solution but would really like to know from fellow feminists, is it something that you struggle with too? How did you manage to make peace with it?

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