Social Paranoia Polaroid has been edited by Sheeba Mammen.
Why is it that now, the only thing that matters is what others think of me, rather than what I think of myself?
Why do I only see my life – and myself – from without and not within?
My mind’s eye has become the perspective of other people. Whenever I am about to do something, all the hypothetical questions that people might ask me keep ringing in my ears. Every hour, I find myself having an imaginary conversation with someone explaining what I am doing and why I am doing it. I am always worried that my explanations will not be ‘logical’ or ‘rational’ enough. That they won’t make ‘sense’. I worry that I am not able to convert my feeling into the correctly phrased socio-political pitch to convince my friends of its validity. In front of my hyper-rational, nazi socialist and intellectual politics mongering or glorifying friends, this seems like the greatest crime.
I once got shot down because I said I didn’t like how some feminists thought but I was definitely for the idea of equality between men and women – so maybe I am truly a feminist or maybe I am not. All I can say is that I am an egalitarian. For this, I was scolded. I was told egalitarianism is equality among all living things so, unless I felt that animals are inherently entitled to all the same rights as us, I shouldn’t call myself an egalitarian.
No, I didn’t, I said. Then you are a feminist – you SHOULD be! I was yelled at. Okay, but generally, when people say egalitarian, I’m pretty sure they just mean equality between men and women. I’m pretty sure no one is thinking that dogs and cats have all the same rights as we do (like the right to education and vote). That would just be ridiculous!
No! It doesn’t matter what people think, people are stupid. That is the academic definition of egalitarianism and you cannot call yourself an egalitarian in any other situation! You are a feminist!
This was one of the most exhausting conversations I’ve ever had. See, it is okay to have your opinions – or even knowledge of hard facts like what the academically accepted definition of egalitarianism is – but you cannot use that to shut people down. I actually am a feminist, but this conversation was from when I had just discovered the concept. Now I am one out of choice and understanding. I hated this conversation because she was forcing the label on me – and aggressively! You should have seen the look in her eyes – absolutely murderous. You cannot do that. Force a label onto someone. It wasn’t that I didn’t support equality for women. I just needed a little time and space to explore the concept of feminism. I just didn’t call myself a feminist – and that seemed to really upset her.
Also, I didn’t want to have this conversation in the first place. I mean, look at it, read it over and over again – it is absolutely and utterly pointless! I was just going about my own business, having dinner, when this happened. That said, I don’t at all mind the occasional rarefied debate – but to forcefully drag someone in and force them to fight when they don’t want to, seems very unfair.
You call men chauvinist pigs – but what are you? Is this not chauvinism? Why is there such a huge hullabaloo over those who label themselves feminist and those who do not? Is not what you believe in matter the most? I know tens of people who passionately believe in equality for the sexes but have not labelled themselves a feminist yet. Is that such a heinous crime? Most people who give food to the poor do not call themselves social workers. So many mothers, fathers, best friends, siblings and high school principals do not call themselves motivational speakers. Most of the food that a majority of people eat is not cooked by ‘chefs’. Van Gogh never called himself an impressionist. Other people gave him that label after he was dead. Just because you do not label yourself does not nullify the effect of your actions or discredit your beliefs.
Most real feminists do not even call themselves feminists. Quite surprising, is it not? They quietly continue fighting their battles in the corners of our world and homes. Your grandmother who chose to marry the man she loved, your mother who chooses to wear what she wants despite what people may say. The maid that fought her husband for her share of money or your chai-wala who is working extra hours so his daughter can go to school. Your father’s female colleague who turned down marriage to become the head of marketing. Even your father, who is probably the reason you are here right now.
If you look around, more than a flicker, there is a flame of hope that is lighting up lives around you, including your own. People are doing amazing things. They are overcoming overwhelming odds. They are standing up for the unlikely candidate and giving it all up for someone else’s fight.
But you won’t be able to see that because you’re too busy holding the barrel of a gun to someone’s head over the usage of a fucking word.
Welcome to the age of information over understanding.
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