When I was Five, My uncle had come from Saudi Arabia, I was sitting across from him, He called me closer and gave me a little present, I unwrapped it and saw a green color lipstick, “Green?” I asked, clearly, disappointed. “This is a magic lipstick, when you wear it, it will turn red,” he said.
Next day, I was getting ready to school, Ponds powder and eyetex bindi, Black ribbons for my plaits, Uniform, White socks and shoes and a small white chalk piece to paint the brown spots fair, And some parachute oil to tame the frizz on my crown. All done. Then, I slowly picked that green lipstick and stroked it on my lower lips and it turned red. I smiled.
Then, someone grabbed the lipstick from my hand, my father, He walked swiftly to the balcony, threw the stick outside, turned to me and said “Lipsticks are for bad women,” and went away. And, I stood, holding the balcony grills and looking at that magic lipstick on the road.
When I was fifteen, My mom enrolled me into the math tuition that starts at 6:00 AM and I had only 2 salwar kameez, so, I wear them on alternative days, In weeks time, tuition mates asked why am I not wearing anything else, their eyes were glistening with mischief,
“You are going to tuitions to study and not for a fashion parade,” said my mother.
I vividly remember borrowing a bunch of colorful hairbands from a friend, I cannot wear them at home because questions, I would keep the bunch in a small pouch, hide it inside my bag, I will ride my cycle, go to the next street, I’d wear the hair band and smile.
Then my elder sister wanted company and took me to a parlor and asked, “hey! Do you wanna thread your brows and I said yes!” I cried because that was the first time I’m plucking my brows. It was painful. I cursed my sister. But, when it was over and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt pretty. But, also, I had to keep my eyes on the floor just so I don’t get caught. But, that wasn’t a big task of a thing because I am always expected to keep my head down because I am a woman.
Things slightly changed when I went to college though,
I had better clothes to wear. 5 of them. I had power and I wore glasses, so I do not have to wear Kajal you know, I used to tell my friends. Ok, I lied to my friends. Truth is, I was not allowed to wear anything makeup.
Hostel life though was a tad different, Four of us in a room with shelves assigned for each, I would see their shelves with deodorants and perfumes and lip-glosses but mine were plain, I would wait for them to leave, I would sneak, and take a little bit of those cosmetics to try, The orange of that lakme on my lips and the moral science about stealing something on my mind, The fragrance of a tommy Hilfiger perfume on my wrist and the values that my grandma taught via the Mahabharata and Ramayana story in my heart,
Whenever I ask that I want something so cosmetic at home, they’d say “It would attract boys!” or they’d blatantly ask “Whom are you trying to attract?”
I grew up to understand that the world sees a man’s body as a vessel for one’s soul, But, a woman’s body though is not it. It is sexualized. I grew up to understand that the world sees a man’s clothes as civilization, But, a woman’s clothes are designed to just attract the male eye.
I was taught that women dress up to attract men, I was preached that women who dress up are bad women, who’d wear red lipsticks are sluts, and high heels are what porn stars wear.
I was forced to think that female sexuality is for everyone else except herself, I was forced to assume that female sexuality is required only when they want to please their partners,
A woman should know to dress enough to satisfy her male counterpart, be innocently seductive but not anything else.
But, then, I think I really grew up over the past decade, With life happening, love happening, social media and great bunch of friends and books, Trip to a different country and jumps to different companies, I sense a notable shift in my ideology,
Moral policing on social media is always on the high, I look at people commenting, Sleeveless clothes are not feminist’s tools, That, short skirts are not really empowering, Moreover, body hugging clothes – OMG! Is this even feminism?
Let me tell you something, When a person is not allowed to do something, if the reason is their gender, and if the person rebels against it, it is feminism.
There’s no said tabular column or match the following with a list stating what all fall under feminism and what doesn’t.
So, next time, when you have the urge to comment “Is this feminism?” or “Oh dear woman, you don’t even know what’s feminism. Torn clothes are not it,” or “revealing clothes is not feminism” or “what you’re wearing would invite rapists,” and sorts.
Take a white sheet of rectangular paper and write down your comments, Hold the top corners, bring them closer, and make a triangle, Flip it and fold it, Flip it again and fold it, Make a paper plane out of it. Keep it upright. 90 degrees. Take it down. Far below your crotch, Shove it up your ass and fuck off.