My first book of 2020 was a book called Can We All Be Feminists. It is a collection of essays examining, dissecting and discussing intersectionality and feminism. It is a stellar book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who identifies with the word “feminist”.
The concept of intersectionality got me thinking about my own privilege.
Yes, as an Indian woman I face gender-based discrimination, I face unwanted attention from men sometimes in professional settings where it is hard to mitigate, and I look over my shoulder when I find myself alone in dark lonely spaces.
But I am also privileged.
I am privileged never to have been the victim of any serious sexual assault. I am privileged to have a family that supported me in education and in living and working for myself, a family that did not define my success in life by my ability to bring home a suitable husband.
I am privileged to have the means to have access to an education, a roof over my head, food to eat and access to clothing.
I am privileged to have a partner that treats me as an equal, that doesn’t put me down, respects me and as far as I know is loyal to me.
Though I have been fat-shamed and body-shamed, there is a privilege to having a body size that is close to the norm. I am trying to choose my words carefully on this one, as the essay by Selina Thompson on fatness and feminism, and our own agency over our bodies. The further you are away, the more dehumanised you become.
I am privileged to have had many opportunities to live and work abroad as well as the privilege of growing up in India. I am privileged to belong to a sexuality and a gender identity that does not expose me to the ugly whims of insecure prejudice.
I am privileged in a seemingly infinite number of ways.
If I claim to be a feminist, an identity I struggle with often for a while host of other reasons, I want to be a feminist in the pluralistic sense of the word, at least to the best extent that I can be as a flawed, biased human being.
I think it’s important we recognise our own privilege – because the privileged rarely like to admit they are so. As someone who is as infinitely privileged as I have described above, I know I don’t like to admit mine.
But admit it we must, because it is only when we recognise the good fortune, we have in ourselves, that we can empathise with those who are oppressed for reasons we would never be. It is only when we can understand this, that we can help others.
The shame, at least for me, comes from guilt. I feel guilty for my abundance, and it makes me want to deny and hide it. It’s difficult, at least for me, to admit that I am fortunate. It is easier to focus on what I don’t have.
I don’t like feeling like I’ve had things handed to me. I’ve worked very hard for a lot of the things in my life, and I want to feel I can celebrate my accomplishments. But if I’m to be totally honest, I had some advantages that helped me in doing those things – access to resources that is far from equal.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight against the oppression we face. If we don’t fight for ourselves, who will? But in my humble opinion, we could consider recognising the oppression we don’t face, because someone out there is facing it, and wishing we would just understand how lucky we are.
I am making this pledge this year, to be more sensitive to the experiences of other human beings, and my own blind spots that have led me there because of my privilege.
I have always had a complicated relationship with my weighing scale. I was a chubby child and teenager, and have struggled with body image and my weight, for as long as I can remember.
In school, I was bullied and called a fat and hairy bitch. In university, for a few years I worked out regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and then I discovered the curse that is relationship weight gain, especially when you’re with someone who eats a lot of Nutella, like my college boyfriend.
When I was 28 years old, I was working in a fairly straightforward 9-5 job in Mississauga (close to Toronto), Canada, leading a pretty boring life, where days and nights blended into each other.
I had moved from New York and missed it terribly. New York was a place that inspired me, while Toronto was nice, but it was not my city.
A year and a half later, I was watching a movie, based in New York. I felt a pang of something – I wasn’t sure what. This feeling of being completely in love with a city or a setting – something that fuelled my imagination and brought me great joy.I suddenly sat up and asked myself, “what the hell am I doing with my life?”
According to a recent article in the Economic Times, 5 million salaried people lost their jobs in July in India. This brings us to a total of 18.9 million jobs. Although the validity of this particular study has been questioned, we don’t need numbers to tell us that many people have been let go across industries, cities and career levels.
But what these numbers don’t show, is the true number of people who have suffered, which includes those that may still have a job, but who have been subject to pay cuts and increased pressure to perform.
The death of Sushant Singh Rajput has not hit me hard because I was a huge fan, or even followed his work at all. In truth, I barely followed him or his work.
Yet hit me it has, mainly because he was 34, five years younger than I am, who, it seems, felt like the only thing better than breathing another moment, was never to breathe again. That was how hopeless he felt.
When things like this happen to celebrities there is often a slew of opinions: preaching positivity, detachment and the benefits of meditation or yoga, of gratitude, and many other such things that are great in principle – but ineffective in reality.
Nobody who suffers from or struggles with depression can just cheer up. Nobody who struggles with anxiety can just calm down.
More positivity, more gratitude, changes in perspective, yoga, meditation and all those other wonderful things can benefit people who are already in relatively healthy mindsets. They may help some in people who are struggling, but in others it will just remind them of failure.
As a young woman I had all sorts of ambitions of where I would be at 30. Successful, surrounded by people I loved (including, perhaps, one special someone), and generally on an accelerated upward trajectory towards achieving all of my dreams. I was to be wildly successful, because, like all millennials, this was my destiny.
Almost every woman I know has had at least one relationship where she has willingly allowed herself to be treated poorly for months, or even years. This is not a judgement, rather an observation. Some are lucky enough to escape these relationships, others not so much.
We were speaking about Margaret Atwood, and what made her characters so powerful (I’d been watching The Handmaid’s Tale for the past few months and women’s bodies and the violence inflicted on them were top of mind).
It has been an interesting week. A mix of good and bad, of optimism and despair, anger and hope.
I know a lot of people who have struggled with depression and staying positive. They may be far from their families, they may be struggling with the emptiness of days, they may feel frustrated that they can’t do anything, they may be lonely or any number of things.
At the same time, I see a lot of “be positive” messages on social media, pointing out, rightly so, that we are privileged to have a roof over our heads, particularly as compared to the thousands of migrant workers, with no choice left but to walk home, and those of lesser circumstances.Continue reading “Thoughts on the Lockdown”