My mother or ammu, the way I call her, was a feminist in a time hashtags or social media movements around feminism hadn’t yet emerged in the world. My father, baba, never treated me the way conventional standards demanded girls to be treated. I understood the concept of feminism way before I learnt the term itself. Perhaps, it was through the process of helping ammu make posters for the Ministry of Women’s and Children’s Affairs that I understood the joys of being a woman. I was often told that I am too loud and, for a person my age, I talk too much. However, baba told me that it was in our blood that we spoke when no one else did, in the face of adversity or injustice.
This rebellion and the desire to be treated equally, apparently, got my predecessors into turmoil. Begum Rokeya was a 19th century muslim-female feminist hero who changed the landscape of gender equity in Bengal and South Asia. She is often dubbed as the ‘forgotten feminist’. In the feminist piece of literature, published in 1905, titled Sultana’s Dream, Begum Rokeya celebrated being a woman through the lens of a dystopia. She wrote about a world called “ladyland” which had a futuristic setting even in the contemporary world. It put men in gender roles traditionally perceived to be feminine. It aimed to capture men in scenarios where their lives are dictated by women. Ergo, it attempted to boost empathy for women in an unforgiving patriarchal society.
It aches me to realize that many of these heroes will not be known by young aspiring women simply due to their non-western background.
This is only one of my idols who enlightened my perception of women rights and freedom, which makes me conclude that women do not need to be empowered by society. They simply need to be heard and treated with equity.