The following was submitted by SMIW contributor Aishwarya Subramanian to our campaign #HaveShortsWillSmoke.
I was a hypocritical sexist and I have the receipts to prove it.
A decade ago, an 18 year old me was banned from a popular Harry Potter fan forum for slut-shaming Ginny Weasley.
This may sound like a joke but it isn’t. I had spent hours telling everyone on the forum that any girl daring to date (gasp) more than two boys within the span of a year was a slut and therefore undeserving of Harry. When I got the note from an admin letting me know that I had been banned for a week, I was flabbergasted.
But she is! I hissed.
The 18 year old me was a world-class moral policer. Under the guise of a self-proclaimed “good girl”, I judged everybody. Since I went to an all-girls college, that meant I only judged the women.
The professor who told me to do better was a “bitter old spinster” (she was 29), jealous of my youth. A friend who slept with her boyfriend had just given away her “honour” to someone she might not even marry. Oh, and the friend who wore shorts in public and slept with more than one guy? Whoa. She was damaged goods and she didn’t even know it!
The 18 year old me was a world-class misogynist. Sure, I had female friends but that didn’t mean I didn’t value men more. I would openly mock any girl who proclaimed to be a football fan because I was sure that she was only a “fake” fan watching to impress a guy. I, however, was a real fan. I wasn’t like other girls. I was special. I was better. I was “one of the boys”. Most importantly I wasn’t one of those “feminist types” who hate men. OK?
I didn’t drink or smoke. Not because I wanted to lead a healthy lifestyle, but, because I figured that that’s what the “good girls” do. I didn’t date because I was terrified of becoming one of “characterless” girls I hated so much. But, at the same time, I desperately wanted male attention too. I didn’t get why despite doing everything right, boys weren’t knocking at my door. The answer was simple: they knew I was too classy to put out – unlike the other “bad girls” I unfortunately called my friends.
But sexist misogynists are people too and, so was I. I was miserable. I hated myself and I was projecting that onto the rest of the world. Every day, I would find a new way to demean myself. Depending on my mood, I was fat; ugly; dark; pathetic and all kinds of messed up. My teeth were awful, my hair too wild, my stomach bulged out, my thighs rubbed.
I was disgusting, disgusting, disgusting.
There is a lot of panic that comes along with living a life that has been ascribed by patriarchy.
In my previous world, if you wanted the society to think of you as a success, you had to be married to an “acceptable mate” (in my case, male, Brahmin, rich and NRI) by the time you reached your mid-twenties. So, I ended up having several panic attacks at 23 – when I realized that not only was I nowhere close to being married but I didn’t even want to get married.
Life has a cruel sense of humor and, it was utterly hilarious that the girl who desperately wanted to be “successfully” married was throwing up in her bathroom – because the idea of marriage was making her sick. I contemplated forcing myself to just marry someone. I even met with some California based dude’s parents but broke into cold sweat when they spoke to me. Every fiber in my body was screaming “NO!” as the guy’s mother asked me what I thought about moving to California.
I just couldn’t do it.
I wanted to run away, and I did. For months afterwards, I had recurring nightmares of my parents chasing me down my old college campus and dragging me to a mandap.
It was then, that I realized, that my only alternative was to choose what I really wanted and really, all I wanted was to be free.
That’s the first time I realised that being feminist may not be as evil as I had made it out to be.
A lot of people describe the feminist movement as a bunch of angry women. But I found feminism and feminists, kind and accepting. In the feminist world, men and women aren’t reduced to stereotypes.
A sexually active woman is just a woman. A woman who drinks and smokes responsibly is not a “bad girl”. Unhealthy – maybe – but not “bad”. People’s sexuality and gender identities don’t matter. As long as you are following your own path without infringing on others’, everything is fine.
I am 28 now. Not married but utterly fabulous. I am not desperate or lonely. I am happier and feel freer than I ever did. I have stopped cringing while looking at my body and more importantly, I think I am a better person now. I don’t make my life-choices based on what the society wants from me but rather, on my own happiness. It makes me be less bitter.
I wear shorts and saris and salwars and dresses and pretty much anything else I feel like wearing. I don’t judge people based on their sexual preferences, attitudes or habits. I don’t think a woman is tainted because she is divorced. I live my life and let others live theirs.
I no longer think Ginny Weasley is a slut.
The Universe punished me by turning me into the very thing I detested and girl, am I grateful for it every single day.
Have Shorts. Will Smoke.
About the Author:
Aishhwariya Subramanian believes her name is screwed up but it’s a long story. She would rather focus on fighting patriarchy (far more screwed up, in her opinion) and discussing the effects the new season of Game of Thrones has on the book series. She also loves pandas and unicorns and is looking forward to the day when Arsenal will win the league. In the meantime, she is off daydreaming about fictional characters.