Feminism: The radical notion that women are people.
I started teaching draping and conducting workshops with the intention of making an impact on people’s minds by opening them up to the possibilities of the Sari. My intention is to allow people to experience freedom for themselves.
Freedom from matching petticoats.
Freedom from having to conform to a standard expectation of gender and clothing.
Freedom from body shaming.
Freedom to understand self and express fluid self-identity.
Freedom from man-made fabrics such as polyester, which does nothing for the self, environment and culture.
Freedom from too many clothes & capitalism.
However, since I have started on this journey, I find that some people think my art and knowledge is tradable for money. Just because I can drape, doesn’t mean I will do it anytime anywhere on demand. Just as I am not a programmer because I am good at math or logic. And I am not a doctor or scientist just because I am good at science.
Don’t get me wrong. I do drape my friends and have even randomly draped people I have just met. But I do that because they are enthusiastic. I do that because they are excited to learn. And most of all, I do that because they respect me and more importantly, art & knowledge. There is nothing wrong with being a professional draper who drapes you for a wedding in exchange for money.
But. I don’t do that. At least not yet. I might someday if I feel that that is a necessary and logical next step for me to achieve the impact I’m seeking (above) but not yet. Not today.
Today I believe in teaching a person how to fish and not in giving them the fish. I will teach you if you are enthusiastic and respectful. And will certainly drape if you say please. But not otherwise or by demanding.
So women & men & people: It is easy for one to read a definition of feminism but it takes a lot to understand what that means. Treat me like a person and you will be rewarded. Treat me like someone whose art is tradable for money, gifts & favours and you will be disappointed.
For the longest time, I have excitedly looked forward to Rakshabandhan. I would collect Rakhis all year round keeping in mind the person who would be wearing it. I would mail about 14 Rakhis to my brothers all over India. And then tie another 10 to the local brothers. Spongy ones for my elder brothers. Thin ones for my younger ones.
In the last year, I’ve had experiences where my (girl) friends and I have been followed in the middle of the night by six men in two cars. I’ve had people ogle at me lustily in safe spaces. I’ve been harassed by men and women at workplaces and have had folks reported and taken action against.
In all of these experiences, I had to rely on myself, my intuition, my knowledge (of roads, procedures, and people), and my faith to find a way out of this situation. I’ve had to grow patience, perseverance, confidence and identity to come out of this strong and safe. Physical. Mental. Emotional.
On Raksha Bandhan, we tie a Rakhi on the person we expect to protect us at all times. But in reality, it is unrealistic to expect someone else to be there to protect one at all times. This is like the superman theory where the smart yet ultimately helpless Lois Lane needs to wait for Superman to come and save her when she is in distress. This is patriarchy at its best. Putting the responsibility of safety on someone else; usually, a male, while making yourself; usually a woman feel like a damsel in distress.
This year onwards I reject the traditional concept of Raksha Bandhan. My safety is my prerogative and my responsibility. I have a pepper spray in my bag, a baseball bat in my car, and will also learn self-defence. And if anyone deserves my Rakhi this year then it is me and ONLY me. Ultimately it is I who needs to be responsible for my own protection. Cause only I can and must keep myself safe.
To all my strong, intelligent and amazing women, I can only say let’s take the responsibility of creating safe spaces for ourselves.