When I was younger, I didn’t really know what sexism or feminism was, but I can assure that I was a feminist.
I remember I was at the temple once as a little kid and I had just learned to whistle. I had been trying for days to whistle and I had finally gotten it. I was overjoyed and wanted to show everyone that I could whistle so I ran around showing everyone: mom, dad, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles. Then I got to one of my uncles, who we only called an uncle but he was really more of a family friend, and I showed him that I could whistle. I had this huge gleaming face just waiting for him to acknowledge that I had done it right. Instead, he told me that girls shouldn’t whistle.
Girls shouldn’t whistle.
I was flabbergasted! As a little girl who had grown up in a house where it had never been established that there was a social difference between boys and girls, I couldn’t understand why boys could whistle but I, a girl, couldn’t. What made me different from a boy that meant I couldn’t whistle. I asked my parents what my uncle meant and they just told me to forget about it and to move on. As you can tell, it’s not something I could easily shake off.
A few years later, in the summer my parents decided to put me in classes to learn how to read and write my own language. I remember copying the Punjabi alphabet off the board for myself and then having to make dotted lines for my brother so he could write out the alphabet. During break time a lot of the girls used to bring cards to school to pass the time. I was a shy girl so it took me a while to approach the other girls and ask them if I could play cards with them, but one day I finally mustered up enough courage to. We had just hit break time and I remember fiddling around with my pencil case a bit before I was going to go play cards with the other girls. One of the other girls was just taking the cards out of the package when the teacher stopped her.
Girls don’t play cards either.
At this point I was furious. I went home and told my parents what he had said hoping that they could tell me that it was just lies. My grandmother used to play cards as a girl. Infact, it was the one thing our family could really bond over when she came over to Canada from India. We could laugh and loosen up and for a good hour we could forget all the differences that we had and just focus on the game. This man was essentially telling me that my grandmother made a terrible girl and that she was wrong for playing cards just as we all were. My parents said his statement was ridiculous and told me to just shake it off and keep moving on.
What I thought was even more ridiculous than this man’s statement was the fact that people are still using statements like this. Even the word feminism has come to develop negative connotations associated with it. Whenever most people hear the word feminism or feminist they roll their eyes. Feminism isn’t just about women wanting to be equal, it’s about making both sexes equal.
Today, we live in a world where a blind eye is turned to sexism against women. There are so many countries out there where women are still objects and where fingers are pointed quicker at women then at men when it comes to blame. Women are forced to be these perfect beings who don’t have any faults, especially in cultures that believe in marrying their women off “pure”. There’s no problem with marrying women off “pure” but the social constructs that come alongside it are a bit much. Women in these cultures who are raped are looked down upon and victimized once again after they have just been through a tragedy.
A little more than a year ago in India, the Dehli rape case happened against 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandi. When this tragic event happened, I prayed to myself that people in India would speak up, that India would finally have a proper feminist movement to forever change the way that women were treated. It’s also hard to grasp the idea of sexism in India since they worship so many goddesses and respect these idols who are women. Women are taught to wear covering clothes, to never go out after dark and to always go with a friend, but what are men taught? I’m not saying to stop telling your daughters to stay at home after dark, but tell your sons as well. Teach your sons right from wrong so fingers aren’t pointed at your daughter. Take the precautions you want, I won’t stop you from protecting yourself, but don’t forget to teach your sons to protect themselves and to respect the women they come across.
I could go into a whole article about rape culture, female feticide, female infanticide, abortion or other feminist related issues but at the end of the article all I really want to say is that a woman owns her own body and the right to her life and she should be able to make decisions as to how it will be treated, as should a man. Feminism is about equality and as a young girl my blood broiled when I heard that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. Before I am a girl, I am a human being with dreams, ambitions and the power to achieve anything if I give it my all. Please don’t take those chances away from someone because of their sex, gender, sexual orientation or race.
Don’t tell girls not to play cards because they might just play a great hand.