A casual phone call with a friend recently turned sour when the word feminism cropped up. I said that everyone should be a feminist, and that included him as well. To this, he replied, “Feminism, huh? You mean freedom for women and all. Yeah bro, call me whatever you want. Just don’t bother me with such serious subjects.”
That call did not last any longer. I wandered off to heavy thoughts and he, sensing it, ended the call.
Is that really what feminism is? Freedom? A boring and serious conversation topic?
After my father’s job took a hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was at home full-time. This meant no more waking up at 5 am, breakfast at 6 am and polishing shoes by 6.45 am. Or so my mother thought. Being a housewife who has woken up at 5 am and gone to bed at midnight for the past 26 years of her life, she thought the lockdown would come as a relief as no one would have to leave the house early in the morning. She would have plenty of time to sleep in a little more.
But on the very first day that she tried to execute this plan, my father woke up early. Before breakfast was ready.
“Are you going to deny me respect just because I lost my job? Do not forget, it is still my money you are living on,” bellowed my father.
Believe me when I say that I have heard this reminder being thrown at my mom at least twice a day for the past seven months of lockdown. And I know that my mother wants to retort every single time. But then again, we were living on his money. And so, we have to live by his rules.
My mother has been living these past months under the heavy scrutiny of a husband who now thinks he knows how to maintain a house better than her. Her eyes have become heavier, she has lost around 23 kilos and her mental health has deteriorated. After all this, she still continues to wake up every single morning and continue her routine. What other choice does she have?
To rid myself of all the negativity at home, I decided to visit a friend who had come home due to the lockdown. Upon reaching, I learned that she had just gone through a break up. She was in a bad state. It was a break up that affected both the parties quite a bit. But I had to ask her, “I just saw Azhar’s stories on Instagram yesterday. He seems pretty chill. Are you sure it was mutual?”. She replied wryly that he was as gloomy as her initially.
But, being a guy, he had the privilege to keep his mind busy. Bike rides, cricket in the evening, football in the morning. She was expected to attend her online classes at home and give her mother company. If she wanted to get some fresh air, she has to wait for her father or brother to return home. Depending on their mood and availability, they would take her for a drive in the city. My friend felt that drowning herself in painful memories and tears was better than going through the routine of asking her father and brother for a favour and enduring their reluctance.
So, I go back home, call up my friend and explain that feminism does not just mean freedom. It means putting an end to the helplessness that women feel – the helplessness in being forced to live an existence that is a part of someone else’s. It means equality in the true sense of the word.
Vazavija Muneer is an audiologist navigating my way through this patriarchal society – one step at a time.