In my travels, there’s an urge within me that I’ve always grappled with—an inexplicable compulsion to acquire things I don’t need. Everything, when tagged with a price, seems to captivate me. And too often, the insistent whisperings of my conscience nudge me into buying. But alas, everything carries a price, a price we must pay.
Feminism can manifest in various forms—an idea, a belief, or even a publicity stunt. And in my journey as a feminist, I came face to face with its darker side and the price it commands. When I first stepped into this realm, I was bruised. I sought solace to mend my inner wounds, to escape the ghosts of an attempted assault that didn’t transpire, to face conflicts with relatives, to grieve my father’s passing, and to bear the sight of my mother’s ceaseless suffering. This was my sanctuary. Feminist ideologies are swiftly adopted and accepted by vulnerable girls yearning for validation, and at one time, I was one such girl.
When you gaze into the mirror, all you see are spectres of despair lurking in your reflection. You yearn for acceptance, for belief. It took time for me to realise the sacrifices we make when we pledge our unsuspecting social minds to this daunting yet alluring reality. It took a hiatus for me to comprehend the toll it took on me to step into this beguiling yet frightful sphere. I had several reasons to join, but the predominant one was my pursuit of healing and my aversion to judgement. I was embraced, I was lauded… the sphere is replete with opportunities and has the potential for transformative change when harnessed appropriately. The notion of feminist activism became my identity, my fountain of inspiration, but it arrived with a heavy price tag.
Initially, I unwittingly sacrificed my social innocence. The cultural and societal curriculum constructs a socially confident being anchored in gender and social conformity. While I may not have been a paragon of compliance, I was naive about the repercussions that deviating from the norm could have on my world view. I had always believed that playing by the rules was safe and that the world was magnanimous enough to allot each of us our own space. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Delving into the journey of feminist activists can strip you of your social innocence—it unveils the hidden brutality inflicted on women and girls. You find individuals, much like yourself, normalising and defending injustice. It morphs your free will into a crusader for justice, and it undermines your instinct to trust, as everyone becomes a potential betrayer.
Secondly, I forfeited a crucial part of my emotional well-being. One cannot be a feminist activist and retain emotional equilibrium. The world labels you as “angry” because it’s unaccustomed to defiance and challenges. Society will resist you, and support from your fellow women will come inconsistently. There’s a thin line separating feminism from mismanaged rage. But who’s to say you can’t be an angry feminist? The world has socially prescribed expectations stemming from a flawed understanding of feminism. You may assert your space and secure a seat at the table, but your mental state will inevitably change. The world will push you to your limits and test the extent of your resilience.
Lastly, my image bore the brunt. Prior to my joining this realm, my family perceived me as a reserved girl who had endured much. Now, I am known as the “gender person”. Certain topics are often avoided, as perceptions have shifted. The mere utterance of the word “feminist” has been equated with terrorism and being an adversary of the state. Sometimes, we can’t fault society when it hasn’t been adequately socialised to understand the costs that feminist leaders bear. Sometimes, it feels more like a burden than a privilege.
Above all, there’s an urgent need to invest more in the healing and care for feminist activists. I was confounded about what feminism was trying to achieve until I recognized that it is a personal narrative, one that comes with a price.
With love and hope for a better society,