Take Five: “Make sure all toxic cycles of family traditions end with you”
Author: Jigme Zangmo
Kuhu Srivastava, 22, of Lucknow, India, is the founder of The Feminist Times, an online platform where people of all genders and ages discuss and advocate against patriarchal norms in society by sharing their personal articles, poetry, photo essays, art and videos. Contributors have ranged from 16 to 75 years of age.
Why do you speak up for women's rights?
Because I think I just have to. It comes from a deep passion to help women own themselves unapologetically. I started The Feminist Times a year back because I felt frustrated to see intelligent women working according to the whims and fancies of the men in their lives.
Very conveniently in this patriarchal society, men just make rules but it’s the socially conditioned army of women who make sure these rules are followed by keeping young girls in check through the means of moral policing and “bitching”.
What are the most urgent issues of our time?
Poverty, the growing divide between the rich and the poor and the climate change crisis.
Now when you look at these through a feminist lens, you’d see that women and children are the worst affected by both. Women have less access to natural resources and services, they bear the bulk of household chores, and they face discrimination and multiple forms of violence – all of which leave them economically vulnerable and food-insecure.
What is your advice to young people on actions they can take in stopping patriarchy?
You don’t need to wait or get to a certain post to be able to help others. There’s lots you can start doing already! Initiate conversations within your families -- question sexist behavioral patterns, reason with them. Make sure all toxic cycles of family traditions end with you and aren’t passed on to the next generation! Raise awareness — conduct seminars, marches, debates.
Communication is the key; to change anyone’s ideology you need to reason with them. A lot of times we assume people see what we see, but the sad truth is that patriarchy is a deeply rooted practice, and what’s made it strong through the years is people’s lack of questioning the norms it set, and the habit of following it blindly almost as a ritual. So the way out is to make people see the sheer dumbness of it! The best thing each one of us can do is to stop any sexist behavior or comment at its onset, and most importantly, instead of bashing the people who tend to engage in any sexist or patriarchal act, make sure you reason with them as an equal.
What can men do to promote gender equality?
Men can be part of the solution by not setting insane standards of masculinity for themselves: men aren’t supposed to be emotional, men have to be the breadwinners of their families, men shouldn’t wear makeup, men can’t paint their nails, they can’t talk about problems such as erectile dysfunction cause that’s shameful, etc. Men can be part of the solution by making sure they never ridicule any men or young boys in this way. Because gender equality stands for the liberation of men too from the ideals of toxic masculinity, for them to be able to express themselves freely.
Why are gender empowerment stories essential in the fight for gender equality?
Because that is what makes all of us, irrespective of gender, believe that we are not alone. When you identify toxic patterns in someone else's story you realize that this isn't normal. You then know for a fact that if they could defy patriarchy and own their spaces unapologetically, then we most certainly can.