dentsu India Team

I grew up in a silently feminist household. I saw my father cook dinner without anybody throwing confetti in the air about how the male chief wage earner of the house had done the family a divine favour by stepping into his own kitchen. No jokes were made about how I didn’t know how to make a perfectly shaped flatbread despite being a girl. And I self-learnt when I started my first job and had to pick up the life skill to feed myself. At the onset of my teenage, I was inducted into the importance of financial independence and building equity and assets for oneself. Lessons of gender parity were learnt through actions. The same lessons were imparted to my little brother, as he came to the clutches of his teenage.

But when I stepped out into the real world, thinking feminism is a default state of affairs, I was in for a rude awakening. The arrangement of societal norms is such a wild structure of Jenga, that expecting equity is often a losing game. Society attributes feminism to shucking norms, and feminists to “the ones that got away easy”. If there is one thing I have realized, is that it is anything but convenient. In a society, it is always going to be easier to agree with the status quo as opposed to challenging it. Because challenging it would warrant you to have difficult conversations. All of this, at the cost of offending a few, being completely misunderstood or worse still, losing a few people along the way.

The expanse of this boxing ring spans from the professional to the personal aspects of life. For instance, in one of my first professional gigs, it was simply assumed that my male counterpart would handle sports strategy better while I would “obviously” be a better fitment for entertainment. I would try to sneak into the sports projects to prove to myself, more than to anyone else, that it's not the intellectual territory of a gender. And I saw the quality of the product becoming more diverse and holistic, simply by dropping common notions and allowing the no-so-usual suspects to contribute. 

But sometimes, you will get tired. Tired of normalizing the fact that you and your partner can take up equal amounts of initiative in the home you have built for yourselves. Tired of devising polite ways of dismissing heartbreaking humor that questions someone’s masculinity, simply because they choose to be allies. That is the burden of feminism, it will be exhausting. And you would be tempted to stick to the societal prescriptions, only to avoid conflict.

Women’s Day is an annual reminder for me that while being a feminist is exhausting, it is the only way to live life. There is no choice. Either you get on board this flight to a better future, or you roll in the obsolete values that serve no one.

It is the advent of a better societal structure for all of us. Fathers don’t be afraid to be called feminists because it will break the generational chain of systematic discrimination and your sons and daughters will thank you for it. Partners, wear that badge with pride because it will benefit you to have an equal relationship, financially and otherwise so that you can shed the skin of being a provider alone. Men at work, bosses, managers, interns, and employees, I urge you to bring your feminism to the workplace as your extended identity. It will only build a rich ecosystem where new perspectives thrive, and outputs become so much sharper. The culture at work we so dearly try to cultivate and hold on to will have its first win when it’s a prejudice-free and inclusive floor. Mothers, daughters, partners, and women at large, make those tough calls, carve your own path, do things your way, and stand your own ground no matter how exhausting it gets. Falter, but get back, because as Roxane Gay says, it’s better to be a bad feminist than not being one at all.

(Mahek Chhaya Group Head - Strategy, Carat India)