Many popular ideas later I am compelled to ask the question that most people ask themselves when they’ve been repeatedly turned down at interviews that they have prepared for with an unrivaled fervor.
It’s odd that everyone around me, women included, preach self-love and self-care. Most of these women are feminists.
I identify as a feminist so this is all strange. I shouldn’t have so many doubts and conflicting thoughts. I should know how to love myself. After all, most modern writers and influencers are writing about how I can be better at loving myself. My self-hate, by that token, has zero excuses to still be around. But around it is and maybe even more bolstered by how other feminists are finding themselves so successfully while I try to follow everything they say and yet, keep losing my way.
It is no surprise that most feminist narrative has been built by the same people who have built most narrative of the world. The colonizers of a land are always the more influential and more powerful entity than the natives. They know how to win at this game.
For the longest time, my colonizer has been a patriarch. My land was a gender-neutral heaven of peace when patriarchy arrived and claimed it. I was forced to adopt the culture of patriarchy, the very culture that became my death. This is the narrative of most invasions. This became my narrative too.
I don’t know what most women want from feminism but I have always wanted a toolkit. Of communication, bilateral and equal. I have wanted to have some ideas of equality to be accepted as rules of my land. Instead, I’ve had one patriarch after another, blessing feminism and even encouraging me to embrace it and live it while doing nothing to take his boot off of my neck.
Internalized misogyny isn’t a function of a woman’s internal ideas or self-hate that many people think she is born with. Internalized misogyny is borne of a system of oppression that asks for a woman to change herself enough that she can finally love the patriarch more than she loves the anti-patriarch. The anti-patriarch is the woman.
Feminism is something I dedicate my life to but my ideas about how feminism can serve me have only changed for the rigid over time. I used to ask for equality. Now I ask for independence and freedom.
The first order of this independence is freedom from the false idea that I want equality. I don’t! Or maybe I do but that’s not all of what I want. I want an emancipation from the idea that I want to be like a man. I want to be recognized as someone who should be valued more than a man. As the native of this land, I ask patriarchy to not consult with me as an afterthought but to wait for me to begin the process of institution of rules.
I also want people to know that my self-hate has roots in a culture that has made me hate myself. My lack of agency, propriety, zero self-esteem that I’m raised with are things this society owes me. I didn’t hate myself when I was little. I actually wanted to be a mystical someone who had magical powers and could make the time-space continuum. Then I was put in a box with a tight lid where there was no air or light. And because I’m the purveyor of all things beautiful, I put a pretty pink bow on top of my oppression. Because anything that casts aspersions on the sanctity of my land is a wound to my soul, I sit in a pretty box with a pink bow while getting the wind sucked out of my sails. My disgust at myself for accepting defeat is paralleled by my disdain at the people who boxed me. Do you see where my hate comes from? It was created by the patriarchy. It was fed by misogyny. And then it was all injected into me.
For women to love themselves, a rebellion is not the prescription. Underprivileged people can’t be mavericks. When you have to live in a cult like the society we live in, you are expected to conform for any bone that you hope to get thrown at you. Living off of crumbs is still better than dying of hunger. It’s a heartbreaking choice but it’s not a difficult one. It’s about whether a woman would want a raft because lifeboats have been given to men. She takes the raft because it’s the last best thing.
I ask myself many questions in the wake of femicide in Pakistan and even, globally. I set out as a fairy with a wand. I was told that I’d feel caged if I was a Cinderella or a Snow White or a Sleeping Beauty. That I’d be cheap if I was Qandeel. That I’d be wayward if I was my own agent. Some feminists tell me that I’m more than my gender and even more than any other gender. That I’m not a fairy. I’m a witch. My wand is weak so I should look for that cauldron wherein I’ll concoct the potion to freedom and self-love.
But….while I hear them I can’t ignore the intersection that all intersectional debates ignore. My intersection where I’m a woman and nothing else. Where I’m not a feminist and I’m not a patriarch. I’m just that little fairy, borne of hope and despair, love and hate. I remind myself, while swirling pixie dust around my delicate body, how love is my highest calling and love for my own self is the first order of that business. But then another woman dies at the hands of a patriarch. There’s another onslaught of rationalization of her murder. People ask why she was there and what she was doing with him. They speculate a shady woman with a shady life. I resist it and try to keep my intense hate for my own kind in check. But I’ve been imprinted with the program of hate so this effort is measly at best. Slowly I join it. I start to ask the same questions. I rationalize my own killing. I intellectualize my own oppression. I identify with my patriarch again. I hate myself all over again.