Being A Young Bengali Feminist

Hi, it’s been a very long time since I’ve posted on this blog, and I probably won’t do it again for a while (blogging has never really been my thing). Just before you start reading this speech, I would like to explain why I wrote it. I didn’t write this speech for this blog, but for my English speaking exam, and I presented this to my class which was made up of kids my age, most of which were Bengali. Sadly, I was the first to do my speech and if not for the response I got from it, I would probably have never put this up. This speech only looks at a fraction of the things that I disagree with, but it is my first ever speech, and I’ve become very passionate about it.

Feminism. A fight for the social, political and economical equality of the genders. A fight that has always affected me in every aspect of my life. A fight that will always affect all of us, whether we know it or not. You see, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, or how financially stable you may be, or what race you are, because feminism is a movement that wants to change the grim world we live in. Feminism is #let boys cry, it’s #not your asian sidekick, it’s #eff your beauty standards.

Many people are appalled whenever I announce myself as a proud feminist, they believe I’m a man hating extremist. I hate that I’ve become accustomed to explaining myself, just so that I can avoid having questions asked. Questions like “So, you hate all men?” No. I don’t hate all men, nor do I love all women. My dislike, or like towards someone should not be based on their gender. That is the very thing we feminists are against.

My culture also often clashes with my morals. I am South East Asian, or more specifically Bengali, and I’ve always been brought up to be proud of my roots. But how can I be proud of a country which has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world? A country in which one in three women start childbearing before age 20? A country where a third of both men and women believe that men are justified in beating their wives?

In Bangladesh, it has become the cultural “norm” to view women as lesser beings, so much so that my women of Bangladesh can not recognise the immensely misogynistic views that they themselves express. In my culture, it is the men who should always eat first, who should never eat old food, who need to be protected from housework. In my monster of a culture, I should be married right now; I should be at home, anxiously waiting for my near 30 year old husband to come home from work. I should not be here. I should not be viewing these problems as problems.

Libertarians would disagree with my culture, as it completely disregards necessary rights that women have. Women are also in control of themselves, they shouldn’t have to give away their bodies, minds and souls to men, just because of society and tradition. It’s as inhumane as slavery, and not far from it. These women don’t even get the chance to have an education , they will never learn their true worth, and will spend their lives belonging to someone else, like an object or a pet.

Utilitarians, however, are a different case; many would assume that they would automatically feel antipathy towards South East Asian culture. This is partially true, but if we look at it from a bigger scale, many would say that the greater good is the preservation of my culture, as if this justifies the dehumanisation of my women. An outlandish interpretation could be that many in Bangladesh would use marrying off their young daughters as an achievement, a pedestal, as something to show off. In a utilitarian viewpoint, it’s the happiness of of society as a whole over the discomfort of half it’s population, over the chaos that could possibly erupt when change tries to happen.

The thing is changing many Bengali standards is a feat in itself, because we have been brought up learning these sorts of inane ideas, and unlearning generations worth of tradition is like trying to move a mountain of rocks. Many will say it’s too hard, or it’ll take too long, but if we all contribute, then that mountain can be lifted easily, and we can all keep the rocks our tradition with us, without it becoming a burden.

I started off this speech talking about feminism, because most of the changes that need to happen in Bangladesh, I would not have wanted without it.  I would believe in the idea of being ‘owned’ by your husband, I would see effeminate people as weak, and I am so proud to be able to say that I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe that we are not equals. I don’t believe in judging by appearance, but for personality and skills to be the reason for admiration. I don’t believe in the inhumane culture that surrounds me, because no one deserves that. No one deserves to put marriage as a reason for self worth.

We can change how this world is run, and I know this seems like such an enormous ambition but we can do this. Like all the adults say, we “are the future” and we deserves our rights. We deserve the chance to not have to worry about marriage because we just hit fifteen and some unknown uncle just called to say that his son is “available”. We can change this by talking about these issues, with family, with friends, and with each other. We can do it by spreading awareness of the injustices that happen back home. I know I may sound like I hate my country and my culture but I don’t. I hate what it’s done to us. Thankfully, we have the education and chance to reshape our selves, our future and our lives as a community, worldwide.

Thank you.



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