I haven't actually told you guys why feminism is a core belief of mine. Rani & Co. isn't a way for me to make money off a trending topic. I've been a feminist from a young age and I genuinely believe that feminism is such a positive movement, it benefits every age, race and gender.
Unfortunately, the reason I am a feminist isn't such a glamorous one. My strong belief for gender equality has stemmed from over 10 years of sexual harassment and general sexism.
People are very quick to judge when I identify as a feminist, they just laugh or get scared. No one actually bothers to ask why. I want to share my experiences with you that drove me towards feminism.
(If you follow me on my blog, you might have already read this post, but here's a slightly tweaked version.)
Perceiving women as 'weak'
When I was about 6/7 years old, I remember picking up something heavy and my uncles rushing over to pick it up for me. You could call this being polite, but I noticed that whenever I picked something up or tried to assemble something, the men in my family would always take over. I remember being confused because I could’ve easily done it myself and in half the time. I’ve always been athletic and quite strong, so it really annoyed me that I was always perceived as weak because I’m a girl.
Sexually harassed from the age of 12
My first memory of sexual harassment is when I went to Dubai when I was 12 years old. One night, we all went out for dinner. I stood next to my mum whilst we were waiting to be seated and I looked out the window. There was a man staring at me and wagging his tongue at me. I was only 12 so I didn’t know what it meant, but I just remembered being really freaked out. A few years later when I realised what it meant I literally wanted to throw up. The fact that someone can do that to a child…I have no words for it.
We went to a water park called ‘Wild Wadi’, if you’ve been there you know it’s pretty awesome! My family and I had just come off a slide which finishes in a large pool. I met my sister (who was 15 at the time) at the exit who said that some boys cornered her in the pool under a tunnel and one guy touched her bum. I felt so angry but also really scared for her, when you’re young you don’t really know what to do in these situations.
Looking for a summer job
When I was 16, mum kept pestering me to get a summer job. So I ventured out to our local shopping mall, dressed smartly in a skirt and shirt, handing out my CV to stores. I was walking through the mall when a man came up behind me and mumbled something in my ear, all I could make out was 'bend over'. The man walked ahead of me and stood on the escalator staring down at me whilst I hurriedly walked to the next shop. I was absolutely horrified and scared, and for some reason felt like a 'slut' for wearing a skirt.
It was a super hot day, the weather was nice so I decided to walk to the gym. I wore gym shorts, not the tight lycra ones, just plain black baggy shorts. I was walking on the pavement when a car pulled up next to me and started shouting vile things at me, just because I had my legs on show. It’s like these men had never seen skin before?!
I read an article which stated
95% of girls are sexually harassed at University, and I promise you it’s true.
I’ve genuinely lost count of the times that I’ve been inappropriately touched up. But there were a few incidents that I'll never forget.
I was clubbing with my friends, having a good time. A guy came up behind me, trying to dance with me, I turned around and said ‘no’. He then tried to punch me because I said no. He got so angry that he missed, that he then pushed me to the floor. The crowd around me moved away, creating a big circle in which I was just lying on the floor in the middle, it was pretty embarrassing even though I knew I wasn’t in the wrong.
I was on another night out with my friends, dancing away in a club. One of my uni course-mates came behind me, put his hand up my skirt and pinched my bum. I was in shock. I had to see this guy the next day at lectures, why was he being a prick and making it awkward?!
On yet another night out (yes, I went clubbing A LOT at uni), I walked into a club with my friends, making my way to the bar. A guy standing near me grabbed my top and pulled it down then started laughing with his friend. I was SO angry so I pushed him, he then pushed me back. I just walked away as I was scared he was going to get aggressive.
And of course, I was called a ‘b*tch’ or ‘c*nt’ on plenty of occasions when I asked a guy not to touch me or I refused to dance with them.
Now, I know alot of people will be thinking ‘well what were you wearing on these nights out?' You know what, yes, I was wearing a mini skirt, but I also didn’t have a sign on my head saying ‘Please come and sexually assault me’. I wore those clothes because I felt good in them and I shouldn’t be judged for what I wear.
People ask why I didn't tell anyone at the time that I was being sexually harassed. But the people I did tell asked me 'what were you wearing?', as if I were to blame. So I just gave up on telling anyone about it. Or people ask, 'well why didn't you stand up for yourself', do you know how scary it is answering back to someone who is twice your size, most probably stronger than you and can traumatise you by attacking or raping you?! I look back at times when I was harassed and think 'I wish I had said something', but it's so much easier said than done, sometimes standing up for yourself puts your safety at risk.
Not only that, women are often blamed for sexual harassment. After being sexually harassed I often felt embarrassed and to be honest, kind of dirty. So I used to keep it to myself because I didn't want anyone else thinking the same of me.
My mum’s answer to all of this was ‘well maybe you shouldn’t be clubbing’. I worked hard at uni, and clubbing was how I relieved my stress and let my hair down. I shouldn’t have to stop my fun because a bunch of perverted boys have no respect for women and can’t control themselves. I’m a free woman and I will do whatever the hell I want.
My dad’s response was ‘well all of this has been happening for years’, as if to say it’s just part of being a woman and I should just deal with it.
At Uni, I always felt that I had to be careful of how I behaved on nights out so I wouldn’t be branded a ‘slut’, ‘ho’ or ‘sket’. But over the past few years I’ve realised that women are allowed to express themselves as a sexual being, just like men, and they shouldn’t be judged for it.
University dissertation on the 'glass ceiling'
I first came across the term 'feminist' whilst writing my University dissertation on the glass ceiling, and I've felt passionate about feminism since.
My dissertation was about factors that prevent women from reaching senior positions in the workplace. It was my research on the gender pay gap that really got to me. I couldn’t believe the difference in pay, I’m talking thousands of pounds, and to think it’s just because another species exists that aren’t born with dicks.
I remember looking at my male peers and thinking, 'you're going to be earning more than me just because you're a guy, even though we're equally educated, and to be honest, I may even be smarter'. I was NOT okay with this.
If I wasn't going to get equal pay, then my parents who spent ridiculous amounts on my education should get a refund on the tens of thousands of pounds that I won't be earning as a woman.
Not your chai wallah
If you come from an Asian background, you might be familiar with family gatherings where the women spend most of the time in the kitchen making tea for everyone, cooking the dinner and cleaning up. But there was one time the sexism went too far.
I was sitting in a room with all my cousins, a mixture of boys and girls. Dinner was about to be served and my uncle walked in, scanning everyone in the room, then said to me, my sister and cousin sister ‘can you go and serve the men food?’ I could feel my body heating up with anger. I answered back 'you do realise all the boys are here yet you pick on the girls to serve the men food’. He replied ‘I know but I’m asking you guys’. (FYI, we didn't serve the food).
When I speak up about these things, I'm told to 'leave it', 'be quiet', or 'don't be so rude'. If women don't speak up for themselves, nothing will change, so I'd rather get in trouble for speaking up than staying quiet.
So, why am I a feminist?
This is a short list of all the times I’ve been sexually harassed or felt violated. Trust me, there’s so much more.
I’m a feminist because I’m sick and tired of being seen as just a sexual object and being told how to behave as a woman.
I’m an intelligent and educated being who is capable of SO much and so is every woman. I want to be seen as an equal and more importantly, as a human being, not a ‘thing’.
Every year I understand more and more about what being a woman means. There really is no definition. It’s not your job to get married, cook, clean, financially depend on a man or have babies (seriously, you’re not a baby making machine).
Surprisingly, at Uni all I wanted to do was find a nice guy to settle down with, but then I realised it’s because I’ve been wired to think like that. Girls are taught from a young age to put marriage first, but my career and financial wellbeing comes first. I’m also tired of people telling me that no one will want me after 30 so I better start looking for a husband now. If no one wants me, I have myself and I’m cool with that.
We’re living in a world where some women still don’t have the right to an education, are sacrificed in honour killings, sold online for their bodies, forced into prostitution, raped and blamed for it or don’t even have a birth certificate (or even killed) simply because they were born as a girl, and this happens EVERY DAMN DAY.
Is there a solution for sexism towards women?
Just like racism or any other form of inequality, unfortunately there will always be an element of sexism. But, we’ve come SUCH a long way and I’m forever grateful for the women in history who have given us so many rights today.
I think that the issues of sexual harassment lies with what we teach young boys. We’re always teaching girls how to protect themselves or how they should behave around men so we ‘don’t give them the wrong idea’. We actually need to teach young boys to respect girls, treat them as equals and that it’s not ‘cool’ to touch or harass girls.
Not only that, but men need feminism too. Suicide is the most common cause of death amongst young men in the UK, and this is a result of toxic masculinity. Men, you're allowed to express how you feel, you don't need to 'man-up' and hide in a cocoon of masculinity.
We really need men to stand up for feminism.
I know a lot of people don’t like calling themselves a feminist because the word has a bad reputation and they think the word means ‘man-hating’ (it actually means equality of the sexes). I used to be scared of calling myself a feminist around guys, thinking it would scare them off and no one would want to date me, but I think admitting that you’re a feminist is a strength in itself. It shows that you don’t care what other people think, ESPECIALLY for men, I seriously rate any man for calling themselves a feminist.
Next time you judge someone for being a feminist, ask them why they are one. It’s likely that the person has been sexually harassed, witnessed it or been held to gender stereotypes.
This is a bit of a long post, but it's an important one. I'm excited to spread the message of feminism through Rani & Co. and even more excited that feminism is in the limelight, it's about time!
In a weird way, I'm grateful for Harvey Weinstein, because if it wasn't for his disgusting acts being exposed and all the brave women speaking up, sexual harassment and feminism may not be as widely spoken about like it is now.
So that's it! There's my feminist story.
Lots of love,
[Founder of Rani & Co.]