In Focus 2nd March, 2017

Experiencing Sisterhood.

Last weekend, I was on a vacation with two of my friends whom I have known for a very very long time now. We met each other in standard eight and have been the best of friends ever since. We were reminiscing the good old days and how we used to be this “cool girl gang” who truly believed that they were unstoppable and could change the world! From a full fledged campaign against global warming to forming a girl’s football team, we did it all. We knew what to fight for and we made sure we didn’t back down at any point in time.

This conversation stayed with me. It made me remember that day on the football pitch when we, a newly formed girl’s football team had entered a tournament at the zonal level and were playing the semi-final match which also oddly happened to be our first match. Oh the adrenaline rush! Playing that match felt like being in a movie. After, 90 minutes of a thrilling game, we won! A teammate scored during sudden death and WE WON. What we experienced in that moment was ecstasy. We were running towards each other, hugging, screaming with joy, crying and what not! We had done it. We had won our very first match and in that moment we felt what I guess they call ‘camaraderie’ or ‘brotherhood’. The only difference was that it was after all not a brotherhood rather a sisterhood.

One of my friends with whom I was vacationing is a woman officer serving in the Indian Army. While I was thinking about this thing about experiencing a sisterhood, I remembered a moment from her passing out parade at the training academy. Post the official ceremony, when the cadets become officers of the Indian Army, there are a lot of traditions that mark the day. Traditions which cadets have come up with. I remember standing there witnessing the pride and joy all of them felt. But what also stood out for me was this group of male cadets performing these traditions with a fervor, which overpowered everything around them, while some women officers stood around and watched. I am certain that women cadets have developed their own traditions and do feel that sense of camaraderie with other cadets and more specifically with their all women companies and battalions, but the idea of a sisterhood which occupies space, a celebration not defined in terms of masculine standards is still somewhere emerging in the backdrop.

The point I am trying to make is not about pitching a sisterhood as opposed to a brotherhood. But it’s about experiencing that feeling of camaraderie which boys and men have always claimed to experience and share. Call it friendship, call it comradeship, call it a sisterhood, it is a feeling of belonging and strength rooted in a space of shared lived experiences. It is a powerful space to inhabit, especially being women because we have always been told that we cannot get along and we will always end up fighting ‘over’ men among other ridiculous reasons.

Just before I went on the vacation, we at Breakthrough had released a feminist remix of ‘Urvashi Urvashi’. The idea was to create a fun feminist song! A girl song! And we did just that. But then, what we received for making an attempt to do so was hate, abuse and violence. While reminiscing about all the fun I have had with my girlfriends and thinking about what it means to experience comradeship being a woman, and what spaces allow for me to revel in the feeling, the reaction to ‘Urvashi Urvashi’ was my answer.

While several women appreciated it and came out in support of the remix, majority of the hate that we received came from men. After all, women coming together and celebrating their togetherness is scary for a world where the expectation is for them to live a life of silence and submission.

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