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Four days ago, I felt like a failed feminist.  

For someone who believes vehemently in the empowerment of women, I felt ashamed for being in the local store and hesitating while stocking up on some sanitary pads. For me, it was that time of the month—or one of the many euphemisms used with raised eyebrows and hushed voices to describe the onset of the menstrual cycle.

Irresponsible as I tend to be, I had forgotten to order everything I needed online. With a certain sense of dread, I walked around the corner to the provisional store, with a bag made of thick cloth. Some context here: I live in India, a country where a woman is forbidden to enter the ‘clean and holy’ places of worship while going through the ‘disgusting and unholy’ process of menstruation.

I remember walking into the store, my head down and shoulders inward, making minimal eye contact and trying to attract as little attention as possible. I took a nonchalant walk through the aisles of the store, implying that I was ‘just looking’. Then, I quickly picked up a couple of pads and rushed to the counter for payment. In that moment, I was more embarrassed by myself than I was of buying what were mere provisions. I couldn’t believe that I—an educated, fortunate, privileged member of society, who calls herself a raging feminist—would be uncomfortable buying sanitary pads; that I could indulge in a line of thought that ultimately propels misogyny.

Gathering myself together, as if by a gust of revelation, I straightened my posture and piled up everything I had picked up at the counter. I remember the cashier cautiously putting the pads out of plain view behind some other items, I asked him to leave them there, so I could put them in my bag.

 

There was an awkward silence that followed. Everyone was evidently trying quite hard to look away from the pads—the very hush-hush, unutterable, ‘feminine hygiene products’. I mean, they’re not that attractive, it’s actually very easy to not look at them. I wanted to tell them to think of the pads like the other hygiene products—toothpaste, shampoo, the works. Those are the normal items, after all.

On the walk back home, I felt renewed. It was a short trip, the whole thing took about ten minutes at the most, but at the end of it, it meant so much to me in the form of empowerment, to do something that was seemingly insignificant, but to instil a very important concept in my mind—that buying things I need, things I need for a normal process that my body undergoes—is perfectly okay. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, and if I am, it’s important to be able to check myself.

 

I realised then that I wasn’t a failed feminist after all. Not even when I was embarrassed. What mattered was catching myself in between thoughts, and working on them immediately. If you’re ashamed for thinking something, you’re already on the right track if you can try to change it. I am definitely no epitome of a feminist, I’m just trying to be a part of the movement. I hadn’t failed feminism; I had—in my own minute, microscopic way—renewed it.

 

Edited by Nishtha Jaiswal

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