By Aalia Furniturewalla
As I sat in the middle of a busy tattoo parlour clenching my fists to conceal the undeniable pain I was in, I felt at peace with the needles rhythmically piercing my back.
“What does this mean?,” asked my curious tattoo artist who was busy working on two wings on my shoulder blades and the words Still I Rise at the centre of my spine.
“It’s a poem,” I responded, “my favourite one actually.”
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
No piece of art had ever given me such a sense of strength and confidence in the person I was.
By the time I was in my early teenage years, I had grown accustomed to a certain amount of attention. Whether it was thanks to the family I was in, or whether it was just because of “the way I am.” Ever since I was a child, I have been allowed to make my own choices, responsibly. I was never policed when it came to how I should dress or behave. All that was expected out of me was that I was to be a good human being. I was told I was free to do as I pleased as long as I was safe, happy, and respectful and kind to those around me. And I was.
When you get attention, you get a good amount of hate, coupled with a good amount of love. It balances it out, and more often than not, the love outweighs the hate and produces a very positive canvas for me to paint my life on. I never objected or shied away from the attention I got, and I continued to stay true to myself. As my social media reach grew, I began noticing fights breaking out on my instagram photos. Within the comments, were people that had commented things like “Mahn, u r so hot I wana fuk u so hard,” or “ur titties look so suckable” or even random comments like “boobs.” Just “boobs.” Of course, i’d have people commenting back and taking up for me fiercely, and I made it a point to thank them and block anyone that spread any kind of negativity. I always ignored it and moved on.
Recently however, I came across a very nice post by Miss Malini that featured me. Everything within the post was very respectful and well said. And the caption to it on facebook said “Hi Bollywood… are you looking at this?”
(can be seen at https://goo.gl/hY7QJy
When I read the comments, my smile faded away. All anyone spoke about was how I was barely wearing any clothes, how I was just another “randi,” that “taking my clothes off” just made me an unworthy slut. That I was “porn ready,” not “bollywood ready” and of course the perennial “Indian girls like this are ruining our culture.”
I took a deep breath and went back to doing what I was doing. My plan was to ignore it like I ignored everything else that brought even an ounce of negativity into my life. But this annoyed me and refused to budge from the back of my mind.
If my cleavage is visible, it does not mean I am giving consent, it does not mean I am “asking for it.” I am more than my breasts and it is unfair to let them define me. I am an eighteen year old Indian girl and that does not take away the fact that I am allowed to dress the way I please. I wouldn’t judge or disrespect a woman in a burkha, salwaar kameez or sari, and I deserve the same respect back. I am not my breasts and it is unfair to sexualise me and base my morals, my achievements and my goals and ambitions on my breasts. I am not my breasts. If my top is a little low, it does not mean I am a “randi.” If I choose to wear a bikini, it is my choice and it is about time we grow up and let individuals be their own people without fearing what society will say.
My breasts do not take away from all the social service I have done, my breasts do not take away my numerous academic and extracurricular accomplishments and awards, my breasts do not take away my strong academic position. My breasts do not take away the fact that I am I have gotten into and am currently studying Film and Television at New York University; one of the top institutions in the world. My breasts did not get me in and my breasts cannot take away the fact that I am a good human being and that I deserve basic human respect.
What are we as women if we can’t empower each other? If we, as women are going to turn around and pass judgement on another individual’s life choices, we are allowing the sexualization of women. When you walk down the street and have men mentally undressing you and harassing you, you enabled that. You are unintentionally telling your sons, brothers and husbands that a woman’s breasts define her. You are teaching your daughters that they are just as worthy as the amount of clothes they have on their body. We are more and we deserve more. I am more and I deserve more. As a man, when your wife is scared to walk down the road at night, or you’re hesitant to let your daughters or sisters go somewhere alone, you perpetuated that. You allowed that to happen. When you curse at men for unforgivable crimes like rape, you have contributed to a mindset that makes it morally ambiguous.
Yes, the fact that I look half decent and have breasts does not mean that I am necessarily “Bollywood ready,” but it doesn’t mean I am not. It’s a strange world we live in where wearing a bikini is more frowned upon than being hateful and tearing another individual down. It is not okay to hate. You are allowed to have your opinion, you are allowed to have your values and beliefs, I respect your choices and who you are. I deserve the same.
I will be fine, I will move on. I will continue to do good and make those around me happy and I will continue to dress the way I please and post the kind of photos I post. I will continue to live my life the way I do because I know when I go to bed at night, I am a good person. I will rise.
is the link where the original blog was posted
All pics from Aalia’s Instagram account