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Before I begin, here’s wishing a Happy Women’s Day to everyone out there. And by everyone, I literally mean – everyone. The women who have raised their spirits and matched them with voices that matter, and the men who have supported women the world over. Both have my good wishes and support. But I will not be able to choose one over the other. And so, I am not a feminist. At least, not a willing one. If I am who I am, it is not just because of the voice inside me and the women who inspired me. It is also because I had a dad who did not bat an eyelid before staying home to look after the kids while my mom ran her business. It is because I have a set of male friends who routinely tell me – there’s nothing you cannot do. It is because of a partner who has shown me that we are equals, who cherishes me because I have dreams and ambitions – not despite them. It is because of my brothers have first spoken to me about my career and then asked me if the partner I am choosing would be the right fit for the lifestyle I am building in order to reach my goals.
Don’t get me wrong – I love being a woman. I love being wished Happy Women’s Day. But I am not a feminist. I am a human being, first and foremost. While I may not have it all, I do know that I will not pander to a certain gender to fill any gaps.
I do believe that I do not need to cook my way into getting someone’s approval. But at the same time, I do like to cook. I see it as a restful end to a tiring day. Many women don’t and many do. So, I cook because I like to, and not because I feel like my feminine identity resides on some wall in the kitchen. Therefore, I have no shackles that I feel like I need to break. Similarly, I look after my children (human and canine) because I do not want to wait for someone else to come along and do it. I do it because I am able to.
I remember being asked this question at the book launch of my Kindle book, Where’s My Cloak. Are you a feminist, the well meaning journalist asked me. And rightly so – since the book was all about women entrepreneurship. I smiled and said, “today may not be women’s day – but first, happy women’s day. Since it is our day everyday. It is our day, a good day on any day that we choose ourselves. And no, to be able to do that, I do not need to be a feminist.”
While she remained shell shocked, I continued. I explained to her how I had never approached my profession as a publisher, editor and writer from the gender lens. I had always been a learner who wanted to do well. I wanted to be able to do my best. And the very first chapter of my book dispelled all doubts about being a feminist in order to succeed as a woman entrepreneur. I have said this in the book, and I will say it again – it is about how you position yourself and what differentiates you from others. Simple business. Yet, there is a self awareness angle to it all. And while 90% of us may claim to be self aware, only 10 to 15% actually are. If there is some We in your I, then there is a balance born from self awareness. This can come from a male sibling, a male partner, a male boss, or a male friend – how does it matter if you are comfortable in your own skin?
I chose to make everyday women’s day when I became a mother. And again, when I became an entrepreneur. Each day was about consciously deciding where I stood and where I wanted to be. Each day was about positioning myself and being different – even as I made a difference.
In order to do both things, you need to make a choice. How are you going to choose? Impulsively or strategically? That is where me and the feminist digress. I make choices based on what suits me as a mother, an entrepreneur and as a writer. I make choices based on who I am and where I am headed. And then, I tell that story authentically by choosing pieces that reflect me, mirror me and inspire me – on women’s day and all other days of the year. I show, I don’t merely tell.
This women’s day, I want to introduce you all to some of the books that have shaped me. These are female voices that have made me conscious of my core values.
The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan
This book, gifted to me by a dear family friend and a woman I greatly admired, showed me something early on. The importance of being true to your roots gives you solid ground to stand on. It gives you a certain pride and narrative that shunning your roots does not give you. When you do not stay true to your roots, you lose that pride and that story behind who you are. You essentially lose a very crucial layer of your own self.
The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama
Actually, anything by Michelle Obama! It cannot be women’s day (or a happy one, anyhow), if I do not mention this lady. Not only did she stand by her husband as the first lady of total conviction, she also embodied what it meant to be a person who is completely satisfied in who she is. Her story of Becoming was one that moved me, and this new book has given me a reason to be inspired!
Why Women Deserve Less by Myron Gaines
The title of the book grabbed my attention, and in my head, I found myself finishing the question with – “because we can do so much more.” The book was on point and it did not disappoint. The author has challenged all the old social contracts to speak about how much more women can be with everything they are capable of doing. Political, economic, social and even the dating world – the book takes on everything that needs to be said this women’s day.
Excuse Me While I Disappear by Laurie Notaro
I picked up this book because it was recommended by someone I really admire – Mindy Kaling. And I was not disappointed! The book is a tale of midlife crisis unlike any other. Yet, what I loved was how it debunked so many of the social and physical constructs of aging that women in particular fight to hide and ‘overcome.’ It reaffirms one of my own core values – it is a privilege to age. The book is filled with hilarious and relatable bits on what it means to be a woman in her 50s and what it should mean instead.
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon
Much like the previous tome, this one also deals with one of the most visual signs of feminine identity as we age. It would not be women’s day if we wouldn’t talk about weight issues and body issues. As women, we are constantly hyper aware of how we must appear to society and the people in our lives. Weight is one big parameter of how fit we are. Yet, this book talks about being healthy before being thin. It talks about body type and body size as well as what fits. It does not ask you to fit in. It asks you to consider what makes you fit – in a healthy way. Emotional eating and crash dieting have been examined very closely in this book, by an author who has specialized in weight regulation.
The Stories We Tell by Joanna Gaines
Each page, each sentence of this book hit home! As an immigrant mother of an immigrant child, I quickly became aware of how we are perceived, received, appreciated, and allowed to just be ourselves without taking on the burden of being a certain way in a certain country. This book showed me just how important and how liberating it is to be unique. My life in a small town in America, where I am mostly the only brown woman walking down the street, would have been incomplete and lacked the right words had I not found this book!
So, which book will you choose to read this women’s day?