Growing up as an Indian girl it was hard to be a feminist

‘Women behaving this way just isn’t in our culture’

Growing up with Indian immigrant parents, I was raised differently than some girls. Respecting yourself and your body is a huge thing for girls in my culture. We’re supposed to be modest, conservative and put school first. Hookup culture wasn’t a thing in my mom’s time when she grew up in India, and now even though it is, kids in India are extremely secretive about it instead of being open with their parents.

I’ve always had friends who would talk to their parents about their drunk hookups even in high school as if they were besties. I remember always wishing I could do that with my mom. I never even had those kinds of hookups in high school because I was just so afraid of my mom finding out.

I couldn’t wear booty shorts and crop tops to school. I couldn’t have boys at home when my parents weren’t home, and when they were home, I couldn’t hang out with boys in my room. When a scene on TV came on of a teenage girl hooking up with a guy that wasn’t her boyfriend, dressed in a revealing outfit, or out partying and drinking, my mom would immediately label her as trashy.


Of course, this led me to the mindset to judge other girls just like my mom did. “Why is her butt hanging out of her shirt?” “She’s already had sex with six people?” “What a whore!”

But on the inside, I secretly wished I could wear the short shorts because they were so cute. I wished I could hookup with hot guys instead of laying in bed alone every night and being scared of my mom when I got the chance. But what could I do? I was taught these things were so wrong.

I’m 20 now, and I’ve learned to make my own decisions and not judge others for theirs. My mom has become more lenient since I’m away at school most of the time – she doesn’t ask what I’m doing or what I’m wearing. But when I’m home, I still have to put up with her judging me and listening to her talk down on other girls who are actually really happy living their lives.


“You’re going out in that!? Your butt is hanging out!”

I recently showed my mom a picture of a slip dress I ordered, and she said if she saw anyone wearing that, she’d think they were a prostitute.

I end up listening because no matter how old I get, I’ll respect my mom and want her to be proud of me. It’s just hard because I really feel like I miss out on so many things I want to do.

Oh and by the way, my mom thinks she’s a feminist.

Feminism: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” It sounds pretty simple right? The feminist movement is all about women rising to equality with men and women making their own decisions. What woman wouldn’t want that? If you ask any girl in any part of the world if she wants equal rights as men, chances are she’ll say yes.

My mom considers herself a feminist, she wants women to have equality with men, but she still believes women should not be engaging in hookup culture or sleeping around. I told her that this means she doesn’t want “real” equality, but she says that, “Women behaving this way just isn’t in our culture.” She’d probably freak out if she saw all the Free the Nipple stuff going on.


But actually, the whole idea of real “equality” and everything it includes becomes pretty complicated when you think about it from a cultural or religious perspective. If you ask any woman in any part of the world if she believes women should have the same sexual freedom and sexual agency that men do, the answer is likely to be varied.

Because of my own life and my mom’s and culture’s views, I have a very mixed opinion. I love sexy outfits, but then part of me thinks, “The only man seeing this should be my husband. I’m asking for attention.” I see hot guys and want to hook up with them because I get turned on, but another part of me thinks, “My body is a temple. Why should I let these random guys I don’t have a connection with in?”

It’s pretty hard wanting to respect your parents and culture but holding in a different opinion and missing out on things you want to do at the same time. I still believe strongly in women respecting their bodies, but can’t respect also mean doing what makes you happy and taking control of yourself?

University of Maryland