An Ode to Ancient Feminists
The world claims to know of you
Still, my true story remains untold
Born from the womb of the Earth
I took birth to share a merry story
But ended up changing the course of His-story
Mythology places the voice of the male hero in the centre of the epic while other voices remain in the background to contribute to ‘his story.’ But what about HER story? For there have been many voices that expressed the concerns of the age and demanded justice and equality amidst the bounds of absurd patriarchy and social oppression. Many among them, were heard only to be left unheard. But the smallest beam of light is capable of paving the way for change. And women of mythology worked to push the barriers of confinement and inequality to establish themselves as the Ancient Feminists. While growing up, I heard innumerable tales of Ram’s prowess. But why was I never told that the world of bows and arrows intrigued Sita too?
If one is asked to talk about the character of Sita, she is often defined in terms of her chastity and devotion to her husband, Lord Rama. But nobody talks about her fascination for bows and arrows. Primarily because no one knows of it. For no one ever felt important to understand a narrative from a woman’s lens, her choices and aspirations. We are schooled to understand the concept of ‘strength’ in terms of masculine power and valour showcased on battlefields. But the daughter of Bhumi embodied the strength of mind and emotion. People describe her as a submissive woman who underwent Agni Pariksha to prove her chastity but forget the fact that she is the same woman who raised two sons all by herself when she was left alone in the woods. She is the one who decided to go back into the womb of her mother, Bhumi and serve as an example to all generations to come that women do not need to provide proof of their chastity to anyone. She might not be all that today’s women could relate to, but she is surely the one who symbolised the inner strength a woman possesses in her heart.
Another woman from mythology that represents many features of feminist ideology is the daughter of the fire, Draupadi. Often labelled as the cause of the War of Kurukshetra, Draupadi is the cause of my immense belief in women’s power of seeking justice. She suffered but fought with conviction. She was humiliated but did not allow it to rattle her individuality. In the court of Hastinapur, she reprimands Yudhishthira for not possessing any right to stake her in the game of dice once he had himself become a slave to the Kauravas.
It is unjust to call women the cause of violence and destruction as Sita and Draupadi have been named in public history even when we know how not just the world but history has waged the biggest wars against them. Their journeys echo in today’s day and age when women stand to raise their concerns and narrate their tales. History may not be re-written but it surely can be read in the light of the feminine perspective. These women make me feel that feminism is not a new age concept for it has its roots in the struggles,
decisions and fervour of these women who set an example for us amidst the hardships they had to suffer.
They might have not been able to get the representation of ‘heroes’ in history but they surely took birth to change the course of history. Remembering with utmost love, The Ancient Feminists!
- Isha Sharma