WOTW: Amrita Kumar-Ratta
How do you break gender stereotypes?
Breaking gender stereotypes is not easy, nor is it straightforward; after all, gender is a performance that we’re all navigating as individuals with diverse identities. As a diasporic South Asian woman, I’m always balancing between ‘breaking the gender mould’ that I’ve grown up with, while also expressing great pride in my family and community. The nose ring that I wear every day is a perfect example of that.
So far, I’ve tried to break gender stereotypes by refusing to conform to societal and familial expectations of me; by refusing to be labeled; by seeking out unique experiences that set me apart from others; by regularly challenging the everyday use of discriminatory and/or gendered language; and by asserting my right to choose the decisions that I feel are the best for me.
What does feminism mean to you?
For me, feminism is fundamentally about doing away with gendered social constructions that create inequity and perpetuate injustice. It is about creating a society in which the expression of a person’s identity doesn’t come with constraints.
Right now, in my life, feminism is about solidarity, sisterhood, and support; It is about safety and decent work for equal compensation; it’s about consent, and believing survivors.
It is about acknowledging all of our beautiful contradictions as diverse individuals, and having the freedom to express these in the most authentic way. [It means I can confidently rock my nose ring and I can critically deconstruct the tradition that makes nose piercings a symbol of puberty and purity among young girls in my community].
What are your achievements?
I am proud of being the ‘feminist whistleblower’ amongst my family and friends. I may get called out for being ‘too critical’, but I know that in a small way I am changing the way the people around me think about these things, and that gives me strength and motivation to continue working at it.
I am proud of the work I have done to raise community consciousness in the area of gender inequity and violence against women within the South Asian diaspora; Since age 18, I have advocated for these issues in my capacity as a writer, a non-profit professional, a community activist and a researcher.
I am also committed to integrating my love for the performing arts with my feminism. In November 2017 I created my own one-woman show called ‘50 Shades of Brown Girl’, which I am currently working on expanding.
What do you hope for future female leaders?
My ultimate hope is that we continue to support each other and build each other up to be the best leaders we can be. Because representation matters, and it is important that we see ourselves as leaders and change-makers in all aspects of life, and in all sectors of the economy, I hope that we see a lot more solidarity, support and mentorship amongst women in the years to come.