Oct 06, 2021


I have been a feminist for longer than my memories go. I was born and raised in a brown family; perhaps a son being born in a middle-class brown family is equivalent to winning a lottery in itself. The journey started when I began to question why.

My father is a marine engineer who remains away from the shores seemingly endlessly round the

year, fighting and embracing the waves of the sea. But my mother has never let me feel his absence. She single-handedly raised two children with tremendous resolution and high aspirations. I was born as the second child to the youngest son in a joint family residing in a small town in Bangladesh. My elder sister, not much older than me, would be constantly questioned about her clothing choices, or her will to go outside and play dismissed and ignored. I was once told that she wasn’t welcomed in the family because she was born a daughter while my mother and father remained the happiest on the day she was born. I never understood why I was celebrated when I was born. When I was eight, we all shifted to the capital of the country. The metropolis was bustling with a lot of responsibilities. My mother did everything she could to raise two children in this city

where people seemed to carry hearts as cold as the Riviere. My mother is my superheroine. She brought me up with everything she had; she ensured we had good food on the table and sound sleep at night. But every time anyone asked her what she does, she would respond with “Nothing, I am just a housewife”. Again, I couldn’t realize why. When I was twelve I asked my sister about the advertisement for sanitary napkins on the television.  And she took me to my mother to dismantle my confusion into bits. My mother, initially being very uncomfortable to speak about menstruation to her twelve-year-old son, eventually made me understand the biological phenomenon. That is when I started to realize how stigmas take birth out of a societal mentality and how romanticism deprives a whole community of basic awareness.

When I turned eighteen, I started to be shrouded with the news of multiple rape cases every day.

It’s as if I had been served breakfast with news of a woman being sexually violated. I couldn’t tolerate it any longer. Ever since I had acknowledged the privileges I am entitled to, I started to realize that the privileges we as humans receive through a lottery-of-birth or earn with hard work, we get obliged to create a room, a table for those privileges and opportunities to be shared equally.

On August 26, 2018, I founded ProjectDebi, a youth organization working to establish gender equality and sensitivity in our society. “Debi” means Goddess in Bangla, and I believe I have seen goddesses in my mother and my sister, and I see a goddess in every girl out there. But society till today continues to suppress their power and capabilities and holds them back. ProjectDebi ever since started to address crucial social issues like rape, unhygienic menstrual management, sexual harassment, and society’s internalized misogyny. We did social campaigns, exhibitions, seminars, fundraisers, performing arts presentations, idea presentation competitions in order to involve the youth in the movement and fight for gender sensitivity. We aspire to become a fundamental unit and marketing platform for female entrepreneurship in Bangladesh. We want to ensure women can be the independent decision making individuals as they should be. 

I cannot say I had it easier than any other feminist in a brown society. The brown society in my country sees feminists as the flag bearers of demolishing social constructs. Society has always been too comfortable in its patriarchal bubble, much so that even women in our society have conditioned themselves to conform to those stereotypes. I have been told multiple times that the women in our society are meant to be the breadmakers of the family, that they are the potential mothers and wives of men who must be the breadwinners. And as a feminist, I’d say there is nothing wrong with women wanting to be breadmakers or the mothers or the wives in a family. What’s wrong is making this the only possibility for women. But every time I addressed this as a feminist, was taken aback by society’s response that we feminists are creating propaganda of breaking the Pardah of women, that we are taking women outside the house where they are unsafe. The response is ironic to us for how the same society is the first to claim “Not all men ”. 

As a male feminist it has been very tough as well, if not tougher. I was always humiliated by the men around me almost most of the time. I was always seen as a threat to their egos perhaps. I always had a really small number of male friends for how most of them did not like me for calling them out on sexism. But it is not just this, things only got brutal with time.

In 2019, I was threatened to be beheaded by a large number of radical conservatives for talking about gender equality and the equal rights of the Hijra community in Bangladesh. On the internet, I became the victim of cyber harassment for how users would make and write humiliating content to defame me. In 2021, I was forced into isolation for how threats were extreme. It was because I stood up against slut-shaming and victim-blaming in a public post. People started looking for my personal information to attack me. I have had people threatening me saying if I don’t stop what I do, they would harm my family and my associates. People started reaching out to my associations to look for me. It puts me into the ethical dilemma of whether I should just be brave or should I allow potential harm towards my family and friends. And I decided to take a step back. But it was not just random hostile people who did that to me. I have had people from the same bubble as I am in, to humiliate my work and my project. It is because according to them, a gradual change is no change at all and they are perhaps getting impatient for me to make crass decisions. 

Now, I acknowledge that the work I do is dangerous, especially for a twenty years old. But I also realized how it is extremely exhausting too. And as a male feminist, the biggest obstacle I faced was having no one to listen to me when I was overfilling with emotions. Because at the end of the day, I am an ally and most people would argue how I don’t need to work this hard for gender rights. But I do. I must. Women’s rights are human rights and there is no way I can allow the violation of their rights just because I am not the firsthand victim of it. But regardless of how dangerous and exhausting it can get, it is very fulfilling to know that I belong to that small community of people who not only understand something so simple yet complex like gender sensitivity, but also the urgency of reformations. And that is the message I’d like to end this story with. If you’re born with privileges, it becomes your right to ensure that everyone around you can enjoy the fruits of it. If you’re born with privileges, be grateful that you don’t need a movement to live the most average life.

Bangla Version

About the Author:

Share This Entry