Interview of Ishita by Amanda Attanayake
Hi Ishita, how are you going?
I’m, going great, thanks!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 17 years old, bisexual and from India. I’m also feminist (as everyone should be!). My hobbies include writing (comedy and dark poems), singing karaoke and stomping on misogynistic men’s egos. I’m also a body positivity activist, and I believe in making space for everyone.
You’ve mentioned that you are bisexual! How do you find the experience of being bisexual in India? Have you encountered any challenges? And what can you do to counter them?
I came out almost three years ago to my parents and friends, and most of them are pretty accepting. It’s also still illegal and considered ‘unnatural’ in my country to be attracted to the same sex, so my parents were a little concerned about my safety and mental health. But so far, the biggest challenge I’ve faced has been the lack of awareness about bisexuality. Even after I’ve answered all their questions, people seem to still have a problem understanding that a person can be interested in more than one gender at the same time. There’s almost a love-hate relationship between society and bisexuals. People either love that we’re attracted to both men and women and try to discuss their sex lives with us (which is totally inappropriate and unwanted coming from strangers!) or they think we’re being to greedy by being ‘attracted to everyone’. They seem to miss the point that consent is super important, and we only engage with people that want to be engaged with us. I think the best way to counter biphobia is just to raise awareness about it and answer questions that people ask in good taste.
What are your plans after school?
I plan to go to college and study Creative Writing and Philosophy.
What is your dream career/occupation?
I’d want my book(s!) to be on the New York Times Best Sellers list.
You’ve also mentioned that you enjoy “stomping on misogynistic men’s egos”. What does this involve?
The one thing that I truly hate is mansplaining. I once had a guy mansplain my own writing to me, and honestly I’ve had enough of that. I calmly pointed out that he was actually referring to something I wrote, so maybe, just maybe, I would have a better idea as to what I meant. He looked embarrassed and apologised. Another incident that happened was that this acquaintance of mine said that I was “too intimidating” because I often voiced my opinion on things and made steady eye contact. To which I responded by making even steadier eye contact. I watched him back away in fear. It’s almost like they WANT women to be scared of men. Touché.
What do you think is the best way for feminists, on an individual level, to combat instances of casual (or not so casual) instances of misogyny in daily life?
I think explaining your point of view to both the men and women in your life and around you and really building up a conversation in the best way to combat misogyny. I’ve had a few friends apologise to me after I showed them the error in their ways. You don’t owe forgiveness to anyone, but it is important to understand that sometimes people have just been brought up in patriarchal culture where things have been done a certain way, and they tend to follow tradition. Remind them that it’s never too late to educate themselves on issues.
Why is feminism important to you?
The majority of the women in my country are expected to leave jobs and work at home after getting married, and are often disrespected because their work seems to not add to the income. If women were paid for the care work and domestic labour that they do, they would make 39% of India’s GDP. Feminism is important to me because I’d want the same respect and status for a stay-at-home mom and a working dad, or a working mom and a stay-at-home dad. Gender roles are honestly so last century, it’s time people caught up.
You describe yourself as a body-positive activist. What has your activism involved so far? How did you learn to feel body-positive yourself?
I spend a lot of my time counselling both girls and boys to feel comfortable in their skin. I don’t promote an unhealthy lifestyle but just because someone is unhealthy doesn’t mean they are not worthy of respect. I photograph, write about and draw a lot of women and their bodies, just to make people more okay with how individualistic bodies are, and to normalise different body types. I think Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday inspired me so much as a young teenager to be okay with myself. It is a hard journey, with its own ups and downs, but it is very rewarding and liberating, I promise.
Can you leave us with a quote?
Don’t let life happen to you, let you happen to life.