Taslima Nasreen describes her awakening to the oppressive ways women were treated as she grew up in Bangladesh:
Let alone ‘Western feminism’, I had no idea about ‘Eastern feminism’. Without any familiarity with these concepts, I have since childhood questioned a lot of diktat, advice and proscriptions from the family and from society at large. When I, unlike my brothers, wasn’t allowed to play outside; when I was called ‘impure’ during my menstrual periods; or when I was told I had grown up and must cover myself in a black burqa if I wanted to step out, I questioned, I didn’t give in readily.
When strange boys would hurl abuses at me, snatch my scarf or pinch my breasts as I walked by, I protested. I couldn’t stomach it when I saw husbands beating their wives, young mothers weeping in anxiety and fear of being divorced after having given birth to a female baby. Upon observing the shame on the faces of raped women, I felt their pain acutely; I broke down after hearing about women being trafficked from city to city, from one country to another in order to be forced into sexual slavery. No logic, no intellect could make me accept the torture of women by the men, the society, the state. But no one witnessed my pain, my tears, the non-acquiescence, the non-acceptance, the speechlessness, the inability to tolerate, the screams – that is, until I started writing.
The society that I grew up in engendered questions in the minds of many. They were forced to accept the answers given by the leaders of the patriarchy. I didn’t give in to that coercion. No one taught me to be disobedient. I didn’t learn defiance from a book. It is not necessary to read thick and heavy books to be aware; one just needs eyes to observe. No one helps build courage either. In order to demand rights for women, one doesn’t need to internalize Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem; one’s own awareness is often good enough.