I wore this to an event on inclusivity. A stranger said they’d seen me at the event & thought, “She’s doing it for the attention.” That they’d later read my blog, learnt of abuse I’d survived & decided I deserved to dress as I liked. It angered me. Dressing as I like is a fundamental right, not a consolation prize for enduring trauma.

Some time later, I engaged with activist groups in the course of work. I ran into severe judgement, harassment & group bullying. I was told I had to run my online content by them to veto first, that I was not really a feminist. To the anonymous DMers schooling me on tone policing, triggers & patriarchy, I said as a vocal/visible feminist online & offline for 15 years, I’d battled these long before I knew the terms. They only relented when I served up my experiences of abuse, violence & assault. Rage again. How was this different from men who decided I was promiscuous because I had a tattoo? The families that decided I wasn’t bahu material because I had coloured hair?

People expect the performance of victimhood just the way they expect the performance of gender or strength or artistic ability or professionalism. Any deviation from this meets rabid negative reaction.

I’m not as angry now. I realised the body is part of a story we tell the world & all stories need editing. A story isn’t a chronicle of all facts, it’s what the storyteller chooses it to be, a point of view. I want respect more than I want pity. I seek to be an inspiration more than I seek rescue. And I’m true to that story. I guess that means my best audiences will be those lacking inspiration & respect (because you can’t respect another when you don’t respect yourself). Maybe this story is also the story of a warrior who doesn’t wear wounds as badges of honour. Yes, that sounds like me. I don’t like bloody.

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