Relating to Rupi
How do you connect with Rupi if you can't relate to the plight of the broken woman who is often the focus of her work?
Reading Rupi's work was part of my broader desire to understand and potentially support the feminist cause. Potentially? I bet that sounds strange, because if I'm a woman why wouldn't I automatically jump on the bandwagon? However, as I explain in An Aversion to Affinities, mass movements should not be joined blindly.
On a high level I agree that modern times demand equal rights for women and, most importantly, a swift and dramatic shutdown of misogynism, sexism, and chauvinism. Yet, on a personal level I have not had many experiences where I felt I was being actively suppressed, shamed, or shunned for being a woman. So there's a disconnect between my reality and many of the pillars the women's liberation effort is built upon.
Which brings me back to Rupi. Rupi is a 24-year-old poet, writer, illustrator, and spoken word artist. Her work deals with themes of abuse, violence, and loss, along with love, worth, and healing. In her poems, particularly the compilation of pieces in her book Milk and Honey, you get the sense that she is, or is talking to, a woman scorned.
Milk and Honey is divided into four chapters: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. Despite her micro-prose, which makes it easy to peruse the pages, I found it difficult to digest her words. We often connect with artists because of their ability to empathize with our own life experiences. If Rupi wasn't tapping into a common narrative that has played out in the lives of many women she wouldn't have achieved her almost overnight success.
So what's my problem?
Well, it's that I don't have a problem in this regard. I'm not hurting and I don't need healing. I'm not broken and don't need anyone to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart. I've loved and lost but lived to see another day. I already know I don't need a man but I'm glad I've got one that I want. And, no, I have no desire to flail my tampons in the air to prove a point.
I'm also almost a decade Rupi's senior and have heard this all before. So I'm not in her target market and her cause is simply not my cause.
However, reading Rupi did accomplish something important. It instilled in me a desire to improve my ability to sympathize even when I don't empathize. And as I consider the resurgence of feminism, her book compelled me to explore how to aid the revolution without losing myself in a battle I don't have the conviction to call my own.