Featured UCLA Feminist: Atreyi Mitra

Photo by Natasha Cocke

Feminism: the social, political, and economic equality of the genders. To first-year Human Biology and Society student, Atreyi Mitra, feminism is about rebelling against the confines and stereotypes society placed on expressions of female sexuality. When asked about what the definition of feminism means to her, Atreyi replied that, “It doesn’t take much to realize how all three of these entities are constrained by the ways with which society shames women as objects with a purpose of bearing children. Society ties women to their perceived levels of attraction rather than their abilities and intellect.”

Fiercely independent and outspoken, Atreyi hopes to normalize the discussion about sexuality. According to Atreyi, the day she began to embrace her sexuality was the day she truly began to feel comfortable in her own skin. Up until her later high school years, she felt pressured by society to condemn her sexuality and this had a negative effect on her self image as a young teen: “From a young age, I had understood that women were supposed to be pure. All those who deviated were thought to be contaminated. The internalization of the idea led me to experience a lot of self hatred and a sense of loneliness.”

However, for Atreyi, learning about her sexuality was a source of empowerment, and served as a foundation for her love of feminism. Through biology and psychology classes, she began to view the body and its sexual desire as natural and was able to fully embrace her womanhood. Atreyi explains that learning about biology concepts like sexual selection and the psychology of sexuality helped her embrace herself:  “Finding myself entranced by sexual selection as explained by Darwinian theory, I found the laws of attraction that governed the evolution of all species enticing and even beautiful. The stigmatized finally became the norm, and I stopped believing my feelings were immoral. I felt free from the constraints of societal femininity and my moral code for the first time in my life.”

As a member of Sexperts, Phi Sigma Rho Sorority, and as a Human Biology and Society student, Atreyi encourages education about sexuality. She strongly believes that people shouldn’t have to hide their sexuality and promotes having open discussions about sex. To Atreyi, the only way to reduce the shameful stigma about sexuality is to normalize the conversation: “I comfortably talk about sex and sexuality in a humorous manner in hopes of decreasing the stigma. I hope that this helps people realize how natural of a phenomenon it is.”

While Atreyi’s feminist journey has been largely focused on embracing the sexuality of her own female body, she acknowledges that there are different ways that bodies are stigmatized and objectified by society; whether it be by race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Atreyi says that her experiences during her first year at UCLA have educated her about intersectional feminism and the importance of challenging popular society’s largely heteronormative, cisgender expectations of feminism. Atreyi says that in addition to learning more in terms of biology and psychology, UCLA events like LIPS have helped further her education and inspire her to do more to normalize sexuality for all genders. Atreyi hopes that conversations about feminism can become more inclusive to bodies of all genders and races, saying “We can only succeed together by helping those who are marginalized.”

The passion that Atreyi has for feminism is evident in her continuous desire for self-education and discussion. For Atreyi, no longer allowing herself be pressured into appealing to society’s ideals for appearance and sexuality is what has allowed her to embrace her unique identity. Accepting herself and allowing herself to be open about her own sexuality is what makes her feel most powerful. “More than anything,” says Atreyi, “feminism has given me empowerment. There is something beautiful about reclaiming what that was yours the entire time.”

 

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