Beyond the daughter, the girlfriend and the wife
A perspective on many perspectives surrounding women
Another year, another women’s day, another round of applause for all the visible and invisible women. Some shopping discounts, some special events, some social initiatives, and many more Instagram hashtags. While I love the idea of celebrating being a woman — this time I wanted to dig a little deeper and wider into the ground where I and all the participants of happy women’s day stand — as girls, as women, as Indians, and as a society.
- All women are not equal
The era of generalization is over — the disparities are huge, the characters are different and the environments are different. All women don’t get an education, all women don’t have supportive families and all women don’t have the right to ask for what they want. At the same time, all women are not tortured, all women are not treated badly, all women don’t feel ‘not empowered’. India is as varied as it can get even when basics are involved. The differences and subtleties far exceed the stereotype descriptions and the realities are many.
2. All men are not equal
Again we have a lot of differences and nuances. We are not stereotyping men. All men don’t treat women as equals, all men are not open-minded and all men are not supportive. At the same time, all men don’t oppress women, all men don’t disrespect women and all men are not ruthless to women. There are some amazing men, treating women as equals and better — right around us. And yet some still can’t get out of the darkness in their head. There is a wave of rising awareness, where treating women well is becoming the real definition of masculinity.
3. Power of voice is not for slander
There is nothing worse than women using their ‘power of voice’ to slander others. A lot of real excruciating stories will not be believed due to some false ones. Women have to respect the truth of other women to not participate in any lies and manipulation for their selfish motives. These cases are rare, but there has to be sacrosanct code amongst women — to never abuse this power.
4. Divorce does not make a woman weird
It is the 21st century — the internet is faster than rockets — but our country still struggles to fully respect a divorced woman (or man). The basic corollary is something must be wrong with the women that she could not make the marriage work. In a country where most young women are under tremendous pressure to get married, it is a curse to stand up for yourself or walk out of your marriage. Anything less than attempted murder or dowry doesn’t qualify as a logical reason for the divorce in India.
5. Sex needs more talking
The country with the second-highest population in the world talks about sex in hushed tones as if we all were delivered from Amazon warehouses or the result of some unspeakable act. Education, literacy, respect, and individual boundaries around sex need to be discussed openly and constructively. There are families, willing to kill their daughters for an act involving sex. This taboo needs to go away and faster.
6. The independent daughter
While many Indian parents are trying to make their daughters independent in their own ways — many families — still can not place enough emphasis on how to marry and be a good wife. This is what, even in today’s world, many young minds are fed since their formative years. To be employed, to work, to create something — are projected as a hobby, not a goal in life. Young girls need to be taught the importance of becoming financially independent and inculcate this as a value, as a priority.
7. A girl exploring her sexuality is not slutty:
It is funny when I find many well educated, superficially cool, well-traveled men boast about their sexual encounters with the valor of a soldier but will take just a second to call a girl a slut if she was ok with the idea of casual sex. We still live in a very hypocrite society and the same rules do not apply to men and women.
8. Motherhood is a choice
While being a mother is beautiful and special — it may not be for everyone. Can we stop judging women for their choice to be a mother or not? It is an immensely personal choice and respecting their choice is the least we can do. A country where approximately 37% of kids are stunted due to poverty and malnutrition, the pressure to reproduce is phenomenal.
9. Being single is an option
Our society has millions of matchmakers and ‘being single’ around them is pretty much challenging their life purpose. Living with the constant pressure and judgement of being single can be difficult to deal with. Not following the societal norm of getting married on time is a big problem and much more for women.
10. Same-sex relationships exist
Duh! While many of us keep saying we are cool with anybody’s sexual orientation — do we mean it? We don’t! The eye rolls, the constant speculation, the teasing laughter — makes it almost impossible for people to come out in the open and be authentic. People have to lie to everyone including their families and blend in because they know, they will not be accepted. While this is changing, there are very few people, who have accepted this at a heart level.
11. Freedom is everyone’s right
Freedom is not a favor, freedom is a right. The most fundamental human right. Freedom to education, freedom to work, freedom to earn money, freedom to say ‘no’, freedom to express, freedom to make choices, and freedom to create a life one wants — is the basic freedom, it is not asking for much. Behind the veil of open minds — there are many homes and families — where women have to plead for their basic rights. While they may be educated, nobody taught them, to ask and claim their rights. ‘Permissions’ are still as popular as when ‘slavery’ was prevalent — just that they are sugar-coated now.
This article has more gloom and less glitter and while there might be many more dimensions to these topics, this is not an attempt to glorify the sacrifices of women or prove the superiority of one gender over the other.
My opinions are based on many conversations I have had with women from different backgrounds, age groups, life experiences, and geographies in India.
There is a huge shift happening and it is heartwarming to see fathers, mothers, family members, friends, and sometimes random people go out of their way to support a woman.
Saying this, as women, we can not only depend on the external world to change. If we don’t stand up for ourselves and honor our rights and authenticity — nobody will.
This note will not change the world, but if this shifts even a little something somewhere for the better, I would be content.