March 8- International Woman’s Day!
This day has come to acquire a lot of fanfare since the last couple of years. Almost elevated to the status of a traditional festival, opening floodgates of greetings, by male friends– ‘generously’ acknowledging how grateful they are to all the women who have been a part of their life and have made them complete; by women– reminding themselves how tough it is to play the role of a Mother, a Daughter, a Daughter-in-law, a Sister, a Wife- that women so gracefully play, without diminishing the efficiency of their professional lives; by commercial enterprises– with their aggressive marketing strategies to push out deals for women to take a break and pamper themselves on this special day; by social media- switching into ‘pink’ with all the caricatures, videos, posts- celebrating the Wonder that a Woman is- Awwwwh!- Isn’t it?
Now let me tell you how I, and millions like myself, feel today!
I feel ‘Vulnerable’ reminded that I am a Woman! That I am not the ‘normal’ half of humanity but a ‘specimen’- who gets ‘one day’ to celebrate her existence, while the other half gets three sixty four- by default, right? I feel ‘Threatened’ that I am Woman- that pitiable creature who can get beaten, molested, raped, have acid thrown on her face- anytime, anywhere and make headlines the next day! I feel ‘Nervous’ that I am Woman who will get judged by the colour of her skin, the proportions of her body, the pimples on her face, the type of clothes she wears, the time she leaves her home, the people she hangs out with or without! I feel ‘Caged’ that I am a Woman- caged in a body that has to be ‘perfect’ else no one will love her, caged in ‘morals’ which have to be ‘right’ else no one will marry her, caged in a space where her words have to be ‘politically correct’, else no one will approve of her!
So what exactly is ‘Happy’ about a Woman’s Day, again?
I am sure, in the reaction to this article or articles like these- there would be scores of people waiting to tell me how chronologically outdated this post is. In this era of women leaders, girl power, feminists and feminazis, why is my mind still stuck up to the stale tune of ‘अगले जनम मोहे बिटिया न कीजो ‘ mentality?
I’ll tell you why- Just because I, or for that matter- the fraction of people to whom this post will be accessible to, via the internet, are living in a perceived gender equal or rather gender neutral space, does that mean we share this space with the majority of our womenfolk?
I have a friend called Rupa. No, you won’t find her on my facebook profile. She’s a girl my age who does the utensils at my home. She has a mind more fertile and inquisitive than many of you out there. Noticing the more than usual feisty pictures and ads of women and the scores of discounts in the newspaper, she asked if today was a special day!
I told her what was so special about today! She seemed extremely sad! On asking what happened, she said,
“त्यौहार तो मना के एक दिन में भूल जाते है , फिर अगले साल तक इंतेज़ार करना पढता है , क्या इसका यह मतलब है औरतो को भी इज़्ज़त और सम्मान मनाने के लिये आज के बाद अगले साल का इंतेज़ार करना पड़ेगा ? और अगर यह इतना ही खास दिन है तो मर्दो के लिए कोई दिन क्यों नहीं होता ?- आखिर उनमे कोई कमी है क्या ?”
(After celebrating a festival, we forget all about it in a day. So does that mean women would have to wait for one year till March 8 to celebrate their individuality and respect? And if it is indeed such a special day, why isn’t such a day dedicated to men? After all, what is it, that they lack?!)
For a moment, the fine placement of the logic of this ‘uneducated’ girl stunned me into silence!
Pardon me, Rupa, for calling you ‘uneducated’ but I am glad that you didn’t have access to an ‘education’ that would have shut your mind to be able to ask such a question. Worse still, belonging to the minority of women who have realised that women’s movement was never about demanding ‘special’ rights or ‘exclusive’ space for them, but their due share in an inclusive world- Rupa will be getting married a year from now- not out of choice, but because that is what is to be done. Closing the door to ‘Choice’ forever!
These days she seems more disturbed than usual. Says her mother is worried who will marry her because her beauty doesn’t fit the world’s ‘fair & lovely’ scheme of beauty. And that she is already a year or two beyond her marriageable age, so there might be questions regarding the delay. She doesn’t even have a bank account to her name because her family thinks that since she will be married soon, there is no point for her to have one.
It is such a pity, that a woman like her would be deemed a worthy bride, not by the weight of her दिमाग (intellect) but by the weight of her दहेज़. (dowry) It is a pity that in a world, where there are more of Rupas than the paltry number of Anushas, we are fooled into believing that the status of women is improving. It is a pity that despite knowing all this, we are still celebrating a woman’s day! Or is it not?
Ladies, let us not align our lives with what is deemed appropriate by the society but learn to exercise our right to choice. Let us not be satisfied with that one ladies coach in the metro that makes us feel safe, but have the entire train, not ‘reserved’, but women-friendly to travel. Let us not be content with just one day of being showered with love and respect, but make that a daily thing. And let us not, just listen, listen and listen, to what others have to say, but make ourselves be Heard! Do we don’t deserve this much?
But, for this to happen- let us not wait for someone else to fix things up, or for change to happen on its own, one fine day. This battle is ours. The initiative will have to be our own. Others can be mere seconders. Besides, what is it that we can’t do?
To quote John E. Lewis-
“If not us, then who?
If not now, then when?”
The only thing, therefore, women have yet to learn is that nobody gives you power. You just take it! Only then will every day be a happy Women’s Day.