Its become customary for us middle aged people to go melancholy on special days or anniversaries and decide to share our musings with the world. I am quite the cynic about days dedicated to women in a world when our curses are based on womens genitalia that we spew like caramel in a range of emotions and use surnames of father for children by default while women carry the foetus and go through the tribulations and joys of growing the child inside them. So as a feminist who truly believes women have it tougher, I want to celebrate women’s day, a day when we applaud women for standing up for themselves and others, for making the world a better place.
There is a very common and overused phrase which says women are women’s worst enemies. We are blamed for telling on each other, being jealous, not being trusting of our kind, being judgemental, putting each other down and loathing each other. On a lighter note there is also a saying that if women ran the world, there wont be many wars, just few jealous countries not talking to each other!
How can we change this perception? What can we learn from men that will teach us to be kinder to our own gender? Have and show more camaraderie?
Before we answer this question we need to understand why these perceptions are there in the first place? Why cant women catch a break from other women! I am going to compare this to the colonial conditioning of developing countries and I am going to talk about urban India as an example. Three or four generations have been born in India post independence and there still is a strongly prevailing shame and loathing of our cultural heritage. In urban India, my own friends and colleagues for the longest time have taken pride in not knowing hindi numerals. Hindu friends are ashamed of their religion and hyper critical of even the good parts of their faith. Friends from other religions in India also like fellows of their faith from other countries better than their countrymen. This certainly is not to say we all need to become blind followers of what is being presented but have a rationle and objective view of what is good, be proud of the good things from our heritage and not feel embarased of our identity. But taking example of countries who’ve been on this journey we know it will take a littke while more for this awakening to take place.
Similary, I’d argue women have been hearing inferior remarks on their gender, explicit or not for thousands of years. What they witness as children on roles their female family members play, their place in the household and how they express their own frustrations in homes generally led by a patriarch have lasting impressions and shape their own identities. Many of us have seen aunts and sisters in law coming to our homes as new brides who have a fairytale notion of what a daughter in law is, who are ready to be doormats to be that person who keeps the family together and happy. With time many turn into these vicious and angry monsters that they are capable of potent toxicity that can break families apart and sow hatred. What causes that change? What goes wrong? Their treatment? Inclusion or exclusion from family decisions? Expectation to serve continously with great criticism and not enough reward? Not having a voice, seat at the table and general respect? Theses have been written on the subject but you get the general idea. The same DILs become MILs, the same nieces become aunts and keep the cycle of abuse on. The generational curses just dont break. Funnily enough we see these behaviours getting repeated at workplaces where many women dont want to work with female bosses.
Most of us who are reading this piece, I, who is writing it, how can we be sure we won’t turn into someone who will enforce gender stereotypes when we have a choice to not do so? What can we do today to ensure there is a high possibility we dont do so? Whoever you are, I can give few tips to ensure you play a positive role in lifting women up, uplifting the society thus:-
- Be a Feminist:- unapologetically so. There is much bad press about feminism that women are embarassed or scared to call themselves feminist with the fear of backlash. Feminism isnt burning bras or putting men down anymore. Its about supporting choices women make, not being judgemental and celebrating women’s successes – be it baking a cake or buying a house, being a mother or being a gypsy, being a homemaker or being a soldier at the front. Or both. Or nothing. Feminism isnt anti men and noone should be shamed for being a feminist
- Mentor a woman:– whatever your profession, education, society, culture, choices be – there are always girls and women around you who you can help teach something new. Be it a technical or domestic skill or a mindset shift or something new. Find a mentee every year and help them with a skill that will make them better in life. There is no better way to grow and feel fulfilled than teach, guide or mentor someone. Leadership isnt always done from the corner office of an MNC or a seat of parliament, we all can lead this way from we are
- Do not Retire:- This advice is generic and may not suit those with conditions forcing them to retire but if you have a choice, keep doing something. Keep being useful and meaningful to yourself and society. People who have a purpose in life stay happy and healthy for much longer till they are alive. Life doesnt end at 65, it begins then. Women who keep themselves constructively engaged find lesser reasons to give into their subconscious conditioing of finding it harder to trust fellow women and be unhappy as a result.
- Love yourself and keep learning:- Give yourself time, make yourself a priority, be your best friend and admirer, keep learning something new, travel and open your mind. When you strive to become the best version of yourself, the process gives you a lot of liberation of mind to love others more than judge them. Unhappiness drives us to create misery. Our inner ha[ppiness doesnt always depend on a prince charming as the social conditioning would have us think. Independent women in fact make better partners than co dependent ones.
- Keep good company:- The biggest mistake we make is deprioritsing our network to priorities that take overlike home, work, partner, children, family. Keep a good circle and make time for it. We become the average of five people that we spend time with. Find men and women to be friends who are ambitious, kind, well travelled and curious to learn. Talk to people about ideas than other people. Opinions are the lowest form of judgement. Avoid people and friends who’s priorities in life are not the same as yours, who dont want to learn or become better. Speaking ill of others doesnt add anything to your life. People who find it cathartic are fooling themselves. Its so much more invigorating to create, ideate and build than rant. Women are creators through their being. Channelise that energy to create, invent and discover all you can.
- Celebrate and Praise often and generously:- Give a shout out to fellow women more frequently and be generous with your praise. Women play multiple roles in life and do not get enough praise that they deserve. We need to be each others cheerleaders before we can expect the world to do the same for us. If you praise another woman, you dont become smaller – if anything that raises you more.
- Community – build and participate:- We all know there is unity in strength. Women need to unite than be divided. We need communities, support groups where women can feel involved, safe and validated. Reach out and build one where there is a need. Participate where you find your calling. Give back to other women in need through your guidance when you rise. Support charities that help women through vounteering and other ways. Let’s build each other up.
Women around the world celebrate this wonderful day today. I dont believe women are better than men or vice versa. Women just need equal opportunities and treatment, fair game and no stereotyping. We can expect, teach and enable the next generation to be better but its also great to watch ourselves. Are we prepping ourselves for a more equal world tomorrow? A question worth asking ourselves. What will you do differently untill the next women’s day?