I woke to multiple messages on Whatsapp wishing me a Happy Women’s Day. Thank you I said as I replied to each and focussed my attention on getting the kids ready for school. Past the morning madness, when I reclined on the sofa, Laddu on my shoulder and my phone in one hand, my Twitter feed informed me that it was International Women’s Day. One tweet in particular caught my attention.
International Women’s Day is an observance, not a celebration. If you think it’s solely the latter, you’re missing the point.
— Sharanya Manivannan (@ranyamanivannan) March 8, 2016
I stopped to read it again because it captured what I feel about most celebrations of this kind. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Women’s Day, Friendship Day, Valentine’s Day. The list is endless. We mark the day with wishes, update our statuses and move on. Yet another friend urged her followers to reach out in person. Make it count, she exhorted. I nodded along as I moved through my timeline and shut the phone, closed my eyes and let my thoughts overwhelm me.
As a mother to three girls, as a girl who chafed against patriarchy growing up, my views on what it means to be a woman has changed over the years. As teenage hormones raged, I wanted more than equality, I wanted to conquer. In my mid twenties having had life knock the idealism off, I was happy with equality. If you can do it, I can too was my mantra. At forty, I look back on all those years and wonder why I felt that there should be no differences between men and women. As I approach middle age, I am all for letting me be. I just want to exist, have the same opportunities, be treated the same as the man next to me. The word choice has taken on a new meaning.
I am who I am. I am what I choose to be.
The choice is where most of my fears for my children lie. I want them to be able to choose what and who they want to be without being influenced by what their peers, their books, the television says.
“I want to be a mom. Just like you,” Ammu said recently. I opened my mouth to say she can be a mom once she is done college, gotten a job, saved enough for a rainy day and found someone she loves. Then I clamped it shut.
“That’s great kuttima, being a mom is great,” I said and let it be.
Part of the battle lies in unlearning societal codes on what to be or not be. She will have enough pressure on her as she grows, to learn to code, to shatter glass ceilings, to aim for the stars without me adding to them.
Perhaps, that is where it all starts, awareness, acceptance and reflection rather than celebrations.