“Have you watched this movie…” Amma trailed off trying to remember the name of the movie that was playing on screen back in Chennai. We fell into a discussion on social mores then and now and the position of women in families and in society. As the conversation veered to Women’s Day, I asked if she had seen the list on BuzzingBubs that included me. She hadn’t so I sent the link to her and we continued on to other things.
Social media has been abuzz with wishes, commentary and strident thought on what the point was in celebrating something as Women’s Day. I have engaged online and offline pausing at intervals to gather my thought. I tried compiling a list of women whom I thought exemplified what being a strong woman did. Then I hit rewind and wondered why I included the word strong?
Growing up, I was one of those children who thought the only thing in my future was marriage, being servile and bearing children, a by product no doubt of my mom’s upbringing. Over the years I have evolved into being many things, playing many roles. I consider myself emancipated. I consider myself strong. I consider myself beyond the need for a day to celebrate my personhood.
As I ponder why this day, I realize that perhaps it was meant as a way to recognize that not all women are free of shackles. There are women in our lives who are struggling against patriarchy, against sexism in the workplace and at home.
A lot of posts on my FB feed today sang praises of the men in their lives and how they did not need a day to celebrate their womanhood. It struck me that as far as we have come, I still know of men (and women) who forward sexist jokes everyday. We normalize sexism when we do that. I know of men who regularly berate and abuse women in their lives (wife, domestic help, daughters, daughter(s) in law). I know of men who cheat on their spouses, subject them to physical and mental abuse. I know of women who despite making strides in their careers still defer to their families on whether or not they should take that assignment that involves travel and staying away from their families for months on end.
For each one of us that are truly liberated, there are countless women donning their mangalsutras and taking on the persona of a subservient daughter/daughter in law in front of elders. For each one of us that raise a toast at a girl’s night out, there are many others who look longingly from the sidelines. For each one of us shattering glass ceilings, there are invisible women out there who voluntarily give up upward progress to maintain the ability to work and earn. For each of us that lay the rules in our home, there are many who are bound by the rules the men lay down. For each of us who believe we are rid of misogyny, there are women who wrap their dupatta, lower their heads and scurry home before dark.
We have a long way to go before we can eliminate a day set aside for women. Women’s day perhaps should include the term awareness so we can give up on the applause and spend some time pondering those in our lives who do not have it as easy as we do.