Womanhood – Then, Now and Later

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“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.

12 comments

  1. I have been irritated these past few days at the non-stop barrage of women’s day wishes everywhere – my WhatsApp, my email, radio, what not. I feel irritated because even today, I have to have my antennae up when I walk on the road. I have to fret over every minute’s delay of my daughter from somewhere.

    Give me a sense of security first. THEN, we can talk about women’s day.

  2. Such a powerful post Lakshmi. We dontend to forget the millions of other women who still dont have it easy. And I agree, womans day should be more about creating awareness on womans rights and empowering more and more woman to lead a liberal life.

    A very interesting read.

    I could relate to most of the examples you cited. Its sad that the freedom most of us seem to have has boundaries, and those boundaries are again set by men.

  3. You’ve echoed the points in a vibrant way and pitches for discussion on the struggles, sexist jokes and freedom…it’s an ideal too good to be true for any celebration to take place.

  4. A toast to those with a soft touch,
    a loving word and an easy grace
    who play many roles,
    and, for those who do not know how to,
    or chose not to.

    A toast to those who are a mother to a child,
    and those who long to be,
    to those who have lost their dearest ones,
    to those who mother another’s child,
    and to those who choose not to raise any.

    A toast to those who sacrifice their identity,
    to become a shadow of their men,
    a slave of their family,
    and to those who fight for their space,
    who ask equality out of their men,
    and demand appreciation from all around.

    A toast to those who love their looks,
    and for those who don’t give a damn,
    to the ones who hide behind a veil,
    and those who revel in naked ease with their body.

    A toast to those who work and support their families,
    and to those who stay at home and run the house,
    to those who has long buried all their dreams,
    and to those who juggle a work and home for their dreams.
    For those who enjoy intimacy and sex,
    and those who have never received any.

    A toast to those who are thin,
    those who are fat,
    those with perky tits and tight asses,
    and those with saggy boobs and fat stomachs,
    for those with long shiny tresses,
    and those with balding hair,
    for those with perfect bodies,
    who bask in health,
    and those fighting diseases galore,
    and fearing death and still running a home.

    A toast for those who raise their children singly,
    for those who hold on to tough marriages,
    for those who live for their sacrifices,
    and to those who walk away saying I am done.
    For those who long for a single word of praise,
    a look of appreciation, an acknowledgement of the sacrifices.

    A toast for those who give up,
    for those who fight,
    for those who are lost finding their way,
    to those who are reborn,
    for those whose courage could fill books,
    and for those who still weep in the dark,
    for those whose body is a slave to another,
    who cannot be free even in their thoughts,
    to those who have been raped and abused by many,
    and for those who are lucky to even being born,

    A toast to those who struggle in a man’s body with the spirit of a woman longing to be free,
    and those who love another woman boldly and truly.

    To all the women in us,
    For journeys made, and the ones to come…
    as a woman, I raise a toast in celebration.
    For without all of us,
    There is just no mankind.

    – Srividya Srinivasan
    8/3/2016

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