Letter to a woman...
Today is International Women’s Day. I’m sure you couldn’t have missed it even if you wanted to – with scores of in-your-face newspaper ads placed by stores of all hues & shades, luring you with so-called discounts on jewellery, sarees, readymade garments, undergarments, food, fun & frolic including a free & `safe’ drop back home once you get yourself drunk at a pub tonight. The same ads are also exhorting the men in your life to splurge on you, shower you with gifts & everything material that’s available for a price.
In corners of the same newspaper, you would also come across horrifying reports about women being raped, murdered, molested, sexually harassed at workplaces, beaten inside the four walls of their homes & being driven to suicide for one reason or the other. It’s just that unlike the ads, these reports do not hijack your attention.
I also know that listening to the so-called feminists, you’ve come to believe that women’s worst enemy are men; it is the men who stand in the way of you getting liberated and emancipated. I won’t contest that as it is true, but only partly.
You have a proper 9-5 well paying job. Your branded handbag is filled with branded expensive cosmetics, hair brushes, scented tissue wipes, credit cards, a tablet or phablet etc. You drive a fancy car and drink & dine at fancy places. 98% of this country’s women would do anything to be in your place. That’s how privileged you are. But deep inside you are seldom happy. Yeah, yeah, botox and laser treatments have covered up the dark circles under your eyes and masked the wrinkles on your forehead caused by constant frowning. Still, despite putting on all the lotions & potions, there’s something on your face that tells me that you haven’t met happiness in months!
Yeah, you feel burnt out but cannot take leave to recharge your batteries as someone else may poach upon your fiefdom within the office; that other woman vying for boss’s attention & affection may finally manage to have her way in your absence; What! She already has made a significant headway into his heart and ….? Oh, he was with her yesterday night?? So this `real’ competition at workplace is giving you shivers.Don't you think that with all this going on, your workplace looks more like a harem where wives are forever vying-dying for Sheikh's attention & doing everything they can to ensure a repeat visit!
And your subordinates actually detest you for being insensitive, unrealistic, tyrannical and condescending? From whatever li’l I know about your workplace, the women in your team feel more slighted than men every time they meet you. Guys being guys still manage to suck up to you & humor you in the ways you like. But the women seem to fare miserably on this count. Why do you treat them so badly, berating them at every available opportunity and indulging into power-play all the time…just because they earn less than you; or is it because you they look less sexier than you; or could it be that they are in no position to get closer to the COO, CFO, CEO, M.D. or the Chairman?
I know you’re married to a guy who’s doing even better than you career-wise. He hardly has time for himself, what to speak of you. Whenever you both manage to meet, it is more like a meeting of two heads of states – you representing your cocoon-ish sultanate and he his. He very well knows about your escapades at your workplace and so do you about his numerous flings here & there. You are fine with this arrangement – it suits you both. He needed an arm candy, a presentable trophy and you needed a money bag…someone who can fulfill all your material needs & desires just in case you decided to sit at home, which you haven’t in the last 15 years of your marriage. But you do feel bad & sad when you can sense the subtle condescension in the way he treats you. The same sort of condescension your less fortunate subordinates are subjected to.
You want to be wanted. You silently yearn for respect & companionship; for your marriage to be a union of two human beings passionate for each other and not a compromising arrangement between two completely disconnected professional achievers.
You see, while men may be the key cause of most of your miseries, your own way of thinking, narrow & conformist outlooks are equally to blame. While men may get tamed by drafting strictest possible laws & penalties and restrained from harming you physically & mentally, the damage you’re doing to yourself cannot be undone by harsher laws or catchy feminist sloganeering.
To be truly emancipated, you need to liberate yourself from yourself. Once you manage that, the rest is going to be a cakewalk. Think of it –
- Why do you have to use your femininity to please your bosses and move ahead in your work life specially when you aren’t being coerced (this can be tackled by law) and are doing it out of your own volition & your own understanding of ways to achieve success?
- Why do you look for `approval’ or `acceptance’ of your womanhood from those who are likely to use this need of yours to control and manipulate you?
- Why should you live to be judged by the `desirability’ yardstick i.e. why should a woman’s goodness or success be perceived as being directly proportional to the number of men desiring her & her body? And why should you waste the golden part of your life conforming & living up to this silly notion?
- Why can’t you marry or live with a man who has lesser educational qualifications than yours; who hasn’t passed out of a `premier’ college like yours; who earns less than you & is potentially going to earn less than you for the rest of his life; who may never rise to the stellar levels of professional & monetary success to give you that rock-solid financial security? After all, what makes you think that marrying such a guy is just not done even though you are quite capable of achieving this kind of financial security all by yourself.
You're undoubtedly freer than ever before. You enjoy the freedom to wear the kind of clothes you want; take up vocations you love; date & mate with men you like; choose your friends; drink & smoke; decide when to join or quit a job and do whatever with your money & time. Whether they like it or not, men seem to be coming around to accepting it. I know, I know, you really cherish this freedom of yours obtained after centuries of struggle. So do I. But then is that all there is to your freedom? Are you really free?
Think 'bout it. What is it that's keeping you insecure & vulnerable despite all the progress you've made; why do you always feel as if despite being bestowed with as much power as men, you're still not in control...as if your destiny is being governed by someone else whom you constantly need to please in order to survive; what is holding you back & keeping you fettered?
As you’d see, and you have the liberty to disagree completely with me, you are more a victim of your own social & cultural conditioning. And I’m sure you, like your mother and her mother are going to pass it on to your daughter(s) and granddaughter(s). And this vicious cycle shall continue as it has for centuries.
Nah, this will not change by bringing a change in laws or by running over the men standing in your way.
Wishing you a truly liberating International Women’s Day!