So another Women’s Day that came and passed. I managed to stay away from the hoopla that would try to sell me more cocktails, impractical shoes and unrealistic romance, in the guise of empowering me. I’ve written about my dissatisfaction with the fact that this doesn’t actually empower women, let alone women across different socioeconomic strata. But I’ve had a different thought this year. I went through a similar thought cycle with Valentine’s Day, reacting with excitement, then cynicism, then indifference and finally conscious acceptance. Both days serve as symbolic references, when we remind ourselves to think about important things and how we’re faring on them. My disappointments have not been with the concept of either day itself but with the results of the drive, the stark differences between what should be and what really is.
I live a charmed life, of a sort. Freedom to vote, to love who I will, rights over my body, to my privacy, the power to choose a career, a partner and a lifestyle. But I am not the majority, not even a significant minority. Attitudes still run largely in the direction of dictating how a woman can and should live her life. To be born a woman is to carry the shackles of ‘Women Should’ for the rest of one’s life. Awhile ago, an NGO study showed some insightful things. When you searches online for the phrase ‘women can’ or ‘women should’, the auto-prompts that are thrown up (based on popular search strings) reveal just the kind of attitude women battle every single day. Yes, even women like me, with our hallowed lives.
If this search were to be taken as a key pointer, it would seem like the internet believes that women can or should do very little. Yet, I know this is not true. We’re not all crusaders. But every woman I know, lives beyond the definition imposed on her from birth, in her own unique way. There is the student who negotiates with her family, promising to marry whoever they want her to, if she can pursue the education of her choice. There is the mother who waits patiently, through pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, preschool and primary till her children are old enough, and then goes back to the career she left behind. There’s a daughter-in-law who chooses an education system that will allow her to fulfil her family duties and gathers familial support before she enrols. Womanhood, if it is standing up to hostile elements, it is also about finding a way around the restrictions the fall in one’s path.
Bajaj Allianz is doing an interesting campaign to combat the results of the study I mentioned above. They ask you to type in a search string using the term ‘Women should…’ that involves a positive, empowering message. Let’s take this phrase back and own it, I think.
Here are the searches I did. The women around me inspired these statements.Because they exist. We exist. And it’s time to let the internet know too.
Women should go back to their studies.
Women should be ambitious.
Women should dance for fun.
Women should be engineers.
Women should be daring.
Women should take risks in their careers.
Women should talk back.
Women should wear what they want to.
Women should propose.
Women should earn more than their partners.
Women should travel alone.
Women should rescue people.
Women should be loud enough to be heard.
Women should be seen and heard.
Women should be leaders.
Women should talk about sex.
Women should be famous.
I’m also posting a series of snapshots of some of these women on my Instagram stream using the hashtag #WomenShould.
Add your stories to the #WomenShould movement too.