The annual reminder of being a goddess, slayer, champ and overall phenomenon is here, in the form of an onslaught of messages, emails, ads, etc. Yes, it's almost March 8 and most women are at the maximum level of their cringe settings. How else would one feel when your entire being is rolled up into one day with one-plus-one offers on drinks to celebrate? When you are made to feel special for just this one day, out of 365 in a year? Aren’t we divas worth reverence on the remaining 364 days? Should we celebrate our womanhood, just once a year? Must we be given Twitter handles to run, columns to write and panels for discussing gender issues only when there is a special occasion? And while one raises these questions, one also wonders, who is listening to us? Who is tuning in with an eager ear when we are celebrated, when we complain, rant, throw around solid facts and make valid arguments? So dear men, if you have to make one pledge this Women’s Day, why not promise to listen to us more?
- While women are celebrated on 8th March every year around the world, we don't just want a discount or one plus one offer on drinks.
- What's the point of being handed the mic, or given a podium to express our opinion, if our voices aren't being heard?
- We want to be heard and that is only possible when men and women can keep their entitlement and conditioning aside.
Who is tuning in with an eager ear when we are celebrated, when we complain, rant, throw around solid facts and make valid arguments?
There is this common misconception that has spawned numerous sexist jokes regarding women; that we talk too much. But how true is that? Or is it just that men are prone to treating it as white noise. When you are not actively engaged in a two-way conversation with someone, the other person’s dialogue begins to seem tiring. So we have to ask, does it irk men when women talk more than they are willing to listen? Would a man tire out discussing work or sports with a male colleague in say half an hour? Now, how many men are willing to sit with a woman to have a conversation on gender equality for that duration?
A conversation, means a two-way open-minded discussion, where both the parties are allowed to put forth their point. A dialogue in which you intend to broaden your understanding of an issue. Does it make much sense to have a platform to express our opinion, even if occasionally or as a token, but with an audience that may not be interested in what you are saying? And this isn’t about boardrooms, conferences and events. Women face this communication block at home as well. We are talked over, ridiculed, told to “go to the kitchen and cook” or accused of being loud/shrill or plain incoherent.
Listen with an open heart and mind, listen with an intent to correct the disparity between the two genders, and most important of all, listen because every woman has the right to be heard, just like you.
Such discouragement hampers women’s confidence. Most of us are so conscious of our voice, or pitch or tone and our pace of speaking that we would rather sit quietly than be ridiculed for it. And mind you, this criticism has been internalised by women themselves, who carry these biases wherever they go, policing their sisterhood. Don’t talk so loudly, don’t scream, don’t be impolite…we have been reminded by moms, aunts and many well-meaning women. So women also need to ask themselves then, are we listening to each other? Are we immune to stereotyping our kind as incoherent, loud or senseless? How much heed do we pay to each other's arguments in dialogues?
If men genuinely care for women around them and want to make them feel special, all they have to do is rid their minds of their entitlement and conditioning and listen to us. If women want to truly advocate equality and not be reduced to being "Women's Day specials", then we have to be each other's biggest cheerleaders. Demand more panels at fests and events on women, by women and from women. Give equal importance to the words of women in every aspect of life, personal or professional. And then listen with an open heart and mind, listen with an intent to correct the disparity between the two genders, and most important of all, listen because women too have the right to be heard. And what’ more, it won’t cost you a penny, even when you do it all round the year.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.