Like minds are drawn to each other, we have all observed that, haven’t we? People affiliating to similar political ideologies, professions and even class, cast and gender tend to drift towards each other, be it on social media or at a gathering. We like to hang out with people who have faced similar struggles in life. We feel they can empathise with us more or have a similar wavelength. This precedent is as harmful as it sounds, as it deepens the divide in our society and keeps us from connecting with people from outside of the social circle that we create, or rather place ourselves in. However, this kind of behaviour also penetrates within genders and people coming from a similar class.
When I got married, and eventually became a mother, I experienced this shift in my social circle. After my marriage, I was hanging out more with married women, and after I became a mom, I made friends with other mommies I met at the park. It seemed a natural course of life at first glance. School friends, college friends, friends with the wives of husband’s friends, and then being part of colony mommy circle. However, over the years, my social circle seems to be shrinking. Not because I am not making newer friends, but because the bandwidth of conversation seemed to be stagnant. Don’t get me wrong, but there is a limit to how much you can talk about school, homework, exams and fussy eating among kids.
The biggest advantage of having a diverse social circle is that it expands your understanding of the challenges faced by women from different walks of life and makes you more empathetic. Let us face it, hierarchies and biases exist within our gender. Our preconceived notions about a certain caste, age group or marital status, keeps us from befriending women who come from backgrounds that are not similar to ours or do not adhere to the value system that we have been coached to adhere to all our lives. For instance, how many married women will include a single bisexual woman in their circle? How many twenty-something working women will be willing to befriend a 46-year-old stay-at-home mom?
We still live in a world where a woman’s marital status determines her social standing. I remember reading this article by Archana Pai Kulkarni about how we treat widows in India, and it resonated so much. “I remember a widow shrinking back, as I applied haldi kumkum on her forehead, as I did, to the other women accompanying her, and then being admonished for my ‘blunder’. From that day onwards, I stopped following the custom that is followed in some homes, of applying haldi-kumkum (reserved only for a sumangali– a married woman whose husband is still living) while taking leave of women guests. I did not want to be party to this discrimination,” she writes. You can read it here.
Those who observe traditions like haldi kumkum, know that there is an unspoken code among women, to not invite widowed ones. Even those who are widowed expect this ostracisation and accept this as their fate. The playground discrimination that single moms face, or the one that older women face from younger one, or “bold” women face from “conservative” ones and vice versa isn’t any different. Otherisation just changes its face, it still very much exists at workplaces, in our housing societies, on playgrounds, at social gatherings or even on social media. What we need to realise is that we are missing out on tapping into a big part of the sisterhood by limiting our friend circle based on such biased thinking.
While we are all stuck indoors, perhaps we can try to expand our friend circle on social media. In the past few years of adopting this strategy, while social networking, I have realised that there is so much to learn. Women over forty have told me how it will be the best phase in my life, and now am looking forward to it, instead of dreading it. Women in their twenties have taught me the importance of being vocal and politically incorrect. Women who have been childless by choice have challenged my understanding of what being complete and happy means for a woman. Women who are separated have taught me that marriage doesn’t mean a happily-ever-after always. And that sometimes it is in the best interest of a woman to walk out of an unhappy marriage despite social, economical or familial constraints. I am grateful to each of these women because they have played a big part in shaping my understanding of feminism and femininity. It gave me a support system that I never thought I needed.
So step out of your self-set comfort zone and befriend women because you like them or what they stand for, and not because they fit into your social circle. Sisterhood has so much to give us, if we are willing to let go of our tendency to lean towards “our kind” and take a leap of faith.
Image Credit: Indian express
The views expressed are the author’s own.