To be a single woman in our society means to carry the weight of scrutiny and expectations, along with the constant pressure to settle down. If you are a single young woman, your entry and exit from the house are duly noted, the length of your skirt is marked, and you are expected to live your life as a “nice Indian girl” who knows her limits (read who is sanskaari, so she doesn’t drink, smoke, or have a lover.) I simply don’t get this! Why must a single woman’s lifestyle be anybody’s business? Why can’t she live her life as she wants? Must we constantly police her? Or pressure her to settle down? Why is it scandalous if she has a love life? Or a social life for that matter?
- Why can’t a single woman live her life as she wants? Why must the society police her?
- Why should her love life be dissected by everyone from her neighbours to the milkman?
- Is it a surprise that most single women lead a double life to avoid being policed by their family and near ones?
If you are a single young woman, your entry and exit from the house are duly noted, the length of your skirt is marked, and you are expected to live your life as a “nice Indian girl” who knows her limit. What's with this moral policing?
I have a single sister, and she just can't catch a break. You are of the right age to get married, she gets told every second day by someone or the other in the family. She lives alone and earns her own money, but then there is so much of her life that she cannot put out on social media. Why? Because she is connected to a lot of relatives and family acquaintances. I think many single women can relate to her ordeal. You know you’ll be judged for what you wear, if you are out to party, if you put up a photo with a glass of wine in your hand. I have been here too. Hell, even today, despite being married for ten years, I still have to think twice about what I post on my social networking wall. It is that tough for me, and it is only worse for young single women in our society.
There is this onus of accountability that follows them everywhere. You are responsible for your safety, for your character (for the lack of a better word), for your family’s reputation, for the other girls as well and while we are at it, you are responsible for how men behave around you too. Is it a wonder if young women, in fact, women at large, are secretive about so many things? If they lead a double life and have to deal with the anxiety of being found out?
I think many single women can relate to her ordeal. You know you’ll be judged for what you wear, if you are out to party, if you put up a photo with a wine glass in your hand. I have been here too.
The fact is, no single woman is answerable to anyone for her lifestyle. She can party if she wants to, she can wear whatever she likes, and she can embrace love, motherhood, self-partnering, the works, if that is what makes her happy. To marry or not and when, to love or not, and whom, to be a single parent or adopt a puppy instead, these are all the decisions that may shape her life, and often they may do so in ways that she cannot calculate now. We all make choices, we all have bad experiences. And just because a person chooses to not live by the social roaster, doesn’t mean we have the agency to discredit them entirely.
Which is why a single woman is accountable to no one, if she cannot find the right match, because she was too focused on her career, if she chooses to embrace motherhood in her forties and raising a child on her own by choice, or if she breaks off a long term live-in relationship. All these could lead to a struggle or an experience that is taxing mentally and physically. However, if we truly care about our daughters, sisters, cousins, friends, neighbours, acquaintances, then we should ask them what can we do to ease their struggle, to support their decisions, instead of criticising their choices.
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The views expressed are the author's own.