Dear Women, Untangle The Cultural Knots and Call Out Pain, Shame & Gender Inequality
Any emotional distress instantly knots up the muscles in my body causing excruciating pain. No doctor has ever been able to solve this mysterious myopathy. What is my body telling me?
Statistics reveal that almost 80% of fibromyalgia cases in India are reported by women. Muscles enable mobility and agility, so any myopathy or knotting symbolises a psychospiritual loss of freedom. In my clinical experience, I have seen a close relationship between pain and shame. The body sends out pain signals because the mind believes you deserve to suffer. How did a liberal-minded woman like me end up like this?
Growing up, I heard the gender rules propounded in myths and traditions, media and movies, festivities and cultural conditioning. Boys and girls were marinated and infected with these ideas since they were single celled fetus’s eavesdropping on their mother’s silent fears and their father’s desire for the son who would perpetuate his lineage.
Why is gender equality still a distant dream? It’s because what we think we know and believe, are very different from our subconscious conditioning. The programs imprinted upon our psyche, control our beliefs and behaviour. Only by finding and erasing these transgenerational beliefs and patriarchal voices in our head can women truly be liberated. I share some of mine below.
Shame about gender
Right through adolescence, I often dressed like a boy echoing those, ‘you can rely on me in your old age’ type of sentiments that made sons so dear and daughters so ‘paraya’ and unwanted. I blamed myself for not being born the gender of my parent’s choice. Today, when I meet girl after girl in my practice with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOD), I hear her body screaming in defiance to bearing a child. Even nature is tired of women rejecting their gender, no longer want to procreate, lest they produce more unwanted daughters like themselves. Sitting with my newly excavated truth, found beneath the dirt pile of my unconscious mind, I see my error clearly. In rejecting myself, I have rejected womanhood. For that, I am deeply apologetic to myself and all women.
Shame about equality
We grew up hearing ‘good girls must save themselves for their husbands’ and live in eternal subordination. This created the illusion that if the husband was displeased or angry, we had in some way failed, that we were bad. Our culture created the archetype of Sati Savitri so we never forgot our moral duty for existing. It became the unspoken command of every woman at the altar, to mould herself into this persona, to serve her Pati Parmeshwar. I have often wondered why there is no corresponding male archetype that demands such astute sincerity of a man in marriage.
Even in death, women ache to win the coveted title of Sada Suhagan. I am guilty of blindly accepting these archetypes, perhaps even perpetuating them. I understand now that thinking and programming are two very different things, and that programming will always win. For not seeing this truth earlier, I apologise to myself and all women. It’s time to dethrone Sati Savitri and crown Ardhanarishvara as our guardian symbol.
Shame about ambition
By making us believe that, ‘behind every great man stands a great woman’ we were spellbound into abandoning our dreams and ambitions, trimming them meticulously to fit the size of kitchens and nurseries, while the men strode free, making real their dreams. I took great pride in sacrificing my dreams on the edifice of marriage. Somehow, shining brightly seemed irreverent, and so, I happily dimmed my light and focussed instead on being a good wife and mother. No one ever asked me not to shine, I had simply been brainwashed by society’s cultural norms that said, ‘a woman should never be on top’. It’s time to make amends now. Shining brightly is what we shall do, as will our daughters, so that every parent yearns equally for children of both genders.
Shame about expression
Today, we have the POSH policy in organisations to safeguard women against sexual harassment, but when I was working in corporate India, there was nothing but integrity and personal courage for protection. I was put in a corner office in my last job because I stood up for a female Art Director who was violated by a valued client. Speaking up cost me my job. I am guilty of holding my silence for years, even feeling alienated for protecting a colleague, an act I should have been awarded for, not disqualified. I quietly threw that experience into the shadows and let it haunt me. For every time that I wanted to express myself, to speak up against something that I didn’t agree with, but chose to remain silent, to protect another man’s honour or ideology, I apologise to myself and every woman who still seals her lips with fear.
Shame about boundaries
Why are women always expected to say yes? I’m not referring to sexuality alone, but to all matters when men intimidate, threaten, manipulate, gaslight, demand, expect and compel servility and loyalty from women. We must speak to men when they want to be heard, comfort them when they are troubled, serve them when they are busy, cheer them on while they ignore us, respond to their requests without delay, giving them all they want, while they remain blissfully self absorbed. Let me clarify, it’s not their fault, it’s ours. We have compromised our boundaries, desperately seeking their approval, wearing it as a star upon our femininity. For sacrificing my dreams, I am sorry to me and to our daughters, because I set the wrong example. You are no less than any man has been, or ever will be.
These are some of the cultural knots my muscles want me to untangle. Until I learn to flex my unsavoury perception about my gender, setting my mind free from these tangled ideas of inequality, I shall keep perpetuating my own suffering.
Suzy Singh is an author, emotional and mental wellbeing coach and YouTube edu-mentor.
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PC: YouTube screenshot