When I got my first period and wore my first bra, I was just in my sixth grade. I didn’t even know how to wash my clothes and dishes properly, go to shopping, bargain or stay all by myself. But still, those red dots on my underpants and the growing breasts somehow signalled that I was a matured woman. While my brother at the same age was still a kid who needed everything to be done for him. But today when I am a grown-up, I can’t stop thinking just what made the child in me take a backseat so quickly? Women are more mature than men, really? Or is it the patriarchal society that forces them to think so? And why do we always look for reasons to hide the “mistakes” of men and callout women even when it’s not their fault? Why things are defined differently for a man and a woman? If men molesting women, being short-tempered even violent can be excused as a fault of a warm-blooded youth, then why is a young woman’s voice against any inequality or injustice and gender-defying deeds condemned every time?
First, let us decode what maturity means. Maturity doesn’t depend on the physical changes of the body alone but on emotions and experiences too. Even though a woman hits her puberty quite early, that doesn’t mean she got the experience to deal with the world and its complexities. We all know that to understand life we need a lot of experiences and mental preparedness. So how do we expect a girl in her puberty to suddenly change her dressing sense, her walking and talking and understand the dynamics of gender roles? While men continue to be excused for every “mistake” exactly for the same reason. Many of us would have been told that if boys commit any mistake, girls should compromise and understand that boys (though of the same age) are less mature than them. And that suggestion continues to live long. We are told, even by politicians, that men rape because they are young and ignorant. We are told a woman should keep the family together, rear kids and do the chores because men aren’t that patient, emotional or good at multitasking. And if at all women are more mature than men, why not make them the leaders rather than a minority?
The problem lies with deep-seated patriarchy that has defined these gender roles. Menstruation and sharpening of body features in women are considered a sign of maturity because of the taboo related to period blood and the sexualisation of a woman’s body. Girls growing in the society that is entrenched with these ideologies are forced to kill the child in them and ‘behave maturely’ at a very early age. It is not shocking then that some women are also married off at this age. While, on the other hand, men are given enough time and allowances to develop the same maturity. How long are we going to allow these inequalities to affect not only adulthood of a woman but also tarnish her childhood? These differences in terms of maturity affect men also as it undermines their capability to mature at the same age as women. And forgiving their small mistakes might give them the freedom to commit a grave crime fearlessly.
Let us get this straight, raping and molesting is wrong, irrespective of the age or gender. Raising voice against wrong, prioritising self, living the life to the fullest, whether as a child or an adult and following one’s passion is the right of every person irrespective of age or gender. A woman requires equal education, employment and experiences as men to become a wholly matured human. Besides, there is a need for change in the upbringing of children. A child’s maturity should not be restricted by gender roles. It should be normal if a boy learns to cook and girl excels in driving a bike at the same age. And this change will begin once we start perceiving women as equals rather than expect only subservience from them.