Periods? silence. Harassment? silence. Rape? silence. Domestic violence? silence. Inequality? silence. Chup raho ladki ho. Words can never be enough to grapple with the intensity of the enforcement of silence in a woman’s life, whose presence is often larger than her safety and individuality. She is brought up with it.
She is asked to sew her lips to protect herself and her family’s honour from the patriarchy’s wrath. And even when there is nothing left to protect, she is expected to keep quiet. But she is never allowed to pick up a weapon, express her voice, her wrath, her disagreement because that is seen as a masculine domain.
But is it right to enforce silence in a woman’s life? Is it right to sew her lips and deprive her of the freedom of expression that every individual deserves to possess? Why can’t women be taught to resist and to be outspoken and loud?
Chup Raho. Ladki Ho. Why Is Silence Equivalent To Being a Good Woman?
In our society, silence and sacrifice are considered equivalent or natural to womanhood. The more she sacrifices or remains silent about her needs, choices and self-respect, the more good she is. The more she is outspoken, the more troublemaker or bad woman she is. From periods to instances of harassment, women are never taught to speak up about anything that concerns their body and its choices. Silence is instilled as a necessary attribute to be accepted as a respectable woman in our society.
But why is it wrong for good women to speak up about their needs, express their rage or opinions? Rather than being a definition of a good woman, doesn’t the necessity of silence defines oppression?
An identity whose existence entails bearing suppression, thinking and acting according to a master but never speaking up? Do we expect men to be quiet, shy or sacrificial? And if silence is normalised in a woman’s life, will she ever be able to report crimes committed against her? And if there is a normalised silence over women’s oppression, will it ever be recognised as an issue to think, discuss and tackle?
Is It Right To Hold Women Responsible For Their Silence?
On the other hand, women who aren’t able to speak up for their needs or against their oppression are often looked down upon by many extremists. But is it a woman’s fault that she has been raised with silence? That she has been taught to cry in silence but never let her rage or opinion channelise in front of people?
Is it right to suddenly expect every woman to be outspoken when silence has been enforced upon them since childhood as a norm?
Is unlearning deeply ingrained stereotypes easy? What about the self-imposed guilt, fear and resentment that women might face if they try to speak up? And even if they speak up, will they be heard amidst the cacophony of misogyny in our society?
Addressing The Elephant In The Room?
Rather than playing the blame game, it is about time now to address the elephant in the room. It is time now to change how women are brought up in our society. It is important to teach women to resist and to be loud and clear. Rather than making silence synonymous with womanhood, speaking up should be normalised for women as much as it is for men. Once women normalise lifting fingers from their lips, many restrictions, taboos and power relations will automatically see a decline. There will be an evident upliftment of women, their voice, their agency and their safety, once silence ceases to be an enforcement. So dear women, let your voice break the barrier and flow out of your lips. Shout, cry and demand. Bolo. Kyunki Tum Ladki Ho. You Have The Right To Speak.
Views expressed are the author’s own.