From the day that I got my first period to the time when I was harassed, I was told that it is my fate because I was born a woman. If you are a woman, you have to bear harassment, pain and oppression at every level of your life because equality is a distant dream. If you are a woman, you have to think twice before choosing what to wear, what to say and how to react. If you are a woman, you have to train yourself to forget about your happiness and prioritise the welfare of the family and society. I was told that being a woman is not easy and that God makes her strong-hearted so that she can bear all the struggles she will have to face in her life.
These ideas not only made me feel like an invalid but also developed a fear of how I will be able to cope. And unconsciously, the fear distanced me from identifying as a woman, the gender that became synonymous to difficulties, injustice and suffocating silence in my mind and made me think “I wish I were a man.”
But today, as a proud woman, I wonder if I was rejecting my womanhood or the stereotypes attached to it? Is womanhood synonymous to silence or to being silenced forcefully? Why have we internalised that being a woman is tough rather than questioning the oppressive system that makes a woman’s life hard by discriminating against them? Rather than blaming ourselves for being born as women, why don’t we embrace and fight for equal love, respect and happiness?
The belief of blaming womanhood goes back to ancient times. According to the Bible, God cursed Eve for eating the forbidden fruit to live a life of sorrow, travails and pain of childbirth and be ruled by man and long for his love. Even the Hindu mythology is full of stories of how women brought the curse upon themselves. Whether it is about menstruation, not being able to keep secrets or anything else. I still can’t understand whether the society is based on these myths or the myths have erupted from an unequal society. But what this tells us is that women’s lives have been perceived as a curse since a long time and till today.
But is it right to ignore all the injustice and discrimination meted out to women by saying that women have been cursed since the beginning? By hating ourselves and living in self-denial, aren’t we propagating the same misogynistic and patriarchal stereotypes that we want to fight out?
Let us understand that by denying our womanhood we are pushing our aim to achieve equality farther away. By denying our period pain, body curves and experiences (of marriage, motherhood, breastfeeding, etc) as a woman and trying to behave and dress up like a man to brave through all the struggles only re-emphasise the idea that a woman cannot possibly achieve feats by being herself. Is it even empowerment in the true sense if we have to trade our own identity for that? Don’t consider womanhood as a barrier because there is really nothing that woman cannot do or can be forced to do. Our body, opinions, experiences and choices gives us our unique individualities as women and each individual deserves to live their life on their terms. Rather than denying our womanhood, let us choose how we want to define it.
Picture Credit: Wikicommons
The views expressed are the author’s own.