Why Do Women Pretend?

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Do women pretend? If so, why? Out of the many things that women are not allowed in the rein of the patriarchy is the freedom to be themselves. In front of the men, women are forced to pretend to be submissive, dependent and non-human beings. They are forced to fabricate their real identities with makeups, emotions, servitude and opinions in order to be acceptable in the patriarchal society.

But the question that needs to be raised is why? Why are women forced to pretend? Why can’t women own their real identities?

You might be wondering that why am I playing this game of pretence. Are women really pretentious? To answer all your questions let me give you examples. Assuming that you have watched Bollywood’s cult Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, let me remind you of a famous scene from the movie.

When Anjali falls in love with Rahul who is attracted to Tina, Anjali tries to dress up and behave like Tina by wearing a dress and a lip colour. Although she is openly made fun of, why didn’t anyone question the need for women to change themselves to fit into the patriarchal definition of womanhood? Why didn’t anyone tell Anjali that she is good the way she is and she doesn’t need to change herself just to gain the attentio of a purely sexist man?

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Then in the movie Main Hoon Na, Amrita Rao’s character Sanjana had to go through a transformation to grab the attention of Lucky. This trope of changing looks is often used in Bollywood to change an apparently unattractive woman into a diva that will floor every man who sees her. And the same happens in the reality too.

A woman who is fairly educated and eligible to gain a well-paid job is asked to pretend as if she is completely dependent on the husband she will be married to. A well-educated feminist is asked to pretend to be submissive and shy when the groom’s family come to see her to fix the marriage. The feminist is also asked to pretend as if she is unaware of the laws against dowry.

A woman in a relationship hides her needs and desires and pretends to be someone whom her partner will like. Moreover, is it a hidden fact that women tend to fake orgasms during sex just to fan the ego of their male partner? Is it not true that women pretend to be healthy even though they suffering from debilitating pain?

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The problem lies in the fear of being rejected, of hurting the male ego and of being outcasted by the patriarchal society. But if women submit themselves to the norms and pretend to be someone else, they will lose their self-respect and authenticity. Because let’s admit it is not easy to pretend. It requires the will to subvert the real identity and fabricate oneself with an unknown identity, emotion or opinion.

Psychologist Loveleen Kaur says to the SheThePeople that pretending to be someone else can cause mental health issues. “It can happen because of various reasons like low self confidence, poor self esteem and can cause clinical conditions like depression, anxiety or personality disorders like dependent personality disorder” She also added, “Like if you are trying to pretend or imitate someone then you will be in a conflictual situation as you wont be your usual/ real self nor able to be the idealised self. You be able to cope.”

A live example is me. Being a feminist, I am forced to project myself as a woman who respects the man who harassed her, involves in rituals that are outright patriarchal and makes herself blind to sexist things happening around her. This dissociation in my life and identity pushed me into the darkness of depression, PTSD and anxiety.

But is it fair for women or anyone to undergo such tribulations? How long will women be forced to change themselves to be accepted in society?

How long will women disown the freedom to be themselves? Why are we so obsessed with narrow and patriarchal definitions of womanhood that hovers around traditional beauty, sacrifice and devotion to family? Why can’t we teach daughters to own their identities, choices and agency? Why aren’t daughters raised as stubborn and outspoken so that they never have to hide, bear or pretend?

Why do we raise them as ghar ki izzat first and then a woman? Because if a women’s existence is more about protecting their family’s reputation, won’t her life be all about conforming to the expectations of society and not of herself?

So be it Anjali, Sanjana or any woman from the reel and real-world, no woman must change herself to meet the social norms. The social norms that women are forced to meet are patriarchal and do not value a woman’s identity beyond her subjection to the men in society. So why should women, who have the ability to be independent, fake as if they can’t own their lives? Isn’t then the idea that women are a subverted gender a pretence too? Because women own themselves, their lives and their choices.

Views expressed are author’s own