“We had it more difficult,” said my mother when her sister gave birth to her first baby. My mother said that when she gave birth to her baby, she had to do everything on her own. From bathing the child, and feeding it to taking care of herself- my mother used to because there was no one to help her do all these ‘womanly’ things. But when her sister hesitated and demanded help, she was shamed for being too demanding. She was told that the comfort she has is too much compared to women in the older times.
What comes to your mind after reading this excerpt? Was my mother right in comparing the struggles of her and her sister? Or was my mother’s sister's right for equalising parenting?
In our society, it is very common for women to compare themselves. Sometimes women compare the intensity of labour pain. Sometimes they compare the struggles to those of a wife of an abusive husband. Sometimes they compare their experience of sexual harassment. And sometimes they compare the wealth of each other’s husbands.
But what is it that forces women to compare each other? Why do women try to pull each other down by showing their greatness? Does greatness depend on how much you have struggled or how much wealth you have amassed?
The problem is that in our society, women are judged by homogenous standards. Every woman is supposed to conform to one ideal identity to win validation by patriarchy. For example, a woman who endures more pain and gives out a lot love and care is considered an ideal woman in our society. And because of this, many women leave the idea of opposing injustice and bear it to gain the ideal woman tag. Consequently, many women are harassed without any fear.
Moreover, a good woman is also one who belongs to a man who earns well. In our society, a woman’s financial condition is determined by the husband’s earnings. The more the husband earns, the more the woman is rich and proud.
But dear women, rather than moulding your identity as per the standards of society, why don’t you try to make your own? Why do you want pain, man’s validation or selflessness to define your worth? Why can’t your worth be dependent on your willpower, your hard-earned money and your independence?
Moreover, by comparing each other, women pull each other down and break the strong bond of sisterhood. It is the bond that is meant to empower women. Under sisterhood, women can understand each other’s pain not compare it. Under sisterhood, women can help each other grow and fight injustice, not pull them down by devaluing them.
It is high time that we get rid of the traditions we had in the older times. During those times, women were not allowed the support of their husbands in parenting. Women were not safe and were not allowed to raise their voices against the wrong. Women were expected to stay at home and bear an injustice without spelling a word in resistance. Women were not allowed to have financial independence.
But time is changing. And should we. It is time we unlearn old ideas and follow the practices that keep every one of us happy and independent. Especially, sisterhood is very important to empower women and formulate society. So let us promise each other, dear women, that we won’t compare, devalue and shame other women. We will rather hold hands and write new chapters of women's empowerment.
The views expressed are the author's own.
Suggested Reading: Reimagining Domestic Space: Navigating Sisterhood Within Our Kitchens