Why women are taught to be resilient. As tears rolled down my cheeks on the day when my mother said 1-2 thappad is permissible in marriage, I understood that resilience for women means something different. It is not about building confidence, self-respect and identity. It is about maintaining the status quo of patriarchy at the cost of individuality. Resilience for women in a patriarchal society is about watching their individuality turn into ashes as patriarchy flares.
Like my mother, many mothers in our society teach their daughters to be resilient and strong. But unfortunately for the wrong reasons. They do not teach them to value their self-respect but the expectations of patriarchy. They do not teach them to oppose injustice but to be strong enough to bear it silently. Recently, when I confessed to the psychologist about the history of sexual harassment in my life in the presence of my parents, they were certainly shocked as they were exposed to hidden chapters of my life. But then as we walked out of the room, my parents said, “This happens with every woman. The difference is that some women “move on” and others are stuck in it.”
The problem with their statement is that sexual harassment is not something that you can forget and simply move on as many parents and people in patriarchal society expect women to do. It is the mutilation of the body, identity, memory and childhood in my case, the scars of which haunts throughout life. Despite the graveness of the crime, women are expected to not be resilient as to oppose it but to bear it silently and forget it as a bad dream.
A similar ideology is adopted by the leaders and lawmakers of the country too. They believe in character building and assassinating of women who undergo sexual harassment. Recently, a minister of Karnataka made a shameful statement about rape saying that rape is inevitable and that women should lie down and enjoy. If this is the form of ‘resilience’ and coping mechanism that women in our country are asked to adopt, how will sexual harassment ever be viewed as an unforgivable crime?
Not only this, even in cases of domestic violence and marital rape, women are expected to recover without making noise. They are expected to hide the wounds, wrap their mutilated bodies and display a fake satisfaction that nothing wrong ever happened. The very fact that cases of domestic violence top the rate of crime against women in India is proof that women are expected to bear not oppose. The absence of a law against marital rape further solidifies the mindset of the society that women’s resilience should make them strong enough to witness their fall not to dream of the rise.
The major reason behind all this is the fact women are not seen as human. But as a pawn to strengthen the ground of patriarchy. They are sacrificed, their bodies are turned into battlefields and identity is subsumed under the patriarchal lens. If you have watched Nusrat Bharucha’s recent movie Chhori, you must have noticed how the family of Nusrat’s driver sacrifices their bahus just because they can’t bear a male child.
Moreover, the sacrifices of women are glorified and made natural to womanhood. Those who don’t give up their self-respect and individuality are shamed for being aberrant and weak. So families raise their daughters with the strength and resilience to sacrifice themselves at the drop of a hat as and when patriarchy demands.
But how long will women be controlled by patriarchal ideologies? How long will women have to lose themselves in order to gain safety, security and reputation? When will resilience become a weapon for women to fight back? And not a patriarchal trick to blindfold women towards injustices?
To build a strong society, we need strong women. Those women who own their lives, resist injustice and push the graph of development further by indulging in what they really want to do. So it is essential for parents to not construe resilience as a woman’s tolerance against injustices. Resilience is about fighting back. And every woman should know that.
Views expressed are the author’s own.