Strong women are often criticised by society for challenging patriarchal norms and refusing to limit their existence to stereotypes. They are fearless, opinionated and well versed with their rights. Obviously, our patriarchal society feels intimidated by these strong women and spares no time to label them as rude, haughty and selfish. They are expected to be apologetic about their behaviour when all they are doing is refusing to settle for anything less than their rights.
A strong woman can be any woman who prioritises herself over everything else. But the problem is that when women become mindful of their needs and desires, they are labelled as selfish. In our society, it is not common for women to be outspoken and purposeful. They are expected to be submissive and subservient. But when women break the norm and are different, or let me rephrase, choose to live as humans and not servants, they are considered unsanskari for their defiance. They are shamed for not being like other women.
Men, on the other hand, are never criticised for prioritising themselves. They are never made to feel guilty for not thinking about others or society. Moreover, when men stand up for their rights, it is considered their duty. It is deemed natural for men to react when something wrong happens to them. But women are expected to be quiet and bear all the injustice to preserve their izzat and that of their family. The very fact that society expects strong women to be apologetic signals that society has different rules for men and women. And now that women can see through this hypocrisy, pretending that we are supposed to live the way society wants us to is not an option.
Why is being submissive considered the duty of a woman? Should women never fight for their rights? Should women sacrifice their well-being to maintain the status quo of society?
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Strength is never a fault, it is a character trait which can be found in both men and women. A strong woman does not bring shame to society, infact her courage is a matter of pride and her determination often goes unrecognised. A strong woman helps build the framework of a resilient country by contributing to it economically and socially. She will not shy away from calling out harassment, discrimination and oppression. She will go a step further and demand changes in the infrastructure- both in our families and society, and at workplace, to pave way for more women to chase their dreams. She has it in her to dream big and work hard to achieve her goals and in doing so she becomes a role model for other women.
Beyond this, a strong woman is empathetic towards other people and ensures that equality and empowerment doesn’t end at her doorstep. Afterall, it takes a different kind of strength to champion others and cheer when they succeed.
So before asking strong women to be apologetic, do remember what you are putting at stake. Rethink whether it is women who need to be apologetic for their strength and power or society for being a roadblock in the empowerment of women and the country.
Views expressed are the author’s own.