“Oh Hush! You’re a Girl!”

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When I was a little girl, I was mesmerised by Fairy Tales. I read them religiously every night before I went off to sleep, completely convinced that they were the ultimate truth. In the afternoons, you could easily find me glued to the television screen waiting for Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs to come on air. I would read the words and look at the pictures that I had already memorised by heart, again and again, hoping against hope to find a little something that I might have missed earlier.  I was utterly convinced that I was a princess with the world at my feet. Snow-White-Prince As I started to grow up, I realised that I didn’t quite like being a princess. After all, being a princess meant being delicate, prim and proper while I wanted to run amok with muddy hands and cheek without being told off. I started to realise how our society is plagued with Patriarchy, way before I had even heard the term for the first time. How our society imposes its idea and image of what a woman must be on little girls, from a very early age! For as long as I can remember, I have heard people yapping on and on about how a girl must be a good daughter, sister, wife and mother (in this order, mind you!) We were made to read Ramayana in school. The tale of the journey of noble King Rama and the victory of good over evil.  We all remember how Lakshmana cuts off Surpanakha’s nose and  breasts and Rama makes his wife walk through fire. Do these incidents not appear similar to attacking a woman and domestic violence? Hush! They were Gods. How could they be wrong?! I was also taught about Durga, Lakshmi and Parvati. I was one of the nine girls who were treated like devis during Navratra. I saw people thronging and cramming into temples on Thursday to worship Goddess Saraswati and I watched the same people slapping their daughters when they did anything “un-womanly”.  Throughout our lives, we are told that a woman is the glue that holds the family together. The “izzat” of the whole family rests on her shoulders. She’s supposed to be motherly, affectionate, sacrificing and protect her family against all evils, very much like the Goddesses we worship. Our mothers explain to us in hushed tones how we are supposed to remain chaste, not make mistakes and never put a toe out of the circle that society has encompassed us in.  I recently came across this brilliant Hindu text called Manusmriti that said, “Girls are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, women must be under the custody of their husband when married and under the custody of her son as widows. In no circumstances is she allowed to assert herself independently.” Brilliant! Great! Cut those damn wings off! Quickly! Hurry up! Why would girls even need them? They’re little princess! All they are supposed to do is look pretty, show off their tiaras, wait for their Princes to sweep them off their feet and carry them away on their white horses. Then, they can pop out a dozen kids and spend the rest of their lives taking care of them and their husbands AKA Prince Charming. Happily ever after! Sigh! images Wait! What if I don’t want a tiara? It’s itchy and gives me a headache. Can I get a sceptre instead? Please?  What if I regard my knight in shining armour as nothing but an aluminium foil? What if I don’t want to turn a beast into a Prince?  Will they let me be or will they point at me and whisper as I walk past them on a street?  Maybe, they’ll shake their heads, chuck their tongues and call me an incorrigible, defiant woman. Since time memorial, our society and the ‘Powers that Be’ have placed a plethora of rules and expectations on women. They are supposed to be fair. They are supposed to be beautiful. They are supposed to be docile. In short, they should be doormats. Society wants us to be lady-like but then again, the same society associates being feminine with being weak and not being able to protect ourselves. Women are not allowed to make mistakes. They aren’t allowed to grow, be their own person and experience the world themselves. “Oh but the situation has completely changed today.” No sir, it hasn’t.  In fact, it has become worse. Not only are women expected to be great homemakers, they are also expected to excel in academics while having perfectly manicured French nails and tottering around in high heels. Feminism is all rage these days but few actually realise what it stands for. It stands for the liberation of women, for letting them breathe, for letting them live the life that they want and for letting them be who they want to be.   Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.33.37 AM We don’t want love poems and cheesy, romantic songs. “Princess” sometimes sounds patronising and smothers and suffocates us. We don’t want to be the band aid for a man’s bruised and battered heart.  We don’t want to be the light of a man’s life. We don’t want men to put us on a pedestal because some of us are scared of heights. We don’t even want a man’s heart. We just want to be women without the baggage that is associated with being one. We just want to be women. Plain and simple!

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