Many of you might have seen this video that went viral a few weeks ago on the occasion of Woman’s Day. Heart-warming, yes? A fitting tribute to women all over the world? I beg to differ. I find this video very problematic. Why, you ask me? Why should I find it problematic when it is paying respect to women? It doesn’t endorse rape or domestic violence, so what is so wrong in the video that I feel the need to write an entire article on the issue?
My problem with the video is with the way it portrays women- always as an accessory to men. She is someone to guide a man who is going astray, never an individual in her own right. She is someone’s mother, sister, wife, daughter, but never a person with her own dreams and aspirations. A woman’s only duty, as this video seems to believe, is to wake her husband up in the morning and serve him breakfast, to share her chocolates with her brother after he has already gobbled his own up (without sharing, of course), to cook for her sons and to do her friend’s homework while he is off playing.
Isn’t it high time we stop casting women in the role of someone’s wife or mother and recognize the fact that she is first, a person in her own right, and then a helpmate to a man. This idea, of a woman being valuable only when she is helping a man, is not a new one at all, which is why it is so difficult to eradicate. It has been inculcated in our collective consciousness from the very time that we were born in this society. If Eve was created as a helpmeet for Adam, so every woman even today should think first of her husband’s need and then her own. A mother should always put her own needs after her son’s. A sister should always share her food, her toys with her brother. The male, on the other hand, has no such obligations. He can go out and play (a growing boy needs exercise after all) while his sister completes his homework.
I dislike the way this video is celebrating a woman’s loss of individuality and casting her in the role of a man’s associate, mate or guide only. The idea of womanhood should go beyond motherhood or being a dutiful wife, it should celebrate a woman for who she is as a person, not as a relative.
Now some people may say that my contestation of a woman’s motherhood or wifehood as not being rewarding enough is regressive thinking in its own right. Allow me to put forward a disclaimer stating that never have I insinuated that motherhood is not rewarding, that being a housewife is any less important than being a high flying corporate honcho. My only problem is with the idea that a woman’s place is society is defined by and limited to these few roles which revolve around the males in her life. A woman, I believe, should not be defined by her husband or father, which is the idea that this video seems to be propagating. The implication here seems to be that a woman is important only and only because she is helping a man. This assumption is what I find not just problematic, but also dangerous.
I believe it is high time that we stop casting women in the role of relatives and celebrate them as people. As they make up 50% of the world’s population, their role should really extend beyond helping the other 50%. We often hear people saying things like ‘what if she was your sister or mother?’ to rapists or men who have molested women. This is the root of the problem. A man should be made aware that a woman’s worth goes above and beyond her sisterhood or motherhood. A man should respect all women, whether or not they are his relatives. Why can’t we recognize the fact that a woman is a person, just like a man. No one defines a man as a husband or a brother. He is instead defined by his role in the society as a businessman or a lawyer or a doctor. A woman, on the other hand, will always be defined by her relationship to her closest living male relative. Job application forms will ask her for her husband’s or father’s name. Actresses, as soon as they get married, will be thought of as wives, as someone ‘old’. The ceremony of ‘kanyadaan’ will ensure that a woman is transferred safely from her father’s home to her husband’s, virtue and virginity intact.
So next woman’s day maybe we can celebrate women, instead of mothers or daughters or wives. Maybe we can change our attitude and our perspective. Maybe. Hopefully.