This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shreya Sharma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

An Open Letter To My Father: “I Now Ask For The Freedom To Fly”

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By Shreya Sharma:

Dear Father,

Last night I came back home to a medley of frowns and questions:

“Why are you late? It’s going to be 10 pm.”
“Do you realize it’s dark outside? You know Delhi’s not safe.”

This morning, I woke up to your Daughter’s Day wishes and the following justification:

“It is not that we do not trust you; it’s just that we cannot trust the society.”

I understand your concern. I have been understanding since I was a young girl, you see. Selecting my friends carefully, not going out for late night parties and all the other ideologies which a girl is fed with since childhood — I tried sticking to all of these. But you know what, father, all this hasn’t really helped. The stares don’t care about daylight. The stares don’t care about what I’m wearing. The stares follow, inevitably. Perks of being a girl, maybe? It doesn’t end here.

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Photo Credit

Apparent intellectuals from the media slammed Deepika Padukone for her “cleavage show.” They shamed Shweta Basu Prasad for her alleged involvement in a prostitution racket. But no one ever questions the male actors when they bare their chest and abs. Neither does anyone care about the wealthy men who took advantage of the vulnerability of a National Award winning actress. And then, we have politicians with amazing statements like “Handing death sentence for rape is not fair… boys make mistakes.

I know the reality of this patriarchal society. I know your heart skipped a beat when you heard of the Nirbhaya Case. But, I also know that I don’t have to wear covered clothes; the society needs to stop staring at my body. I don’t have to stay at home because it’s dark outside; the society needs to open up the public spaces for me.

On Independence Day, you applauded Mr. Modi when he urged the nation to question their sons as much as their daughters. You were impressed when you heard Emma Watson’s “HeforShe” speech as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. So this Daughter’s Day, I want to be gifted with the permission to celebrate womanhood instead of living with it as a burden.

I give up on those guidelines which restrict me instead of helping me. I will no longer surrender silently. I will raise my voice. I will question the voices which try to push me down. Whether you call me bold or you call me ill-mannered, is your choice. My choice is made. For me, ‘S’ will not stand for ‘Surrender’ but for ‘Strength’.

You gave me the strength to stand tall.
I now ask for the freedom to fly.
You question, “What if you fall?”
I say, “At least let me try!”

I hope I don’t ask for too much.

Love,
Your strong daughter.

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  1. Babar

    You sound like a spoilt, ungrateful, juvenile throwing tantrums over how your father dared to be concerned over your safety, and actually committed the heinous crime of asking you, perhaps out of love, why you were late, knowing Delhi’s increasing crime rate. Furthermore, danger lurks in the dark in every corner of the world, for both men and women, so please get out of your fantasy world and stop writing sentences like, “I don’t have to stay at home because it’s dark outside; the society needs to open up the public spaces for me.” You stated “But no one ever questions the male actors when they bare their chest and abs.” That is because women have something known as breasts, and they are sexual organs. Women get arrested for being topless, men don’t. As for your freedom to fly, you have not been denied any of the basic necessities or luxuries of life.

    1. N

      @Babar I have been reading your comments in every single article that even slightly broaches the subject of a strong independent woman. Your comments disgust me. The way how you twist the meaning, of every piece written is beyond me.

    2. Brb

      And you sir, are a douchebag.

    3. Minute

      And YOU sound exactly like the ignorant turds on the street that perpetuate unsafe public spaces for women. She is writing a sincere letter. How DARE she ask for freedom, though? How DARE she ask society to stop over-sexualizing women? How dare she ask for the same freedom that ungrateful men like you take for granted everyday, AND abuse it by encroaching on another individual’s space, just because she’s a woman? Don’t you understand, Shreya? The public spaces are for MEN. You are allowed on THEIR terms, and should you have the gall to ask for things to be better, avar cullchar and avar noble heroes like Babar here are always there to remind you to suck it up, because a woman who asks for BASIC freedom and safety is arrogant, spoiled, and asking for too much! Such a spoiled little hedonist you are, Shreya. You have no autonomy, no privacy and no freedom, but that’s only because it’s YOUR fault for being a woman.

      Also, DEAR GOD, did you honestly say breasts are sexual organs? Before Victorian morality was imposed in India, women were often topless. It was commonplace. A woman’s nipples are about as sexual as a man’s. They just have an added function of producing milk for a baby. The body in the nude is not sexual except in context. The rest is all that filth in your head that can’t comprehend sexual and corporal autonomy of women. The country has enough of shits like you, who, instead of acknowledging genuine problems that exist in society, love to get on the defensive!

    4. Shubhra

      You are right. Danger does lurk in the dark for both men and women but you see for the females dark is pretty early.. And its not just the dark, we are unsafe even in the crowd. I hope you read the article by a girl about what happened to her in the metro or did you forget to comment on her post. Oops…
      And yes men baring their chest is a turn on for women as well so that makes it a sexual body part too. But we don’t spring on you. I guess that’s what they call self control. The same control over one’s body that you mentioned in a comment earlier on some other feminists’ post.

    5. sidd

      hey babar let me clarify u as a medico breast is not a sex organ.Its for feeding baby which the mother have given birth.we should make such society so that we dont live in fear .Freedom is not about basic necessities or luxuries of life. Suppose someones family is providing all luxuries but u are not able to take single decision of ur life is that freedom.I am not objecting parents concern but ther is much to object on society their thoughts.

    6. taniya

      Babar, i ve been reading ur comments. N i wonder whether u have a sister or mother. Please give the reply. If u do, then ask HER to give her opinions about rapes, feminism, safety of boys n girls, stereotypes n all. I wont expect much. Cuz if u are like this then from her birth itself she would have been taught 2 be like u. n i dont blame u completely cuz many of us were taught the system of patriarchy. then later on some of us change if our’s or the people whom we trust the most’s mentality change n thus when we see the truth. I really would like to hear ur family’s opinion n know more about how u see urself.

  2. Shaivya Sharma

    An impressive and touching letter expressing the desires of many other girls! 🙂

  3. Ankita Gosain

    I’m sure this is going to inspire many girls to speak up for themselves! Bravo girl!!

  4. Jaskiran

    Awesome.

  5. Sanhita Tripathi

    My admiration for this letter has little to do with my feministic leanings and more with the dire need in India for civility. In India there is a much needed call for an action on portrayls of Women at diffrent levels. Its 21st century and the time has come for a revolution. Men needs to change there thinking and ideologies towards women. Female is not the second gender!
    You stated, “I will no longer surrender silently. I will raise my voice. I will question the voices which try to push me down.” This is what I excatly feel, rising above all the stereotypes and prejudices placed by society on women. Wearing covered clothes and not roaming in Dark night wont solve the issue, the problem here is of ” MINDSET” which needs to be changed. Its an irony how people in our country worship goddess Durga, the shakti. On the other hand treet women as a ” sexual object”.
    Women have the power to get men on this earth!

    1. PD

      Well I don’t think you can say “Its an irony how people in our country worship goddess Durga, the shakti. On the other hand treet women as a ” sexual object”.
      Women have the power to get men on this earth!” an irony. The two things have nothing to do with each other.
      You need to read this: https://www.quora.com/How-is-celebrating-Durga-Puja-justified-at-a-time-when-attacks-and-atrocities-on-women-have-risen-in-our-society

      Secondly, wearing short clothes isn’t a crime but people will stare & it’s not always for the reasons you think. Sometimes it’s because you look good so people like to see. You can’t ask them what to do & what not to. Hell, I’m a straight woman but I too stare at an exceptionally well dressed woman too! Does that mean I have bad intentions?
      Next I would like to point out that no matter where you are, even in the safest of places like Australia, Singapore or Bahrain, it’s always going to be unsafe at night. A society will always have it’s rogue elements who maybe that way because of numerous reasons like Hunger etc, so there are chances that you get shot for money. Lesser people venture out at night which makes it more unsafe.

  6. Abhishek P

    First of this is not even a article but more of a complain. second thing, there exists no society in the world where people (including males) can go outside late night and feel 100% safe, whether it is new delhi, new york or london, there is always a risk of getting robbed. you people are just trying to chase a utopian dream of a 100% crime free, corruption free society, which dont exists today, and never existed in history.

    1. Bhavik Gupta

      @Abhishek – She cannot feel 100% safe because of people like you who have 0% brain.

    2. Abhishek

      then why dont you give me a example of such society if it exists today or in history? or you can give me how you are going to build such a society ?

  7. Prashant Kaushik

    There is a difference between ‘Courage’ and ‘Stupidity’, and there is a similarity too. Both makes a person do what his normal peers would avoid doing.
    I am not a girl, and I am a well built, independent boy, yet my parents dislike me going out after 10 PM. Touchwood I have never met an accident and am an adroit biker, still they scorn if I try to travel 250 kms from Delhi to hometown on bike.

    Dear, parents worry for every child, be it be, a girl or boy.
    I pray that you keep your fancy letter open to public alone, and don’t show it to the Father for whom it was allegedly written, he would cry that you haven’t understood him in all these 20 something years of your life. May be someday when you become a parent, you would realize that why your letter should be torn away .

    I appreciate you desire to be free and am with you. But you are also a darling and a precious belonging of your parents, respect that, don’t treat yourself as a laboratory rat or guinea pig for social experiments.

    Yes, girls are subjected to rapes and molestation in their descent costumes also. But then, people die even when they wear helmets or when they don’t consume cigarettes. Does that mean we should encourage people to smoke and go riding without helmets or basic protection?

    1. Jitendra Parmar

      Very good, reply. If parents are asking why you are late it means they are caring for you.

    2. Bhavik Gupta

      @Prashant – Such a big reply and such a small mind.

    3. Fem

      Like Baber, Templetwins and Moinstaff. Big words. Small minds. I pity the women who have the bad fortune to come across them in real life.

  8. Templetwins

    Media is sexualizing women. How do we solve it? Perhaps with legal enforcement we can achieve it, a ban on all item numbers or any cleavage shows or bare legs! You know what will happen? The sex-positive feminists would be up in arms holding their placard saying it is their right to dress however they want to and earn money. So damned if you do, damned if you don’t do. So anyone who complains about sexualization of women in media and sexualizing themselves constantly with their sexy outfit doesn’t see the cognitive dissonance in their view/argument.

    Secondly as I reiterated before if you have the right to flaunt, people have the right to stare. Staring is not invading your space or cat calling you or saying something abusive or physically abusing you, we stare at anything that’s odd, interesting or different. Breasts are considered secondary sexual organs socially. If you think otherwise, then shaking your hands and groping you should have no difference to you. Besides if you grope a woman without her consent it is called as sexual harassment, underline SEXUAL.
    I get it that you want to go to night parties and roam in short cloths and high heels. Some would call it daring and others would call it stupidity. I would say that depends on the outcome. If you are a responsible daring person, power to you but I would reserve my sympathy for the ones who aren’t stupid.

    1. Niyati Baweja

      “people have the right to stare” ?? I pity you, your mother, your sister and your wife(if you manage to get one)

    2. Templetwins

      No need for your pity. If you would show, people would see. People have no right to dictate what dress you should wear right? Why are you dictating where people should look. If you feel disgusted or comfortable by someone staring at you, the same disgust and discomfort could be felt by someone who is a conservative by seeing your skimpy cloths. Since they can’t dictate you to change your cloths you can’t dictate people who stare at you, to look away. Like I said before I am not gynocentric in my world view, my self worth doesn’t revolve around women or getting a wife. I don’t need your approval.

    3. Shubhra

      “The media is sexualizing women.” The media will show what sells. And sexualizing women sells because of stupid people like you. The media doesn’t tape you to your seats and ask you to see things that you don’t like. If you don’t have any control over yourself its your fault, not the mine not my dress’. Stop blaming my clothes for your actions. And what I don’t understand is that all people that are chiding the writer for her letter give the reason that its not safe at night. Don’t go out. Well so change it. We are the change. Just because something wrong has been going on for generations doesn’t mean we have to follow it. And as for private space templetwin every person has their own personal space which no one else should invade. Yes touching a woman without her consent to gain sexual favours is sexual harassment, it has nothing to do with our breasts. How would you feel if someone just grabbed your crotch. Would you enjoy the unwelcome touch? If not then stop with the childish and nonsensical comparisons. And yes bans work when people don’t have brains enough to decide what they should see and what they shouldn’t (in case your slow brain didn’t catch it that’s you). So girls you get the message. Go out in the sun come in before it gets dark and wear clothes that hide everything, yes even your face ( I’m thinking the mummy kind of costume). Cause that’s the only way to live safely on this planet with people like you templetwins. People who refuse to change. Its because of people like you that female foeticide is rampant is many parts of India. Knowing that how do you say that women already are at an equal status with men? That its my clothes that decide if I come home safe or not. And who decides? People like you? Who are obviously biased against me because of my gender. Well do what you can. You don’t scare me anymore.

    4. Templetwins

      And sexualizing women sells because of stupid people like you.

      Wow what an emotional rhetoric filled with ad hominems, name calling and assumptions.If that’s what is selling, who are you to say that people shouldn’t buy it? Isn’t women like you who flaunts on screen, get paid for it and cries objectification! hypocrites.

      People that are chiding the writer for her letter give the reason that its not safe at night. Don’t go out. Well so change it.

      I am not an idealist like you, I am a realist and I don’t live in a utopia where crimes would cease to happen. Crimes may happen for n number reasons including poverty, abuse, desperation, mental illness? Why don’t you go about changing all these issues instead of asking us to be concerned about ‘womens issues’. I am not gynocentric like most trad-cons and feminists. My world doesn’t revolves around you.

      Yes touching a woman without her consent to gain sexual favours is sexual harassment, it has nothing to do with our breasts.

      You sound very dumb. Touching a womans hand without her consent could be an harassment but touching a womans breast without her consent is sexual harassment. Even if I did wrote it in big bold letters you are just not too intelligent to see my point.

      How would you feel if someone just grabbed your crotch.

      Depends on who is grabbing it.

      And yes bans work when people don’t have brains enough to decide what they should see and what they shouldn’t

      So film stars would just flaunt themselves sexually and if people are watching it then they don’t have brains? Where is yours? What is wrong with being attracted to the female form? If you have a problem take it with those actresses, dictate your sistas. We owe you nothing. Male sexuality is just fine as female sexuality, you prudish dork.

      Its because of people like you that female foeticide is rampant

      Oh not this stupid foeticide shit again. You know what, gender is a social construct so no females are being killed besides fetuses are simply a parasite which women can terminate without the consent of the father, that parasite being a female doesn’t have a special status. The sex ratio shows 940 per 1000, and it is not so rampant as you make it to be.

      PS:- Be naked for all you want, I don’t care what cloths you were or what your morals are. Like I said, I reserve my sympathies for the ones who aren’t stupid. You have a right to be stupid.

    5. Shubhra

      And men don’t flaunt it? And if you have a comment on everything then why did you miss out on the line about self control. Just pointing out things that support you and doing nothing about the things you can is the kind of attitude I have a problem with. If a man is sexy ota cool if a women is sexy she’s just asking for it. When your your idiotic thought process stop. And you have no problem with labelling women based on her clothes. Talk to me when you do the same for a man. Then we’ll talk about equality. And yes what was I thinking so just 60 girls died. Who cares. All 100 men are alive. Hurray for that. And that statistic is not even close to the real number. That’s just a great strategy to pick out a number from the lot with the least difference. So for you a person’s clothes decide their moral. Well great words sir. I mean forget the fact that they are a person with a character. Just tag them for their clothes. Hats off to you for opening our eyes. Thank you so much for inventing this new scale of judging people’s character.

    6. Templetwins

      People who are willing to commit a crime are willing to put themselves on the line to be penalized for it ie ready for punishment. The self control part would work on some including me, but it hardly works on women who wants to flaunt their sexiness (power) and men who shows their power(sexiness), in my perspective both are provocative, both are a nuisance.

      Both men and women flaunt their sexuality but who is considered vulnerable socially? Who is considered a victim by default if they get some compliments? Is it men or women?

      You are really dumb or uninformed if you think 60 girls died and the numbers had to be equal. All 100 men are alive? Are you drunk or something? In reality fetuses gets killed by mother, both male and female fetuses but you know what, fetuses doesn’t have human rights, ask the pro-choice feminists.

      I didn’t say a persons cloths decide their morals, I just said I don’t care about it. Don’t pull words out of your rear end and make it as though I said it. You actually said that people like me causes foeticide lol, this is psychological projection. You are guilty of what you accuse me of.

    7. Niyati Baweja

      Your “self worth” ?? haha, nice joke.

    8. Templetwins

      These comments show the lack of decency in the people to lend an year to what a girl has to say.

      So you want everyone to give 365 days to see the OP constantly pats herself on her back of how much of victim she is?

      http://media.giphy.com/media/mn1cym1jiJOUg/giphy.gif

      Yes I am nitpicking you, haha back at you.

    9. akshita prasad

      You think your sympathy makes a difference? Since people like you won’t stand up and do anything, your sympathy is just useless. And people don’t have the right to stare, Its our body.
      And what’s wrong with dressing however we want, huh? If men have a problem with the way women dress, they rather poke their eyes with a pencil!

    10. Templetwins

      You think your sympathy makes a difference? Since people like you won’t stand up and do anything, your sympathy is just useless.

      Yes it does make a difference. I can do a lot of things while standing up. I am certainly not trying to be useful to you and don’t feel so entitled to my servitude princess.

      If men have a problem with the way women dress, they rather poke their eyes with a pencil!

      If women have a problem with the way men are staring, they can rather poke their eyes with a pencil.

    11. Praveen Sharma

      You got a valid point.

  9. Niyati Baweja

    It is sad to see the negative comments of some minuscule mindsets. These comments show the lack of decency in the people to lend an year to what a girl has to say. Instead of understanding what this lady wants to convey, people are only trying to stress on the obsolete ideologies which exist in the society.

    As for the girl, she needs to be applauded for displaying the reality of this society in such a touching manner. We need more of such feminists to raise their voices.

  10. Bhavik Gupta

    This is more than just an open letter. It is a touching plea to the society on the whole to start seeing women as humans and not aliens.
    The stand taken by the author is a strong feminist stand which needs appreciation.
    Ignore the typical misogynist comments on this post, girl. You are way above these small minds.

  11. Babar

    When women can’t defend their absurd and bizarre theories in a rational manner, they abuse, taunt, and use the word ‘misogynist’ – a shaming tactic of feminists since decades. Don’t agree with what a feminist says – misogynist. Point out a feminists lies – misogynist. Tell them to come back to reality – misogynist. Differ from a feminists view or opinion – misogynist.

    1. Fem

      They call misogynist the one who are misogynist indeed. There are many wonderful men out there who are not misogynist and they they are therefore not called so.

      Ever wonder why do you hear this word so often?

    2. Babar

      Who is a wonderful man according to you? One who complies with the lies, deceits and manipulation of feminism?

      Despite all the male bashing on this blog, have you ever seen a single comment with the word ‘misandrist’? However, the word ‘misogynist’ is thrown around all the time, a very cheap tactic to silence men.

  12. Niyati Baweja

    BABAR – Your ability to embarrass yourself is immense.

  13. Babar

    The problem is, men remain quiet when women indulge in male bashing, and if someone dares to raise their voice against the blatant sexism, he is immediately labelled a misogynist. And noticing men’s silence, more women join in, and they also have the support of men who crave attention and recognition, and want a sense of belonging, just like their female counterparts. Even on this blog, most comments from feminists are abusive and taunting in nature, because they can’t defend their absurd and bizarre theories. Also, type ‘sexism against men’ and ‘misandry in the media’ and ‘violence against men’ in the YouTube search box to see how widespread male bashing has become.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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