The urge to validate yourself by following a crowd and not feeling left behind is human nature.
During a group therapy session, I was talking about my struggles with being an Indian woman, married, working with a start-up, and finding time to write, blog, paint and meet many social obligations. Before I could finish my monologue, one of the participants, a man, quipped—
“Oh, women are from a different planet. They are so perfect. They go through so much. It’s beyond me. They multitask without complaining. They take care of family and work, and so on.”
He went on to tell is how good the women around him were—his mother, his friend, and so on. While everyone appreciated the fact that this man was clearly respectful of women, I realized that, a few minutes earlier, he had been cribbing about his boss, his classmate, and a few other people—all women. By his description, I got the idea that these ‘bad women’ were ambitious, outspoken, and competitive. In contrast to them, the ‘good women’ in his life were those who multi-tasked, were sacrificing, and had a subservient demeanor.
Following this not-so-brief interruption, people looked back at me expectantly, so I could complete my story. However, by that time, I felt bogged down a stranger’s expectations—his definition of a ‘perfect woman’.
A perfect woman multitasks.
A perfect woman never complains.
A perfect woman takes care of everyone’s feelings.
And isn’t perfection the biggest lesson all females are taught?
Through movies and television shows.
But isn’t “perfect” a gender-neutral word?
After all, for years on end, perfection has been our greatest weakness—it is something everyone desires. But the moment it becomes an obsession, it affects our productivity and health. And that’s the problem. Perfection is like a mirage. And, unfortunately, my perfection is not your perfection.
And here comes the dilemma. Whose definition of perfection is perfect? It’s you vs millions of people.
Sometimes, it’s a collective definition—society’s benchmark—where a man needs to earn, no matter what his dreams are, and a woman has to raise a family, no whether she wants it or not. Sometimes, it’s your family, your friends, and even strangers.
Whose perfection do you choose? Which do you want to achieve?
While I was drowning in my thoughts that day, the session got over and my story remained untold. But my takeaway that day was a question that we all should ponder upon.
Why do men have to say that they respect women? Are women obligates to ‘be respected’? Do we have a duty to be respected—and solely by being pious and sacrificing? Why can’t we be treated as equal to men? Why are we respected only when we do something society says is ‘worthy’ of being respected?
Should we celebrate ads that portray women like this?
Should the opposite of “respected” be catcalled, degraded, gaslighted, attacked with acid, molested, or raped?
We shouldn’t be worshipped for being women. We should be respected because we are people. Women should not be forced to fit into society’s definition of perfection and respectability.
Being wrong is gender neutral too.