I got a couple of e-mails from YKA urging me to answer the question “What is that one limitation you wish women didn’t have to face?”
They asked me to share my story, and I had to laugh. Living in your typical patriarchal society, I’ve answered this question in my mind hundreds of times, from the moment I began to decipher what people said about me in front of me to my own parents. It’s terrible that your gender decides your activities and places limits to your roles. I choose to defy it.
This my story.
I am an only child. Our society seems to be really problematic when it comes to accepting an only child, that too a girl. So, since the time I began to understand language properly and could make sense of what was being said, I noticed that whenever I met a relative all they had to say was “You should pray to God to bless you with a baby brother,” Or “May God grant your wishes,” or “May God ‘complete’ your family.” It disgusted me. I never wished for a brother. I thought I was happy with my family as it was, and I am, even today.
After a while, they stopped those statements. But, it marked the beginning of a new phase. Let me make it very clear, this one was much worse. “Don’t play with boys too much,” and “Don’t talk to boys,” and a lot of things like that. At that age, I didn’t even know what difference it made if I talked to a boy or a girl!
The worst of all was the time when I reached puberty. It was when I understood the sick minds of society. Even my parents started to restrict me. I used to be outraged by them but then it hit me. It wasn’t their choice. Society had made them this way and collectively they had made the society the same way. There was just criticism for those who begged to differ. This was the phase of “Dress like a girl,” or “Sit like a girl,” and “Behave like a girl.”
It took me a long time to know what they meant by “like a girl“. For all those who wonder the same, here’s what their idea of a ‘girl’ is:
Sit with crossed legs.
Lower your voice.
Wear clothes that completely cover you up.
Don’t let your hair loose.
Don’t look at someone with wide eyes.
Always lower your gaze.
Listen and abide by what your elders say, sometimes even your younger ones.
Don’t think. Just act like you are told to.
Don’t stand out of your house.
A lot more instructions.
So, this is want they want, but this is exactly what I couldn’t do. The opposite of this idea is the definition of me. I tried to live like they told me to, and it wasn’t my cup of tea. I wasn’t meant to be that fragile and docile doll. I spoke up when I felt like it, I argued with those who instructed me. I called out my mom when she would give such instructions to someone else.
When I came to know of what other people faced. No matter what their socio-economic status was, what their religion was, how ‘modern’ they were, there were always limits to what a girl was ‘allowed’ to do. That’s when I decided that if we want the world to change, we will have to change ourselves.
I started with small changes. I began challenging the idea of patriarchy. I supported other girls when they deviated from “behaving like a girl.” I changed my idea of being a girl. My idea of being a girl is being yourself, doing what you want to.
I want no limits to being a girl or a woman. Society doesn’t choose how I live, I do. I am complete by myself. I don’t need a brother or any male member to protect me. I am not vulnerable, society is projecting me as vulnerable. I refuse to be what society wants me to be. I am the change.
This women’s Day, let’s be the change. Let’s be us. Let’s support each other. Let’s change the world, let’s defy limits because my gender cannot restrict my role.
“Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives their strength,” said G.D. Anderson
Let’s say it again. There are no limits to what I can be.