In the beginning, there came to be men, women and transgenders. Transgenders were a minority and soon dismissed by society. But notably, they were confidantes of women and provided them with both physical protection and moral support.
But on the other hand, men saw that women were biologically more complete, physically more attractive, intellectually malleable and emotionally more stable. Obviously, jealousy struck. Now, because men had more access to their id egos and could exercise muscle power, they soon jeopardised our freedom.
We have a long list of rigorous and heinous customary practices from the past that exist even today in diluted forms. Or actually, not very diluted, looking at the entitlement men still exercise over women’s bodies.
But it used to be worse. For instance, women were locked in iron undies (chastity belts) while men would be away at war. Then there was another, more commonly known phenomena in East Asia, where they popularised the concept of tiny feet among women and would vigorously tie women’s feet from a young age to restrict growth (foot-binding). This practice would supposedly restrict the movement of women from going too far from home, because their feet could no longer carry their own weight around.
A more extreme case of jealousy can be seen in a nearer-to-home example of Sati. Men could not let go of their wives even after their death, and thought best for them to die with them. But these customs were, sooner or later, shunned by society due to extreme health risks it was causing.
However, even after society recognised these atrocities against women, men continued feeling insecure. Soon, they thought of a great plan! Why not indulge these women in vilifying each other? Now, their work became easy and hence came the phrase, “Women are women’s worst enemies.”
As time went by, powerful men abused their power and reduced women to mere objects in need of attention. They kept us away from education, career progression and intellectual activity. Advertising and marketing campaigns drilled the need for women to look or behave a particular way to gain male attention (biologically, it is the other way around).
Even cleverer minds tied male-satisfying trends with modernity, cosmopolitanism, empowerment, and very unfortunately, even to feminism. And we have all been somewhere fooled by these marketing gimmicks. In fact, we must consciously prioritise things that are more in our control and less in advertisement, like building a career, family, good friends, self-love and self-improvement.
And as for me, this mind-blowing realisation made me head straight to a male clothing store, where I picked out a couple of sweaters and straight pants and wore them as a mode of rebellion. And that day, the word ‘comfort’ got a new definition in my head. (P.S. I continue to mix-n-match clothing from male collections every now and then.) And to complete the story, just opposite to me stood a bigger women clothing brand that was promoting skimpy clothes — tight denim and figure-hugging sweaters. I tried those too, and honestly, I could not even breathe in those and felt almost naked.
Now, of course, we cannot change most of the subtle misogyny creeping into our lives from everywhere, but I construed three very important things to help us deal with our oppressors. You neither have to make an entitled statement nor show them their place to subtly exercise your freedom.
Be honest. I mean let that be in your job interview or get mentioned in conversations with men. Communicate your likes and dislikes, your expectations and your future. And if these lead to rejection, trust me, it is the best thing that could have happened. Because keeping a job/relationship is more important than winning an interview/man. So, let rejection and/or toxic relationships never deter you from reaching your desired goals. We are, after all, not in competition with each other but only ourselves, to be our better selves each day.
Do not be ashamed of yourself. Because nobody is perfect. And nobody is a particular way. It is easy for our lazy brains to stereotype, but each person is a new soul with a different set of experiences, genetics and emotional and intelligence quotient. That being said, there is always scope for growth. I think there is nothing more powerful than being on a pursuit of self-betterment and choosing only the best for yourself. And let me remind you, if you don’t love yourself, how will you convince others to love you?
Have self-respect. The world is unjust and rude, so you may be shocked to realise that your beloved, almost suddenly, doesn’t love you anymore. But may I ask, by clinging onto that very man, job and friendship, what good did you do to yourself or to the other? Of course, it is painful, and is easier said than done. But we who can bear period cramps on a monthly basis can take almost anything.
And if men can have a well-crafted bro code, it is time we have a universal, all-encompassing sis code too. It just basically has to revolve around standing up for each other, supporting each other grow to our full potentials, helping each other prioritise our goals and most importantly, to not take men and their opinions of you seriously. Because in a world of online dating and easy access to potential partners, both of you have many options to find what you are looking for.
Let us simply pledge to respect each other today and forevermore, and be the best of friends and strike back at patriarchy with love.
About the Author: Akshita Pattiyani is Editorial Assistant with Taylor and Francis. She is a community leader for All Informa Nations initiative on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. She is an alumna of Sophia College for Women, Mumbai.