Freedom and Women

Sadly, as a society, we live by denial. A romantic lot that loves its women on a pedestal- A Goddess. Or in Ads where it is the primary concern of ONLY women to ensure clean toilets at home, sparkling vessels, stiff-clean uniforms for the kids, low-cholesterol oil to cook a tasty meal for the entire family and serve standing at the dining table, envy the sparkling white clothes drying on the neighbor’s clothes line, worry-sick over husband’s life insurance, feel disappointed that the evening date has gone for a toss because the hubby returns home tired simply because she did not nurture him enough with a cuppa Horlicks (ok, some drink or sun flower oil!) and such matters of earth-shattering importance. It is assumed that these are the most pressing matters on a woman’s mind. If by any chance she creates a ruckus over something trivial (and if you didn’t know, most of the issues she raises are trivial!), it is because she is PMS-ing. In fact this knowledge too is limited among us. After all, why should PMS-ing interfere with behavior? We surely have seen people (both, men and women) deny seeing such symptoms in their moms, aunts, sisters, grandmas..

We can hope for a tiny bit of change if we first start acknowledging there is a problem. The problem being that the definition of freedom is different for women from that of men. What would you define as freedom for a woman today?

To me, true freedom is

– not in being able to stay single because you want to. It is when you don’t have to put up a fight to stay by your decision and are not judged based on your status – single, married, divorced, live-in, anything!

– not in a woman being able to go out and work at odd hours or even reach home safely. It is, when the parents, parents-in-law, or the spouse don’t welcome her with hostility and guilt-trip her.

– not in a husband sharing the household chores, but only when it is not done as a ‘favor’.

– not in just being able to report an abuse or rape, but only when the guilty are punished instead of guilt-tripping the woman.

– not in just being able to study in a co-education institute or work in a male-dominated environment, but only when you don’t have a moral police telling you when to leave, how to dress, whom you can work with, when to call, when to receive one and from whom.

– not in being able to drive your car or ride on your bike, but when a collective society does not make a loose, irresponsible comment of how women can NEVER get this one thing right.

– not in a man ‘agreeing’ to stay nuclear post marriage, but only when the woman is not expected to fall at his feet and worship for bestowing such a huge favour on her!

– not in women and men co-existing in an environment, shouldering similar responsibilities, but only when the cliched, sexist jokes, supposedly funny, ceases. Not because I think it lacks in humor (it does anyway!). Its just the extent of irony in those and the sheer mockery. Yes, we still find it funny that a man cooks a meal in some homes. A tiny cut/bruise/late attendance at work by the man, is attributed to a good thrashing from the wife. The only good sense that prevails here is that the one relaying the joke is aware that it can only be a joke.

And am not even talking about the serious physical abuses and offenses here! Some of us just get lucky.

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25 thoughts on “Freedom and Women

  1. Empathise with the sentiment but clearly you are an Indian Women bothered about the limited definition of freedom. While there are many many more Bhaartiya Women who need much more help and effort. Allow me to bring in some much needed perspective.

    “- not in being able to stay single because you want to. It is when you don’t have to put up a fight to stay by your decision and are not judged based on your status – single, married, divorced, live-in, anything!”

    > While you are worried about your single status there are many more women raped daily in our Bhaarat.

    “- not in a woman being able to go out and work at odd hours or even reach home safely. It is, when the parents, parents-in-law, or the spouse don’t welcome her with hostility and guilt-trip her.”

    > While you are worried about not getting judged for working late in night, there are many more women who have to work as day labourers and face exploitation in hands of contractors and builders.

    “- not in a husband sharing the household chores, but only when it is not done as a ‘favor’.”

    > While you want your husband to not do you a ‘favor’ , there are many more women who are subjected to domestic violence.

    “- not in just being able to report an abuse or rape, but only when the guilty are punished instead of guilt-tripping the woman.”

    > While you are worried about not guilt-tripping, most cases of rape and molestation are not reported at all.

    “- not in just being able to study in a co-education institute or work in a male-dominated environment, but only when you don’t have a moral police telling you when to leave, how to dress, whom you can work with, when to call, when to receive one and from whom”

    > While you are worried been able to study and dress up as you wish, there are many more women in our country who cannot attend school..

    “- not in being able to drive your car or ride on your bike, but when a collective society does not make a loose, irresponsible comment of how women can NEVER get this one thing right.”

    > While you are worried about driving your car freely, there are many more women in Bhaarat who have to venture outside their house only in company of a male companion.

    “- not in a man ‘agreeing’ to stay nuclear post marriage, but only when the woman is not expected to fall at his feet and worship for bestowing such a huge favour on her!”

    > While you are worried about staying nuclear post marriage, many women are sacrificed by their families for not giving birth to a male child.

    “- not in women and men coexisting in an environment, shouldering similar responsibilities, but only when the cliched, sexist jokes, supposedly funny, ceases. Not because I think it lacks in humor (it does anyway!). Its just the extent of irony in those and the sheer mockery. Yes, we still find it funny that a man cooks a meal in some homes. A tiny cut/bruise/late attendance at work by the man, is attributed to a good thrashing from the wife. The only good sense that prevails here is that the one relaying the joke is aware that it can only be a joke.”

    > While you are worried about not been the end of sexit jokes, many more women are burnt alive by their in-laws over dowry.

    Before we start worrying about the first world like problems of Indian Women how about trying to fix some of the more fundamental issues facing Bharatiya Naris ?

    • Thank you. Yes. My definition of freedom, in the context of THIS post, is limited to the emotional battles woman have to wage even for the smallest of actions, the actions for which men have never had the need to account for. It is purely my opinion and is subjective. It is about the normal contemporary women and men going through the motion of life. It is a call for a change in attitude among the civil society and not to the perpetrators of horrendous crimes like rape or murder. That is not the scope of this post. That said, the plight of ‘Bhaarathiya Naari’ would be much better if her basic freedom of thought, action, life-style, is not infringed upon.

    • Lovely post. I had to reply to this comment though…do you mean that we should not try to fix something that’s wrong because there’s something worse going on elsewhere?? I mean absolutely there are a lot of horrible crimes committed against women in India but that doesn’t mean that lesser crimes shouldn’t be tackled as well. By that logic there are women all over the world who face terrible things like war and starvation…does that mean Indian women who are facing domestic abuse or something should not fight it until all wars stop and there is food for all?

    • I came here via IHM’s blog and will repeat what I said there.
      Your argument is like saying we will not address any problems in the world until we have ended world hunger.
      If you face any injustice personally do you console yourself with the same arguments? E.g. Do not get a raise, think of the fact that most Indians live in abject poverty. Get mugged, think of all the other violence happening in India? And then get down to solving real problems instead of complaining about the injustice happening to you?
      It’s a patronizing response and completely uncalled for not mention downright rude.

      • Uggh, I went back and forth on being rude in response but this really gets me “Allow me to bring in some much needed perspective.” Really!
        Who pray are you to give the writer the “much needed perspective”? Do you even realize how condescending that is?

      • @BBD-Lite, sphinx: The more I read the comment, the more clear the message is becoming. ‘Don’t Complain Woman. Be grateful that no one is bashing you up right now.’

    • I really do not understand this comment, does it mean that less developed countries like India should focus on the amelioration of poverty before they talk about space exploration and opening up the markets? Should the focus be on secondary and primary education not college education and certainly not research, because so many people are illiterate?

      • It means that, complaining or expressing/sharing our opinions on a public forum is a first-world luxury. Not meant for Bharathiya Naari.

  2. Perfect words, agree to each and every line of it. Even now, in my workplace, where the so-called well educated men work, crack jokes like Hurricanes are named after women because Women spell disaster. I know its just a joke but I cant quite digest it.
    Wish the world changes for good!

  3. That’s an interesting post Vidya. Speaking for myself, I’d like to speak of what freedom means to a working mom like me and I want to share some specific examples of what it means:

    1. The ability to be confident and committed to myself and my family without compromising on the values that I believe in deeply.

    2. The wisdom to take the rough tide in my stride and not let it overwhelm me so much that I lose my own innate sense of compassion towards other human beings.

    3. To be able to take and implement important decisions without worrying about whether my father or husband will support it.

    4. To enjoy every aspect of my life without anyone dictating to me “this has to be done” because love comes with not just understanding but intuition as well.

    5. To be able to relate to everyone in this world and respect them as wonderful human beings and not necessarily limit myself by pigeon holing people based on their gender, status or educational qualifications.

    • Wonderful Swapna. The need to respect an individual’s space and at the same time conduct ourselves in a way where we don’t let ourselves be hurt and hurt others, is the key to being free and thereby, happy. If every human being internalizes this knowledge, there would be no suffering. Thank you:)

  4. So many thumbs up for this article vidhya!!!We live in a society where a mom has to ride so many guilt trips just because she is working.The fact that she is a second income to the household and is working so hard for the family as well is discounted..She is always quoted as an irresponsible self gratifying person..While the men of the family comfortably watch TV discuss poltics and decide how to reform the country!!Reform should start in the mindset of ppl and every home..

    • Yes Sudha. Its sad that our people don’t understand the language we are speaking. Apparently, space, work-life for women etc are 1st world problems 😐

  5. Hi Vidya

    this is my first time on your blog. Got directed from IHM’s. I did post a lengthy reply as a response to the comment.

    I am so glad finally am coming across blogs that resonate my views. Though sadly I dont get to meet such people in real. I had a prof who use to say he respects n worships women. I dont think being polite, soft spoken is eqavalent to worship. When I woud profess equlity for both men n women he was of the view they could never be equal becase women r much above men n they would have to stoop low to reach the level of men. I think equating women to godess is a very cleaver ploy to put them on a pdestal so that unreasonable expectations from them become justied . Who decided to put them on a pedestel. Does it occur to them that we might not want to be there. Nobody wants to be goddess until we are not even treated like humans.

    And we are really godesses and to be worshipped would you be okay with cleaning toilets. I mean its okay for a mere mortal to do that. But expectng a goddess to cook, clean, wash and then not complain because a godess has to always smile benevolently shows how hypocrit the society is.

    • There is no question of our ‘not wanting to be there- on the pedestal’. We have never been there and will never be, and will never want to be too.. You are right. We get to meet a lot of hypocrites in real-life who are content with the way things are and believe that the equilibrium is disturbed only when a woman wants to defy the norm- like having an opinion of her own. The danger to the society is not as much from the rapists or murderers as it is from these hypocrites and the moral police.

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