Women's Day: How To Keep Zen In A Patriarchal Society
The average day of the average Indian woman is ripe with sexist expectations and choices fuelled by the limitations placed on us by this supremely patriarchal society we live in. Most of us wake up before the men in the house, and get the morning tea or coffee ready. If we work, chances are we've had to fight for it. If we are mothers, we are likely the primary responsibility-bearer while the father rolls around for play time or the occasional tough love. We step out of the house and are constantly on guard against lecherous gazes of men, and sometimes, judgemental glances of other women. We have to work twice as hard as men in many fields of work, no matter our qualifications or aptitude, just to prove ourselves. We lose friends because of our husband's geography. Whether we have a career or not, majority of us have to be homemakers too.
Things are changing, yes, but slowly, and only for a minority. Just the other day, a colleague casually said that once she gets married, she'll obviously (sic) have to quit her job. She's 24. From Delhi. Daughter to a single mother. Patriarchy is in our bones.
And then, it's 8 March, Women's Day, and for a day, we suddenly become Goddesses - we are celebrated in our homes, at our offices, and on the Internet. Women who've not been spared a thought are suddenly given centre stage - but just for one day. While the rest of the year, in our country, women are abused, raped, killed.
Women's Day has come to be a cause of fury for me. We don't need a day. We need a life of basic respect. But being angry is not going to change the world. So, this Women's Day, here are some ways you can stay Zen in this patriarchal society, while you smash it.
Talk. Talk. Talk.
Don't let the system silence you.
Talk to other women. Talk to men. Talk to kids.
Tell other women about your experiences, those hunches you bury deep down for fear of being dismissed; tell them about those times you felt something was off but you didn't do or say anything because you didn't want to stir the pot; tell them about your ambitions, your failures, your trials and tribulations. Listen to theirs. So you know you're not alone.
Tell men about the times you got catcalled or groped. Tell them about your best friend's heartbreak at the hands of a cheating, lying prick. Tell them about cramps; and how much you spend on sanitary napkins, tampons and cups. Tell them about what the body goes through during pregnancy and childbirth.
Talk to kids - about boundaries and bodies; about desire, respect and sex; about diversity and the LGBTQ. Teach kids about good touch and bad touch, and the word, 'NO'.
Learn the word 'NO'
It's empowering - this two letter word. And it doesn't belong only under the sheets. It belongs in the kitchen when you are expected to cook, but don't want to. It belongs in the workplace and in conversations with toxic friends and relatives. Consent is not only applicable to acts of sex. It applies to everything you do. By saying no to things you really don't want to do, no matter how innocuous it may seem, you learn to respect your own boundaries.
Don't engage with people who don't want to grow...
It's a waste of time and energy. Instead of trying to convince someone who is not open to seeing things from a different perspective, use your energy to talk to people who want to grow and learn. There are plenty out there who won’t dismiss what you’re saying just because you’re a woman. Talk to those people, and hopefully it will create some sort of a ripple effect and put a dent in the fabric of society, even a small one.
Take care of yourself!
The strongest weapon that this system has against women is that it makes us feel guilty for wanting to take care of ourselves. We’re quick to be banished as selfish the moment we think about our own needs. Learn to take care of yourself - exercise, journal, read, get a massage. Whatever rocks your boat. But, do something indulgent and pamper yourself regularly.
Call out hypocrisy
When you see double-standard, call it out. But don’t expect immediate reparation. Call it out because you need to. Get it off your chest. Don't carry the burden of someone else's bigotry on your shoulders.
And finally, learn to walk away
Sometimes, the most self-loving thing we can do is to walk away from situations and people that stifle us. And God knows that's what this skewed system wants for us - to be bogged down by rules and regulations, to be "sanskaari", even if it robs us of our dignity. When you can't change a situation that pisses you off, disengage from it.