“No one woman can call herself free who does not even control her own body.”
– Margaret Sanger
The above quote by birth control activist, nurse and educator Margaret Sanger, uttered in the early 20th century, holds meaning to women even now, pertaining to their bodies, their minds and their souls. It was International Women’s Day on 8th March, a day when a woman’s phone is inundated with forwards about how women are “beautiful creatures”, “the epitome of beauty”, and each saccharine sweet forward has a rose, a woman with a child or husband or family, working up her usual domestic duties – an all too familiar setting.
For someone in her mid-20s, if you ask me what I thought of Women’s Day five years ago, I would’ve still had words of hope. Right now, it’s yet another sloppy milquetoast of a day that has people sending me patronising messages on how beautiful womanhood is. On this day, instead of responding to all those messages and forwards about the respect that a woman should get on this day (why it’s reserved for one day alone is beyond me!), I’ve decided to write an open-letter of sorts, encapsulating the usual drivel this day begets and what women are tired of hearing.
“Your biological clock is ticking!” – For a woman between 25-35, it’s common to hear this. From unsolicited advices on why giving birth should be done before your 30s to the importance of motherhood and “bringing life into this world” even when you are accomplished in your own sense. For most, a woman with a good job, a good education, a good salary, a good life isn’t enough. Only when she gives birth do most think her purpose has been fulfilled.
“You are unmarried? For shame!” – The minute a woman turns 18, the talk of marriage begins. Her receiving an education isn’t even in the picture, but the prospects of her getting married to a well-to-do man and taking up domestic chores as her calling is given without comment. What’s worse? Being an unmarried woman in your 30s. The jabs on your womanhood drying up and the inability to conceive is thrown in. If only people knew that women are human beings and not brought to this earth to be baby makers.
“Women are beautiful things! Treat them with respect” – Okay, first of all, who said women are things?? They are and never have been objects but the notion has been propagated for eons now. Women are human beings and should be treated with respect regardless of whether they are someone’s mother, sister, daughter, wife! They aren’t your objects of affection or reduced to a familial, maternal figure. They could be anything they want to be and still deserves respect. So yes, stop relating women to family members and look at them as living beings with equal life on Earth.
“Women are gentle creatures. They are physically weaker than men” – NOPE. Have you ever tried looking at blood without squirming or raising a huge hue and cry about it? We see it every month for five days for over 20 years of our lives. So please spare us that “weaker than men” BS. Tried pushing out a 5 pound living being from a small hole? Or tried fending off men’s grabby hands while travelling on public transport and still seem serene on the outside? Guess not.
“Women are like an open treasure chest. They must be covered and protected.” – Not only are we things, apparently, we’re treasure troves too. Where we require a lock to keep us shut. Women can wear whatever they wish to, can go wherever they wish to and ought to still be respected and untouched. If a man can go ahead, then so can a woman. Period. The length of her skirt, the colour of her bra or the flick of her hair – none of it is an invitation that she’s asking for it. She is harassed when she’s covered up till her toes. So spare us the logic about being covered all the time.
“You may not be up for motherhood now, but it will change you for sure.” – An accomplished woman with a terrific job and happy life is still not enough. A few years ago, when in the peak of her career and post her marriage, Tennis star Sania Mirza was asked if she was ready to ‘settle down’. She spared no one and posed quite a valid question – ‘Why is a woman incomplete even after she’s done so well for herself?’