What does it mean to be a single, independent, fierce, articulate woman in India?
It comes with consistent fortification of self worth, respect and love. Of constant pride that you have in your own personal, political decisions. In the ability to articulate and fight for what you believe in. To be the aberrations in a uniform world. Because more consistent than anything else, are the brickbats, judgements piled on you, for decisions that you make out of your own personal choice.
Women seem to, in this patriarchal world, come with an expiry date. One for ambitions, one for freedoms and one for being non-conformists. I can’t count the number of times I have been told, “Der ho jaayegi, shaadi nahin hogi” (It will be late and you will never get married), “Akeli reh jaaogi” (You will be lonely), and many more. 3 points to this one.
I can’t count the number of times I have been told, “der ho jaayegi, shaadi nahin hogi” (It will be late and you will never get married), “akeli reh jaaogi” (You will be lonely), and many more.
First, marriage is a conscious choice, not an expected natural act that must ‘happen’. It can be an active, physical, conscious ‘choice’ and needs to be respected as that. A choice that can or cannot be made, retaining the agency of choice with the woman. Secondly, the idea of a woman being time bound for marriage almost reminds me of being a product on a shelf, whose shelf life is expiring, that no one will then want to use. Am I product to be picked off a shelf by a discerning consumer? Why? And thirdly, since when was marriage an insurance policy? And what are we ensuring women against? A stigmatised idea of loneliness? Or a threat than an independent woman poses to the world, masculinity and patriarchy at large? And at what cost are we emphasising women marry?
The innumerable number of times I have been told to consider a man living outside the country, comes with a default assumption that I will uproot myself from a carefully curated life, and create it and my identity in a new space from scratch. Why? Is the idea of a man so critical for women (now sold in an egalitarian term of partnership), that everything else can be willingly thrown away for it? Slowly, very slowly are we seeing men embrace genuine equality and willingly make shifts and amends to ensure they are there for their partner’s growth. But think about it, when a woman does this, it is expected. When a man does, it is lauded. That is the patriarchal sentiment that must break. A man taking care of a child on a flight cannot be pedestalised. The child is as much his, and he must take and share equal responsibility.
When you are again and again made to feel inadequate because you have chosen to not have a partner, when your ideas on gender parity, the fight and the movement are questioned again and again, there is a special kind of strength that is needed to fortify oneself over and over again to succeed and stand by what you believe is important for you. When your slightest illness, your slightest mood swing is attached to absence of a man – often termed loosely as being lonely – primarily because the idea of being at peace with oneself is still unheard of for society it there is a consistent attack on one’s self-esteem and thought process.
Local travel morphs into an apparent safety net when a man accompanies you. Why? Why this assumption and why are we okay with this?
Every woman villain in every mythology or fairytale ever, is always the proverbial prototype of a single woman, in control of her desire, ambition, voice and sexuality, and utter refusal for being submissive she is demonised for exactly these traits. In this world, with such acerbic language and stereotyping, as alone women it takes courage to hold one’s head up high, and not get affected by any of this. Yet, an attack is always painful. I will not shy away from saying that vulnerability and sadness is a part of this journey. But one goes back to the deep crevices of one’s mind and rationally decodes this conditioning to emerge even stronger, and call it out every single time.
Travelling is assumed ‘safer’ when a man is with you. Local travel morphs into an apparent safety net when a man accompanies you. Why? Why this assumption and why are we okay with this? The idea of space, how we use it, has also been institutionalised in gender codes. We must build together, an environment, physically, spatially, financially and emotionally that encourages women, our freedom and complete autonomy.
Also read: Why Is Marriage An Ultimatum For Women?
Often, the greatest strength we draw are from women solidarities. From other women fighting their own personal political battles each day. We draw from each other’s struggles, each other’s survival stories. We empower each other with our own experiences, and how we’ve fought to make sure we live just as we want to.
33 and still counting. Single and proud. Eternally fighting. Because we must.
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