Other women’s choices many differ from yours. That does not mean you should disrespect them or judge them.
Yes we exist. Women of all preferences, identities, and lifestyles exist. Some of us smoke, some of us drink, some of us do both and some of us do neither. Some of us want children, some of us don’t want children. Some of us want careers, some of us don’t and some want both.
We, as a society, have become so used to a stereotypical ideal of women and girls that we forget to go beyond those skewed identities. Any departure from that norm is shunned. We don’t even challenge our notion of womanhood and all it entails.
Sure, we can give birth, but that’s not it. We are beyond merely being child making and rearing machines. How many times are young girls and women stopped from pursuing a dream, an ambition or an opportunity because we are told that we shouldn’t or we can’t? That because we ought to have a baby, we need to get married. That we shouldn’t do anything that disrupts the process.
Giving birth seems to have become a burden and duty instead of a choice. And if women deviate from the notion of duty, we shun them. If women drink and smoke, it becomes a reflection of their entire being as opposed to a hobby, or a habit. When we see women not wanting to be mothers, even today, we scoff at them.
I understand that different view points are hard to grasp. Even psychology has shown that right from four months of age, children dislike those whose preferences are different from theirs and it is therefore, no easy task to wholeheartedly accept someone else’s lifestyle. But at the same time, we have no right to shame women for their choices or even judge them. It is our moral responsibility to move beyond our ‘preference’.
We are more than just a habit or a choice. We have the right to be dynamic, complex and our very own person without being compared to the norm (which is usually what a male is or does). In fact, we have a duty to bring up our daughters as individual wholes rather than fantasized parts and to remind our female peers, family and elders that they have the right to choose their lifestyle.
Right from an early age, women are taught to dislike other women and approve or disapprove of other women’s choices. Young girls see movies in which women pick on women. They hear their mothers fat-shame their friends or slut shame young girls. They’ve seen their friends gossip about and spread rumors about women they don’t like, all because we don’t have the capacity to honor women in all their various forms and personalities.
You may not agree with a woman who smokes or drink. Well, then, that’s that. You don’t agree with it. End of story. It need not become a competition of why you are better than she is, just because you don’t smoke or drink. The societal norms for women are constantly reevaluated, reshaped and many times they leave us feeling insecure and unsure. It is human to feel insecure but to put someone else down for it, is not.
The cycle is simple. We don’t like what we don’t know. We don’t enjoy what we can’t understand and we are threatened by what we do not do but others do.
But, just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t mean, you need to. You don’t either. You don’t want to drink or smoke. Don’t. You are no lesser than those who do smoke, but you’re no better. We have become a society where we praise women for taking a stand and yet shame them if we don’t agree with their stand.
Let’s learn to honor each other and our choices. Let’s try and become a society where rape, murder, terrorism and wars are shunned and those perpetuating these crimes are held guilty and punished, not a society where girls are shunned and shamed for their habits or choices that we don’t agree with.
We deserve better. We deserve to be surrounded by people who guide us, not order us. We deserve to be surrounded by mothers who teach us that we are all different and beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. We deserve to be a part of a society that applauds us for the taking the first step. We deserve to make a society where women are entire beings, not just parts.
But that process starts with us.
Next time you are tempted to shame a woman for her weight, stop and think. What message are you sending to the universe?
Next time you are tempted to tell a teenage girl to cover up, think about why? Is it because it’s cold and hence not good for her, or because you don’t like it?
Next time you tell your daughters to go easy on the make up, think twice. Is it because someone will find it ‘too loud’ or because it doesn’t go with the look she wants?
When we question ourselves, we force ourselves to acknowledged how we see ourselves. It is only when we see ourselves, that we can begin to change ourselves for the better. Where we look out for our women, for each other. It is only when we realize that none of us are better or worse, can we begin to truly form a community .
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