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Why do women get praised for multiple roles as though they were only a sum of all these compartments and not a whole person?
In how many different ways can a woman be praised for being a juggler of socially-defined identities? Were I Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I’d have answered, “Let me count the ways.” And I would identify so many, I’d end up having to juggle them, which in turn would lead to me being praised for being a juggler.
If my rant made no sense, consider this: social rhetoric, media and popular culture frequently collaborate to reinforce the image of a (usually successful) woman playing many roles. “Wife! Mother! Daughter! Activist!”, they’ll exclaim, carving womanhood down to individual parts and a woman’s identity to an assortment of such roles. Further, this is meant to be an appreciative assessment of The One Who Does All This and More, when relational descriptors are simply reductionist labels. Because if you move in closer, you begin to see the fine print about how a wife/daughter/mother/daughter-in-law is defined, when in reality, few or none of those crisply-edited specifications could apply to individual women.
Now here comes the confusing bit: But we do manage a whole array of tasks in different capacities, don’t we? Sure we do. Many of us. And granted, a majority of women still undertake the daily grunt work of chores, picking up after their families, running errands, and it is true that additional role expectations increase stress. But would it kill anyone to just see us as PEOPLE instead of peeling apart each act and compartmentalizing it in giant containers labeled with every possible relationship a woman is ever known by?
I don’t even need to highlight how men never get told, “Oh my! Son! Husband! Father! Businessman! Secret smoker on the pot! You do so much!” Every human being regardless of gender enjoys appreciation, and women frequently shoulder society’s thankless, less respected tasks, which makes recognition a wonderful thing, but as a person, please. As a human being who belong to herself: her body, her brain, her volition; not an automaton who goes about life fulfilling her relational tags, no matter how valuable, rewarding and all-consuming they are.
As a woman, I would like to choose my war paint. Don’t plaster me with tags to the point where you can’t really see me. The loss will be yours. And as a civilization, we lose something valuable each time we can’t see the uniqueness in an individual. And heaven forbid the foisting of those definitions becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy and we begin to see ourselves as successful solely within their boundaries, or accomplished because social commentary lauds us in these specific ways. To those fracturing your identity—intentionally or otherwise—say slowly and clearly, “I may do many things, but I am wholly me.” Let’s keep pigeon-holes for the birds, shall we?
Pic credit: Hiking Artist (Used under a Creative Commons license)
Dilnavaz Bamboat's heart occupies prime South Mumbai real estate. The rest of her lives in Silicon Valley, California, where she hikes, reads, hugs redwood trees and raises a pint-sized feminist. She is the read more...
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If you want to get back to work after a break, here’s the ultimate guide to return to work programs in India from tech, finance or health sectors - for women just like you!
Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend related to personal financial planning and she shared how she had had fleeting thoughts about joining work but she was apprehensive to take the plunge. She was unaware of return to work programs available in India.
She had taken a 3-year long career break due to child care and the disconnect from the job arena that she spoke about is something several women in the same situation will relate to.
More often than not, women take a break from their careers to devote time to their kids because we still do not have a strong eco-system in place that can support new mothers, even though things are gradually changing on this front.
A married woman has to wear a sari, sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, anklets, and so much more. What do these ornaments have to do with my love, respect, and commitment to my husband?
They: Are you married?
They: But You don’t look like it
Me: (in my Mind) Why should I?
Why is being married not enough for a woman, and she needs to look married too? I am tired of such comments in the nearly four years of being married.
I believe that anything that is forced is not right. I must have a choice. I am a living human, not a puppet. And I am not stopping anyone by not following any tradition. You are free to do whatever you like to do. But do not force others. It’s depressing.