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Of what good is judgement? Here is an open letter to ‘well-meaning’ aunties, that calls us out on our double standards.
I may have easily read more than a hundred articles by now – on how the mindset of the men in our country needs to change, their attitude towards women, and how we all (women, that is!) must come together to form a bond in order to change this. Perhaps a reason this change seems to be progressing at a snail’s pace is that it’s not just the men but the women who too harbor an attitude of apathy towards young women. So here’s to all the ‘well meaning’ aunties who surge ahead in their attempt to ‘preserve the honour of their gender’.
I come from a family of liberal people who do not believe that legs are the devil. That being said, I do not dress up like a Christmas tree to head to the neighbourhood grocery store or to run errands. But yes, I do wear skirts, dresses or shorts as and when the mood strikes, the weather permits, or the occasion seems to be in accordance with the outfit.
Do not stare at me disapprovingly and expect me to lower my gaze in embarrassment. I am free to choose, live my life, and dress as I see fit. Instead of expecting me to cover up, lest I ‘arouse’ your sons, teach them to respect my choices as a young woman, and not treat my body or me as a tool to satisfy their urges.
I love the new Dominos ad where the young woman steps out of her room in a sari with a beautifully styled blouse. Even though her husband thinks it may be a bit much, it is the mother-in-law who compliments her and tells her that she is looking fabulous! That’s what is needed – women who bolster our self esteem and not bring us down.
I live in a world surrounded by ever-changing technology and information. I read books by the dozen (which is my average week’s count) and read 3 newspapers daily. I have friends and acquaintances from various backgrounds and professions and hence I know more than how to make rotis and dal and iron a shirt with extreme precision. Though my ironing abilities are top notch, I do admit to being a bull in a china shop when it comes to the kitchen.
Do not label me loud and rude just because I refuse to sit quiet and pretty instead of engaging in a conversation about global affairs or lifestyle issues. I happen to be well-read and have the capacity to think and form opinions on various topics. Instead of commenting that I know/speak ‘too much for my age’ (translation – for a woman), appreciate my confidence and the fact that I can hold my own in any situation or circumstance instead of needing a man to help me understand things around me.
Well, of course I am not perfect and have my share of vices. So what if having a drink occasionally is one of them? I’m not one to sit every evening at a pub but I do enjoy a drink now and then when out socially. Does that mean I would always end up inebriated and irresponsible? Or perhaps ‘responsible’ for enticing men around me or in general giving off an impression of being available or easy?
Is alcohol purely a male-exclusive commodity? I do take responsibility for times when I would have exceeded my own defined norms on how much may be too much. But that does not mean that I can be denied the right to choose how I wish to live my life or rather, what I wish to indulge in.
Do not assume that by doing so I am automatically a bad influence and that just because I may wish to do something, I am holding a gun to everyone’s head to do the same. I have stated one, but ‘vices’ may of course vary for each woman. Before telling a woman what is wrong or immoral or harmful, respect the fact that she can come to a decision on her own.
If you do wish to state reasons for why something should not be done, see the capacity in which she indulges herself and whether she is aware of the same or not. Do not jump to draw conclusions about who she is as an individual based on what her glass is filled with.
Not all my social plans end at 6 pm, well before dusk. There are various things I am interested in – like art, photography, comedy shows, theatre, movies etc.- which do not take place in the middle of the day. So inevitably, it would be a couple of hours before I return home, which may be either by driving home or with trusted friends who drop me safely till my doorstep. More often than not, it is usually the friends.
Do not judge me as having ‘loose morals’ just because I choose to go out in the evening or enjoy the occasional party at a restaurant or club. I do not go out every night till 2 am, contrary to popular belief, but the evenings that I do head out, I am aware of where I am going and with whom. I may have many friends but only a selected few are the ones I see on a regular basis, all of whom I have known for almost a decade now.
I’ve grown up in a world where men and women are not two different species, and are allowed to interact. Having studied in a co-ed school, I had the opportunity to interact with boys and form friendships, some of which still exist beyond the casual greetings and birthday wishes. Today I have a few, yet wonderful male friends. These are the men who have stuck by me through thick and thin. They provide support, humour, love and friendship. As much as they may get on my nerves at times and vice versa, I am sure we have seen each other through most of our major milestones – colleges, jobs, and relationships.
Do not label me as ‘fast’ and assume that just because I have male friends, I am up to no good. If I am out for coffee with a boy/man, he is not my ‘lover’ or ‘boyfriend’ but a dear friend who I wish to catch up with or simply reminisce about the good old days and the fun we had or plan to soon.
Just because I go out with male friends and may come back post sunset upon meeting them after a movie or concert, does not imply an agenda on either side. I know the meaning of friendship and what it brings to one’s life to have those whom we can count on always, and so I do not base my decision on the gender – it has to do with the individual.
Of course there are many more reasons due to which we women feel targeted or judged. My message to all these opinionated aunties is simply this – inequality, disrespect and crime against women would not come to an end till we all make a conscious effort to put our comments and negative opinions to an end. How do we expect men to treat us better when we cannot do so for each other as women?
Pic credit: Pio1976 (Used under a CC license)
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