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“Society loves women if they stay little girls: silent and innocent,” says Paromita Bardoloi. And patriarchal society is being called out at this point with #MeToo, something that has been long coming.
The Indian girl child is told often enough that she doesn’t deserve better. That she’s nothing more than a womb. That she can’t possibly ask for more. Yet, women refuse to give up on the dream of equality, of seizing their place in the sun. Starting 6th October 2018, as part of the conversations we have at Women’s Web for the International Day of the Girl Child on 11th October, we present a special series in which a few of our best authors write about #GirlPower. Some write from their own experience as girls, some about the significant girls in their lives, and some even to future daughters – a rich tapestry of emotions that is woven with love, bravery, inspiration, hope, fear, pain, and so much more.
Patriarchy has systematically tried to keep women shut up and indoors. Right from their birth they are discriminated against, and brought up with their voices suppressed. Bolstered by some brave women speaking out, these voices are now coming out of their seclusion, says Paromita Bardoloi, and we must all as women support them, also doing our bit by letting girls’ voices be free.
As I write this, twitter is abuzz with so many women calling out men who have sexually harassed them. At work. In private spaces. Or on social media. It’s like a long suppressed cry where every one of us is crying #MeToo.
I have been a mess since the morning this all started spilling out. It feels like every woman who is sharing is telling me, my story, your story and so many of ours stories together. To process everything is taking time. Been crying and celebrating at the same time. Never before in history have so many women come together to share what we already know behind closed doors. We all know such stories, in our homes, work spaces, marriages and in public spaces. But now, we are speaking up. History is watching.
And the best part is that through social media, this is documented. And in the far future, another sister will find her courage in us. Though we will be long gone. We are beginning to form a new order. As Kyle Stephens said, “Little girls don’t stay little forever.” Society loves women if they stay little girls: silent and innocent. It serves every purpose Patriarchy sets itself up for.
It is the return of the little girls as strong women. And Patriarchy is deeply hurt. There is chaos everywhere. No one knows whom to complain to or what the consequences will be. But hang in there. For every new order to begin, the first stage is confusion.
When Women’s Web asked me to write for International Day of the Girl Child I was not sure what to write about. What is my power today as a woman in 2018? How do I empower myself and others? Despite years of studying and writing on gender, I am still not sure. There is still so much of darkness.
Patriarchy has created an ‘other woman’. That other woman has been in our narratives or in our popular imagination forever. Every girl born, is given an ‘other woman’. And she has to compete with her.
That other woman is vile, sexually active, talks too much, and brings a good man down. Little girls are told not to laugh loud or are groomed to sit cross-legged, talk in hushed voices, so that they don’t become the other woman. They are pitched against other girls.
This is how the myth of women who don’t support each other begins. And that men can wage wars against each other, still they know brotherhood, women don’t. This is how Patriarchy plays through our psyche and we are estranged from each other and us.
Married men when they have affairs with other women, it’s their manhood or problems in their marriages. But it’s women who are termed as gold diggers or men stealers. How does someone steal a man? Are men some innocent babies, that someone can steal from the cradle? This is how Patriarchy creates the vile woman, the bad woman, to serve the male gender.
Silence is another weapon used to keep this ongoing farce. If the women don’t talk about their own experiences, anyone can come and write about them. And that’s how history and social narratives are created. The prize women get is being compared with the Goddess: Pure, forgiving and forever giving. No prizes for guessing whose eco system is served.
Over the time, a golden age for women in ancient past was created, where all humans were equal. But like today we have social media or other documentation. The so called golden age did not. Just because there is lack of documentation, can we truly say, “All women were free and equal?”
There is also a constant need to take back the Indian women to that age, and the first change they ask of us are our clothes and then it asks us to be better mothers, sisters and wives. No one has any clue how to be equal but there is a golden age and we must go back there. Here is the truth; I have no clue if the golden age existed. But I know, you and I exist and exist today and now. Don’t let anyone smokescreen you. No one will take you to equality. Equality begins first when you acknowledge that you have equals rights as any other gender.
And also acknowledge that there is no ‘other woman’. It might shock you, but you too are the ‘other woman’ in someone’s story. We all are. The question now is how to practice everyday equality.
The first step is trusting your own experiences. For example, bad behavior is bad behavior it is not a man expressing his love. If you are uncomfortable in any conversation, online and otherwise, stop it there. You are not imagining things. Oh! Remember that vile woman, she also imagined things and lied.
Yeah! That woman is also a creation of the patriarchy that gaslights women. No, you are not imagining things. Trust other women’s experiences. At least listen. We women have inside us a lot of wounds; when someone acknowledges our wounds we feel heard, and that are the first step towards healing.
Unless we stop feeding this ‘other woman’ narrative, equality won’t arrive at our doorstep.
What’s the point in celebrating an International Day of the Girl Child when somewhere in our minds we have already othered a girl?
Iyanla Vanzant says, “There is only one woman, and we are all that one woman.” When we vilify one, we add to the narrative of that vilified woman. Let every woman be free. Let that free man and all other genders too.
One woman, who frees herself, frees a 1000 after and before her. May you be that woman. Amen.
You can read all #GirlPower posts here.
Image source: YouTube
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Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
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