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As A Woman, Why Am I Expected To Feel Grateful About Being Allowed To Live!

Posted: January 21, 2021

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Women are grateful for such odd things all the time, from basic rights to basic considerations to the basic choices we are entitled to.

In my last session of therapy (I am aware of the privilege it comes with and grateful for it) I sat there as an 18-year-old bawling like a baby. I kept pulling tissue after tissue and trembled with each word I spoke while my therapist looked on. Her expression was unfathomable but that was also probably since my vision was blurry from all the flood in my eyes.

I discussed my childhood trauma which stemmed from an ordeal involving sexual abuse (wow! It took me all of seven minutes to type those words!) After almost a minute of silence as I wiped my nose with the 37th tissue, my therapist spoke up, “I am so sorry that you had to go through this. And thank you so much for sharing this with me.”

I looked at her and gave her a faint smile. It was nice to have gotten something off my chest that I had been carrying for the last 13 years. I was really grateful for finally being able to get it off my chest, but was I?

What an odd thing I was grateful for!

“I am really thankful you didn’t let it happen any further,” My therapist added.

“Me too,” I replied with all my courage. And that’s when I realised, what a horrible terrible thing it was to be grateful about! And I felt like I was grateful that something worse didn’t happen though I’d undergone something bad. I was grateful that I had ‘only’ been molested and nothing worse happened to me. What an odd thing to be grateful for!

That was when I realised that women are grateful for such odd things all the time. Grateful for basic rights, basic considerations, for the basic choices we are entitled to. Women in India and possibly across the world, for a long time, are expected to be grateful for some rather ridiculous things. But the fact that they are indeed grateful for all this is a clear reflection of what a terrible place we currently are in.

I remember sitting in my parents’ room a day after my 18th birthday, protesting the you-must-marry-and-keep-our-honour-intact lecture. That’s when my father told me, “You should be grateful that we are letting you complete a five-year-long course of your choice. And that we aren’t forcing you to get married at 20 like the other parents from our community.”

Why must we be grateful for these things?

Yes, father, I am indeed grateful for this honour that you have bestowed upon me. I am grateful that I was allowed to choose my career towards which I have been working for a while now. (I do acknowledge my privilege but I did work hard and cracked competitive exams. Yes, father, I am grateful that you aren’t forcing your decisions on me. I must be grateful for all this, shouldn’t I? (In case, you are my dad’s ‘mind-twin’ and didn’t get it, I was being sarcastic!)

My parents have an odd relationship and I agree with a lot of people who think our fathers don’t really deserve our mothers. I remember my mother once told me, “It could have been much worse. At least, he isn’t like so many others.” What a wonderful thing to be proud of – he’s bad but not that bad. It’s like saying you’re grateful for an extremely salty soup because hey! at least it’s not extra spicy!

Similarly, my grandmother also told me, “Yeah, he (my grandfather) was a bad man but I am grateful he wasn’t a bad human being.” Yes, grandma, you must be indebted to him for not committing any ‘sins’ or you’d have to to work towards repaying for them in heaven!

Why must we be grateful for the most basic things?

And these are probably the problems I’ve heard. I remember reading stories and article where girls were told be grateful that they were allowed to live. That they weren’t killed at birth or in the womb!

Women are constantly asked to be grateful that they are being fed, educated and are given space to live in. They are expected to be grateful for being treated with dignity and humanity.

Ambitious women across the world are told to be grateful for what they have, to be satisfied and happy with what they have. How many Hollywood movies have we seen where the ‘workaholic’ or ambitious women are ‘taught’ to slow down and to be grateful by their lovers or families?

Gratitude is often only expected of the oppressed

But have you seen any such movies for men? Oh no! They are taught to excel. And to never settle down. To never be satisfied with what they have. Or maybe you have seen movies like these but they weren’t popular enough. Thus, reinforcing my point.

‘You should be grateful that your in-laws and husbands let you work after marriage!’ ‘Oh, you should be grateful that your husband cooks.’ ‘You should be grateful we aren’t getting you married and letting you get an education.’ ‘Oh, you should be grateful that your husband doesn’t hit you!’ You should be grateful you’ve never been molested or groped or harassed or cat called.’

I remember what this guy I was really close to told me once. He said, ‘I always say a small prayer of thank you when I read news of sexual abuse on the metro and know it isn’t you.’ (Apparently, I was the only girl he knew you used the metro. I genuinely had no idea if I should take this in my pride or stride. But I won’t lie, I am grateful every time I reach home safe from the metro station.

Gratitude is an odd concept and it is often enforced only on the suppressed.

Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Katelal And Sons.

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