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All genders will internalize these messages, as they have done for generations. They will become the benchmark for expectations by men, and standards to live up to for women.
Can you guess what that sound was?
No, it wasn’t a writing deadline passing by! That starts small, but persistent like the chalk on a blackboard, and soon transform into a cacophony.
This was the sound of International Women’s Day passing me by. Yesterday, 8th March 2021
Of course, I was aware of the date.
I had followed friends to see what they chose to challenge. I also planned to attend some of the interesting online events trending in the evening.
That would happen once the mundane and routine was out of the way; there was no getting away from the fact that it was a Monday, and the start to a busy week.
The morning rush out of the way, I only managed to catch the newspaper on the way to work.
I hadn’t anticipated the scale of the celebrations.
Sound-bytes, or columns really, of comments by celebrities of the past and the future about womanhood and the special qualities that womankind was endowed with, were prominent.
The day was a blur and I got around to checking messages late in the afternoon after work, over a cup of tea made by my son.
So many groups had unread messages.
There was this message raising a toast to a strong, compassionate, balanced and powerful woman. Since it was in a group where many women are there, I assumed it wasn’t for me. Power wasn’t something I seemed to have much of if it took 4 attempts at checking boxes with boats to prove I wasn’t a robot. And if I didn’t smash the computer, it was purely out of financial considerations, and definitely not compassion.
All of us were unique, a message marked forwarded many times, announced.
One message honoured me by calling me ambitious, while another called me self-sacrificing.
The confusion continued with a hindi message that assured me I could complete everyone’s sansaar, and another that said that I can make life on earth a swarg. Swag they might have meant, maybe!!
One complimented me on being nurturing and committed to my family, always looking after everyone’s needs. It’s not me, it’s the 2 hour grocery service with a premium delivery fee that means I can keep a steady supply of Kurkure and Maggi at home, I wanted to type; but then I realized the sender was my drycleaner. My erstwhile drycleaner, from the city I lived in a couple of years back, that is.
The message that assured me I was the epitome of a perfect home, gave me just a slight twinge of guilt as I snuggled deeper into the bed I had left unmade in the morning, and that all my pillow cases were of a different pattern. I reminded myself that variety, and not monotony is the spice of life, or at least, a bed comfortable enough to sleep in!
The salon adjacent to the one I usually visit messaged too. They were adding free services to their packages, and it was tempting. But what I really needed was a salon that would give me 2 hours free with a 4 hour session.
The nail spa seemed like a great idea; if only I had the presence of mind not to clip my nails really short every third day. Next year, I will work it into my calendar a month before the day.
A beacon of peace and love. Must delete this before the phone fell in the hands of my children who I holler at, so they wake up in time in the morning. This Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde transformation, would distract them from their exams.
Infinitely patient; hmm, maybe, or not, especially when the Wi-Fi is down, or when I am dealing with customer service. Ironically that message was from the RO service company who had not provided his last service.
The message which detailed the roles I play, as a mother, sister, daughter, friend, niece, mother, etc etc went into the folder I keep for updating my resume. This time I would not leave out any of my vast experience.
There were these lessons in English spelling and grammar reinforcing that I was the one that completes a man and his identity (??) without whom a hero is a zero.
Multitasker and focused the next one said. They were right, I was scrolling through all the Whatsapp groups at the same time, and I seemed quite focused on not thinking of what to plan for the dinner menu. This I had passed on to my progeny who were focused on the pizza menu for delivery.
There were these cryptic that almost spelt out “woman” in the letters it was made up of.. While I agreed to the wonderful, and marvellous (I have been working on healthy self-esteem) the “N: Nice gift to men” had me flummoxed. Maybe they meant that I would receive a nice gift from someone inspired by the many advertisements in the newspaper. Would they please check with me for the books I wanted?, And have that typo corrected, please?
So many of the messages had been forwarded by women that I made a mental note to call them and ask how they had recovered from the identity crisis that these messages were making me have.
The identity crisis soon turned to a confidence crisis when I read the message about how my divine energy would strengthen the lives around me (I can’t think of how I would do this, except for suggesting a drink to everyone, especially the sender of this message).
Then there was the one that said I was the base on which the world stands. That’s a lot to shoulder. What about the planet if I shrugged? Or sneezed? That is what I was wondering when my daughter glanced at my phone and suggested the sender be sent to remedial science classes to learn rotation and revolution.
I continued reading the messages and was giving up on understanding them….when the next message declared that I never give up, and I keep going for everyone’s sake. It must be a sign, I thought, and plugged my phone into its charger, so at least one of us would keep going. Maybe that’s how I could live up to the epithet “Winner” that was a part of these messages. Winner for having the maximum messages; both unread and not understood!!
I was regretting skipping sugar in my tea by this time. Fatigue… and then this message flashed on two groups at the same time.
I am apparently Magic. Wouldn’t I like to resort to some voodoo and black magic to figure out who thinks up these messages!
The messages definitely are very contemporary, as is obvious from those telling me the senders reserve their wishes for Alexa and Siri as they are the only ones who listen to men!! I think not getting those wishes is a small price to pay, for not having to listen to anyone!! Win-win actually. Wonder when Alexa and Siri would evolve enough to figure that out!
That’s how women’s day flashed by, by scrolling through messages reading like a list of adjectives from a primary school grammar textbook.
The messages have their origin in misogyny and patriarchy, and end up setting completely unrealistic goalposts; yet will be infinitely forwarded to and by women as well as men. Both genders will internalize these concepts, as they have done for years, actually, generations. They become the benchmark for expectations by men, and standards to live up to for women, and they will surely find their way through telecom spectrum year after year, I realized.
I finally ditched my phone to catch up with an excellent discussion on financial empowerment for women.
Since for me, each day is my day, I now plan to use what I learnt in the discussion to shop for whatever pleases me, whenever I wish to.
While I appreciate the offers on clothes, jewellery, perfumes, and art classes, I would love gift cards for museums, vacations, rock climbing expeditions, football coaching or books. Shares to add to my portfolio would be great, or they could just set up an SIP for me.
And since I plan to live each day on my terms, not as the message suggested selflessly and for others, would appreciate store/spa coupons with a year’s validity, and no minimum purchase, as a women’s day gift.
Image source: a still from the film Tumhari Sulu
Shalini is an author and a practicing doctor specializing in respiratory pathology.
Her book Stars from the Borderless Sea (2022) was longlisted for the AutHer Awards 2023 (Debut category).
Shalini was awarded a Jury Appreciation read more...
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A feminist man sometimes seems like an oxymoron, but maybe there are some out there. How is it to be married to a feminist man?
How is it to be married to a feminist man?
This is a working list. Will keep adding to it.
Do you also have a feminist man at home? And if yes, what is it to be married to him? Do share.
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Let me introduce to you the talented designer duo who have worked on these, and can be considered today’s upcoming costume designers for the screen. Gunpreet Kaur Mann and Deepali Singh.
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