Why Is A Woman Told To Suck It Up And Smile Despite Abuse?

She kept trying to fix her ma's depression for the lack of a boy child from a young age. Only to give up 'control' to her boyfriend - the 'man' in her life to emotionally manipulate her in the name of love.

Ramaa was ten years when her parents asked her “Kanna, would you want a baby sister or brother?” She naively answered, “A baby sister, because we can share toys!”

After her sister was born, her Amma used to keep telling her, “God listens to a child’s wish. Why did you ask for a girl? I wanted a boy,” with a disapproving frown.

Are girls a ‘curse’ for the family?

It was at that innocent age that she formed a belief that a girl is a curse. Not only that, she thought that she brought upon this bad omen.

With heartbroken tears, Ramaa asked, “Why, ma?”

To make it worse, her ma explained, “Both of you can’t perform my final rites. Both of you will leave Appa and me when you get married. It’s a curse from your dad’s family. All the children born are girls!”

Ramaa always thought she was disadvantaged. As though she was never enough.

It was as though this moment determined her next fifteen years as a crippling codependent. She kept trying to fix her ma’s depression for the lack of a boy child from a young age. Only to give up ‘control’ to her boyfriend – the ‘man’ in her life to emotionally manipulate her in the name of love.

It’s scary how small things parents do affect us for years together. Not only that, it takes years worth of therapy sessions to overcome.

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Ramaa tried opening up to her father about her mental health. She couldn’t take another day with her ma’s unrealistic expectations. But he brushed her off, telling her she was supposed to take care of her mom. “If you don’t take her of her, who will? She’s family!”

“If you are born a girl, you are bound to endure pain and suffering.” Ramaa hears her mother’s words echoing in her mind.

What if the woman can’t take any more suffering?

She remembers the time her Athai (aunt) Rani, who had complained about body aches from her husband physically abusing her. Rani was not taken seriously and told to put up with it a be a good housewife because her family gave her off and it’s no longer their business. Soon after, Rani passed away from unbearable pain.

Ramaa wishes she could have been born a boy

She sees the hypocrisy when society calls her a goddess who is celebrated after her first period. But ironically, the same woman is treated like a disgusting creature when she gets her subsequent periods pushed to a corner. The woman is not allowed to enter the home, stay in her room, sleep on the floor, and be served food pushed to her from a distance like in a jail. Surprisingly, she is ill-treated when she is in pain and needs to rest.

But a boy can go out whenever he wants. He also has permission to do anything he wants.

Ramaa was always lectured about keeping her family’s honour and not falling in love with a boy. She was said to keep her parent’s trust by letting them choose her suitor. It’s shocking how much parents try to control their children in the name of “trust”.

But, she feels infuriated when her Anna (cousin brother) was allowed to marry a woman of a different caste as per his choice when her parents supported him and stood by his side.

Sadly, it’s things like this that lead Ramaa to believe that it’s truly a curse to be born as a woman in this life. How did it come to this?

The same abuse of women generation after generation

Ramaa’s Paati (grandmother) kept quiet through all the emotional abuse her husband caused her. She never spoke a word about her pain. She was always cheerful. She was a wonderful person, but it was as though she set a standard for women in our family on how to mask our feelings. Ramaa’s family of women had to live through years of generational trauma, let alone the anguish caused by their spouses while smiling outside.

Although there is darkness all over, there is a ray of hope somewhere at the end of the tunnel.

Ramaa is now a bold woman writing this piece. She is proud of herself and the trauma she overcame. She promises not to carry this behavior forward with her kids. She realizes that while life can be difficult when the people around you strive to make it harder for you, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, somewhere. She knows she has to stand up for herself and fight against the blatant sexism happening in her life and the woman around her.

Image source: a still from short film Everything is Fine

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