I don’t have a daughter, though I’ve often said my sisters are my children, but if I did have a daughter, I would want to talk to her about womanhood. This is what I would say. (PS: I write this letter regularly, not because I am pining for a daughter but because it helps me navigate how my understanding of gender changes and grows over the years, I highly recommend it).
A short poem by Aarushi Ahluwalia.
While preparing an introduction for an event at school my stepson was told not to reference his stepmother because it is “inappropriate” to do so. In India we encourage secrecy about everything that deviates from the norm but teaching children to hide divorce hurts them more than you realise.
Women are taught pain very early. Whether that is in the form of cooking accidents, puberty, self-sacrifice or childbirth, pain is an integral eventuality of womanhood. Men on the other hand feel comfortable complaining about even the slightest discomfort, and as a woman that causes me a certain amount of resentment. This is why.
A lot of times in India, we live in secret. Some of those secrets are small like drinking only when you’re out of your house, and some of them are bigger, like being gay or polyamorous. My secrets are bigger and so are those of many people, and while some of us learn to have a “real-life” where we don’t have to hide, growing up having had to hide parts of you that you were still learning to understand is not impact-free. I am the loudest person I know, but I’ve hid parts of myself for a long time, there are those parts.
I do the wrong things, often and with relish, because after spending years working myself to death for validation I realised the patriarchal agenda had succeeded at reducing me, like many other women, to just one thing. Women are expected to find their identity within roles and justify their existence by excelling at them. This is how it transformed my life the day I decided the roles would have to find their place in my life without changing me.
There is a social trend that dictates women must hate each other: the tomboy must hate the makeup artist, the homemaker must hate the career women, the bookish must hate the party girls, but in my experience I have faced more dislike from the women most similar to me than the ones that were very different. Is this real? If it is, why? Why does it feel like the feminists hate other feminists?
Very rarely in the course of human events there comes a time when we consider our mortality as a species instead of as individuals. While most of us study history, this year all of us have lived it. While our lives will eventually end, these are our stories and some of them might be remembered.
We’re often told that love and marriage aren’t the same thing and it is ordained that everything will change after marriage. Yet it is not marriage that necessitates these changes, it’s the manner in which we socially conduct affairs of the heart. Nothing changed in my life after I married, and this is why.
Young women are taught to measure themselves by the weighing-scale and in doing that we encourage eating disorders in women. Mindless dieting, meal-replacement and social shaming turn into mental health issues that we continue to ignore, but what happens when your body retaliates? What happens when eating disorders eat away at your existence?