Women should be humble? The youth say, not anymore
‘Hadd mein raho, ladki ho.‘Many young women are subject to this, and other reprimands, as they begin to find their own voice. In a country like India which values its tradition of obedience to authority by seniority according to age, this is a particularly common phenomenon, women will tell you. In the hierarchy of those who are expected and allowed to have individuality, women rank near the lowest rungs.
A woman’s adolescence, adolescence and youth are ripe years to make her a valued product of patriarchy. She is impressionable, mature, makes perceptions of the world – the mud is wet to be molded into a desirable, conformist, conventional figure. Unfortunately, this period of a woman’s life is also when she begins to find an identity.
From then on, a clash arises. So many longings for freedom are crushed every day when women are forced to give in to the oppressive dictates of society and family telling her how to behave, what to wear, where to go, what to do as an “Indian maid”. naari.’ Because does everyone have the privilege of rebelling? Couldn’t asking for your rights cost some women their safety?
So they are silenced.
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But it is a feature of modern social media-fueled generations that unjust control will always be held accountable and protested against. Today, legions of fiery young women are rising up and saying they are done with the outdated cultural decree of charam to be aurat ka gehna.
Young people realize how games of gender oppression have been played on the sexist demand for women’s dignity.
When a woman says #MeToo, she’s the one blamed. The horrific Shahdara assault incident in Delhi, in which a survivor was publicly shamed, is further proof of this. When a neighbor calls her “cowardly”, “characterless”, or by some other limiting label, she is said to have let down her family’s honor. When a woman calls for social justice on the internet, she is heavily criticized for having an opinion.
By generalizing the fear of being ostracized if they dare to do differently from what they are supposed to do as wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends or even internet accounts, women have been kept online for centuries . For how much longer ?
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At a time when the fervor and the need to move towards an egalitarian society are at their height, many young women are shedding the shame imposed on them. They are no longer afraid of being “quick” – a common label for women who are seen as being too smart, meaning having legitimate and stubborn opinions.
Why do we have to bend down and touch the feet of a harassing loved one? Why must we remain silent in the face of gender abuse and prejudice? Why do we need to “take in our stride” the overt discrimination that is prevalent in workplaces, homes, colleges, schools, social media? Why do we have to lean towards elders who don’t believe in mutual respect? Why do we have to consider an oppressor on the groundless basis that he was born before us?
Should women’s rights be curtailed if men aren’t decent enough to make sure their toxic masculinity doesn’t threaten our safety on the streets? Who should be kept behind doors, predators or targets? Instead of policing women, shouldn’t society focus on better educating its sons?
These are valid questions that young women today are asking. With the resources of the digital age and a global sisterhood, youth are rising up to demand the equality that has been denied to generations of mothers and grandmothers. If it takes our humility into play, so be it.
The opinions expressed are those of the author.