Manasi Vidyasagar Diwate, a SY E&TC student at College of Engineering Pune has a thirst for knowledge and passion for reading. Growing up in a world of rapid technological advances, she is quite aware of the challenges women face in a developing country like India that are holding them back. In the persuit of making an educationally sound, powerful woman out of herself, she has been working hard to excel in academics while being a part of the organizing team of Technical Exhibition at MindSpark'20, COEP NSS (2019-20) and COEP TEDx. She dreams of bringing about a positive change in the society and contributing to humankind.
REALISING THE LOOPHOLES ➿
We thought education will make confident, independent, powerful women who will be valued in the society. They will be free and unafraid to speak up , just put them into schools and colleges, let them get those degree certificates and everything will fall in place. Did it ? No. Today women have more value than what it used to be a few generations back but not more than today's men. There is no free will for a woman ; it is always manipulated in the name of love, goodness and morality. Women started earning money however violence against women didn't stop. There are laws that specially protect women from violence still no woman in India is safe. Are we not going wrong somewhere? Or maybe we are doing something that is actually counteracting the Government's , NGO's, social activists', women empowerment movements' efforts to establish equality.
Usually women don't recognise what is derailing thier development and degrading their value. Hence there is no question of opposition and rebellion. They don't demand their rights and state their preferences. They are constantly smiling beings, no matter how miserable they might be, ready to please everyone around them. You really appreciate it when a woman "behaves" well and is,in general, liked by everyone. This might seem so genuine, innocent, harmless behaviour which we teach our girls that anyone might wonder what's so wrong in trying hard to be liked by everyone? It is actually harmful when it is expected only of women. Pleasing everyone and keeping others before self are thought to be virtues and are applauded in a woman. A man can please as and when he likes and may or may not be selfless, but a woman 'should' be liked by everyone and she ought to keep others before self; failing to do so gets her a post of a selfish, stubborn and self-centred person, happily conferred upon by the society. So parents are expected to teach their daughter to 'fit in' which directly implies not having a self, so that someday she will settle well in a respectable family.
There is a difference between being 'selfless' and being 'self-less' or'not having a self'. Biologically, women exist ever since Eve but culturally, women are trained not to exist. Women are supposed to disappear or appear as little as possible. They are trained to disguise, hide and keep a silence around the issues that concern their bodies. Yes, this practice still exists in India whereas it is a recent and urban phenomenon where women value, respect and pamper their bodies. This disguise, hiding and silence around a woman's body gives a wrong message to young, budding teens that something must be wrong with them because there is so much concealment and silence about it. They learn to detach themselves from their bodies and 'console' themselves with this denial of the physical self. To make matters worse, the society acknowledges this denial of body as 'good' and 'moral' practice. This is the primary reason why women are insecure; judge themselves and their bodies so much, and even if sexually assaulted , they keep a silence about it because the beings who don't have a body cannot be assaulted.
Conservative men never wanted to control their lust so the society made women stay at home, restricted their freedom under the generous banner of "it's for your own safety". It is like opening all the the jails, letting lose the criminals and we should stay at home 'for our own safety'. However, we can't stay at home forever so when women go out, they are always on high alert against all types of assaults; a miserable life.
Women are not just unsafe but they are also made to feel unsafe. They live in constant fear, not just of sexual harrassment but also of what others might say or feel, if others might approve or not, "will I be accussed, humiliated, trolled and demeaned?" Any animal who is made to feel unsafe longs for protection, and in our species as women are trained not to believe in themselves and be dependent, the society offers 'protection' under 'terms and conditions applied'. Those 'terms and conditions' includes don't speak, argue or voice your opinion; you can't be seen stamping your foot, dominating the hall or standing out but instead blend in, fit in,be modest, wait for your turn and seek approval, basically, don't annoy us and keep pampering our ego. It is rightly said that women's fears keep the society stable. It serves the society well but costs women.
Girls are trained to 'fit in' right from childhood. A 'good' girl doesn't back answer displeasing others, she is not supposed to think and use her head to claim and defend her opinions, argue or debate infront of men. The cultural words used to instill such manners might be very familiar to you-'Chup raho , itni baat karne ki jaroorat nahi hai, bado se behes nahi karte, baat maante'. If any girl speaks up, stands out and draws attention , she is termed as 'aggressive and attention-seeker', not a compliment, and is reprimanded for her behaviour. Not allowed to think and take decisions for themselves, women never learn to take responsibility. Trained to seek approval, women give way to constant self-doubt which degrades self-confidence. Endlessly pleasing others in the persuit of being a 'good' woman hazes the line between what she likes and what the other person likes. That's why most women find it difficult to choose from a set of options and say "kuch bhi chalega, tumhe jo pasand ho vo". These words may be said knowingly or unknowingly but they hamper decision-making power. Not only does it hinder growth but also robs a woman of a meaningful life. The pleasing syndrome is a deadly illness that keeps women half-alive, half-dead and unfortunately women don't realise this. The society set up the definition of a good woman to maintain its control over women, their bodies and their behaviour, and handed down the parenting plan to the following generations. This has led us to a state full of inequality and bias which we are fighting to change today.
I would like to conclude on a positive note, a solution. I request all women to, firstly, become powerful in five aspects, namely, educational, financial, scientific and technological, spiritual and if possible even political. Secondly, become aware of yourself, your preferences and learn to state your preferences no matter what. Learn to speak up and teach all men and boys to listen. Thirdly, cure yourself of the pleasing syndrome and be a strong woman. When I say you should cure yourself of this pleasing syndrome I don't mean you should start becoming aggressive. The opposite of pleasing is not agression. The opposite of pleasing is to have a self. A strong self that can choose whom to please, when to please , when to give , what and how much to give and sacrifice, and when to say no at home, on the street and in the office. The opposite of a pleasing woman is a strong woman, and I request you all to give yourself a chance to untether the strong woman in you. #TheStrongMe Movement . To clear out the real meaning of a strong woman , I have summarised what I mean by a strong woman so that you don't misunderstand me and become an archrival of everything that's directed at you. To start with appearance , a strong woman may wear a sari, a salwar kurta, jeans or any dress she feels like walking in. A strong woman may converse in Hindi , Marathi , Tamil, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Bengali or English. A lively, joyous woman throbbing with energy and enthusiasm, health and aspirations is a strong woman. A strong woman can love and care for her family as competently as any ever-sacrificing, self-erasing, self-less woman. A strong woman chooses marriage and family, early, late or never and she is not supposed to be criticized and judged negatively for the choices she makes. A strong woman chooses to work at home or work outside the home without letting the society manipulate her free will. A strong woman will sacrifice something for you and please you but she knows when to stop and say no. A strong woman is unapologetic about her choices but has the wisdom to know and accept advice if she is going in the wrong direction. A strong woman is humble to say 'I am Sorry' without making 'sorry' a tool to 'stay' a 'favourite' of all.
The twenty-first century generation of womankind deserves a more equal world and the efforts start with each one of us taking a courageous step ahead for a better life.
- Manasi Diwate