Woman-hood

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By Tinky Ningombam

As I sat down to write (type) today, I stared at the blank page for a good 15 minutes. Considering I have been sounding the bugle for feminism for as long as I can remember, I should have made up my mind on what to say on Women’s Day. But this time was different; somehow I was tired of talking. It seemed as though people didn’t listen. Or if they did, no-one bothered to do anything about it. It seemed that in every aspect of life, women seemed to get victimized.

On the countless occasions where I have fought men with dysfunctional machismo, I have always been rebuked with how only men can fend for themselves and the women and how a man is primarily responsible for making the social fabric work. There were however a couple of culprits who spoilt it for the rest of man-kind in my eyes and one thing that rang in my mind after almost 10 years is one line that made me actually hate men for some time. In a desperate last attempt, this person said “No matter how much you scream or shout about women’s rights now, eventually you will be end up washing clothes for your husband and cooking his food.”

Now there are more than a couple of things wrong with this statement.

1. That to most people, this will not be offensive

2. That it demeans the noble chores of a housewife

3. That housewives are made to believe these are “noble chores”

4. That it is not so noble anymore when men do it

5. That household chores are considered a penalty for career-oriented women, a reminder for them to show subservience

I am definitely of the belief that when there was a distribution of job roles, women were not able to read the contract and obviously picked the wrong set of responsibilities. A majority being that of serving and pleasing the man.

So the reason that I drew a blank before is not because I have less reasons to, but it is because no matter how much I preach, somehow every man and almost every woman tries to chisel you to the right shape and size. Because every time I hear a woman apologize to another for how badly her daughter cooks food, I feel like jumping off the cliff. But of course, besides knowing how to juggle work with her personal aspirations, she has to know how to keep the house organized, how to raise kids, how to cook and how to nurse people back to health.

I was reading Osho’s The Book of Woman the other day, in which he said, that the man have always used woman to help him better his cause. First was when he told the woman that being a house-wife and serving the husband are the signs of a fulfilling life. After a couple of years, they sent women out to work and told them to be independent so that they earn money as well as serve him.  Now this might be a little harsh but still has the benefit of doubt.

In these past 100 years, feminist movements have led innumerable battles but somehow, it still seems like it is moving in snail’s pace. Every once in a while, we see an upsurge somewhere in the world and it leaves behind waves. “Women of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your vacuum cleaner!”  These are immortal words of Betty Friedan, American feminist writer, author of The Feminist Mystique. The Feminist Mystique, 1963, was a game-changer for the feminist cause in the U.S. Her book was about suburban house-wives between World War II and 1960, “when women married young, abandoned their ambitions, had large families that fueled the baby boom, moved to the suburbs and valued femininity above all else.” (Janet Maslin, NYTimes)

This was the United States where women were given privileges, they were educated and they could opt to work but who didn’t. In the book, Freidan has a phrase for the angst of unfulfilled aspiration; she called it “The problem that has no name”

“Feminist Mystique, Friedan –

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The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped the groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question- “Is this all?”

Honestly I have no qualms of the life of a home-maker; I feel it is an enormous responsibility that the woman willingly takes to be a stay-at-home mom or a stay-at-home wife. What I don’t like is the fact that most women do it either because they feel scared to compete with men or they succumb to the situation or compromise their aspirations for the man. And especially if it is to re-enforce femininity. Why would the woman change who they are or give up what they truly want just to co-exist in a society which doesn’t give anything back but mould you into a carbon copy of the image of another “ideal woman”?

I believe that a woman should pick her own role that she wants for herself and not just play second fiddle. I believe that every woman has a unique calling that she and only she can fulfill. So whether its being a home-maker, a CEO, a politician or an artist, a woman should live her life in her own terms and she doesn’t need to prove her femininity. I believe that woman-hood is when a woman has a life of her own.

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