Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day - Saluting the spirit of womanhood

"A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water".
                                                                                                                                         - Eleanor Roosevelt

This is one of my favorite quotes on women. For every instance that a woman is ridiculed for being physically weak, impractical, irrational and emotional, there will emerge another who will silence all the naysayers by demonstrating extraordinary strength and resilience in the face of great adversity. I read somewhere that when the question was asked as to why there is no man's day, the instant reply was, "isn't everyday man's day???" I thought to myself how true that statement was! This is a man's world and I don't know if a day will come in the future when that skewed equation will change. 

I consider myself to be a liberal feminist. I believe in equal political, economic and social rights and equal opportunities for women. After all, women are the the source of life, the heart and soul of every family and the emotional backbone of any relationship. It isn't easy being a woman - multitasking, putting everyone else's needs first and juggling different roles and responsibilities throughout a lifetime of constant prejudice and judgment is something our gender can never escape from. In spite of that, I can honestly say that I am proud to be a woman and I wouldn't have it any other way! The bonds that a woman forges during her life, be it the one that a daughter shares with her parents, a mother shares with her child, a sister shares with her siblings or a friend shares with her best friends is something a man can never surpass. Somehow, every relationship gains more depth and becomes more heartfelt when a woman is involved. It is true to a great extent that a woman thinks with her heart rather than her head.....but is that such a bad thing?? Maybe that's just the way the creator intended it to be!

It is quite a relief to see that as times are changing, the mindset of society is also changing. If I look at my grandparents and parents generation, most women seem to be content with a lifetime of serving their family without any complaints. Most women of that generation either weren't given enough education or they didn't have the support of their family to even consider nurturing their own dreams and ambitions. In those days, the role of a woman was fixed. She was supposed to stay at home, cook, clean, look after the house and raise children while the man was supposed to be the one to support the family (in keeping with the neanderthal times). Even a slight change in this socially accepted norm would have people raising their eyebrows. In the present generation, if I look around, I see most of my peers actively pursuing their career and raising a family at the same time. The way of life has changed and in many ways, these changes have been for the better. Inflation and the raising standard of living has compelled more and more women to enter the workforce and strangely, this has been one of the contributing factors in their empowerment. In urban households, the stereotypical gender specific roles have somewhat diminished.  There is an increasing trend of educating the girl child, it is accepted for a woman to be financially independent, it is much more common for both husband and wife to take major familial decisions and the upbringing of children is not solely restricted to women. It is good to know that some of us luckier ones have the choice to live the life we always envisioned.

But having said all that, we cannot ignore the fact that there are two faces to a coin. For all that I have rambled on about the progress that has taken place over the years, it is a sad fact of life that we still have a long long way to go to further the cause of women's liberation. The educated class understands the demands and pressure of the present day life and adapts quickly but in many parts of the world (including where I'm from), things have still not changed. Women continue to be doormats, victims of abuse and subjugated as the 'weaker' sex. Social evils like female infanticide, child prostitution, dowry deaths, and sexual harassment are still rampant. I have lost count of the times I have turned the pages of a newspaper or watched the news only to be left seething in rage and shaking my head in utter disbelief as to how in a day and age like this, such oppression towards women can still occur. It is heartbreaking to see that many women suffer deep seated self-esteem issues and don't consider themselves worthy of the love and respect that they deserve. It is important for every woman to realize what she is capable of and free herself from the shackles that society has enslaved her in. We need more female role models to stand up and dispel the many sexist beliefs of our male-dominated society. Amelia Earhart, Arundhati Roy, Agatha Christie, J.K Rowling, Iman, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Ellen Degeneres and Malala Yousafzai are few women who come to mind when I think of strong women who have all overcome adversity to become global success stories.

This International Women's Day I would like to salute all the wonderful women who have been an integral part of my life. I would like to express my unceasing love to my mom, sister, grandmothers, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunts, cousins, teachers and best friends for standing by me and making me the person I am today. If I am ever blessed with a daughter, I will do my best to teach her to see the beauty in herself without a mirror and to evaluate her self-worth without a compliment.

A woman is god's most powerful creation - let us cherish it!


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