International Women’s day was ten days ago. I wanted to post this letter but decided that I did not have to wait for women’s day to say what I want to say. Why I didn’t write this letter before is a question that I don’t have an answer to.
In the world of Putin and the Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who said that women, above all, are mothers and they smile even amidst the chaos that their day put them up with and they are victims of their own economic independence and Chinese malls offering discounts to good looking women after their faces have been scanned — I write an open letter to homo sapiens.
My letter is not-independent of geography, age, or culture. We fool ourselves when we say we are unbiased and independent of our circumstances and surroundings.
Shall we begin?
Let’s start with what makes me proud and happy and giggly —
Thank you, mummy and papa, that to pay respect you did not make me touch the dusty feet of the uncles and aunties, like my brother had to. You think of unmarried girls until they get their periods as goddesses and that saved me from the unsavory feet touching. You did not give us ( to me and my sister), after a certain age, any outside house chores such as going to the grocery store to buy tomatoes or getting the grinder repaired. Instead, I could watch the Donald Duck’s evening show uninterrupted.
Thanks to the world and its strangers who assume that I would be nicer and gentler (than men) and for thinking of me as trustworthy.
I thank men for all the help they offer. You hold doors, pull out chairs, and move out of our way, sometimes. I can carry my suitcase but I feel nice when a passing-by you offer help.
I thank the world to give me Cleopatra-like attention when I walk or enter a room or a pub or a garden or any other place. You make me feel that as a woman I have an upper hand at being. My breasts feel like my weapons.
That’s how far the giggles last. Now let us come to the raw realities of being a woman.
A lot of what I would say is India specific. But India is not just India. We are 1.3 billion people and growing. We are seventeen percent of the world’s population. We are anything — but not just India.
To my Indian parents.
I thanked you for sparing me from house chores but I wonder if I was free or bound within our home as I couldn’t go out for many other activities such as an evening badminton match in my school. This homebound life never allowed me to think of myself much outside of academics.
Why were I and my sister supposed to cook when we were young? Why not our brother? Why was the almond milk only for him and not for us? Didn’t we need it more? Do you know that I sometimes still place myself below men because that is the disparity you created in a child’s mind?
Papa, why can’t I sit on a scooter with legs either side? Can you explain this logically? Could I even ask? Even when I wear decent clothes why do you want me to wear something more bedsheet-like? Why do you have such a huge male ego that all women of the family combined cannot satisfy it even by obeying you twenty-four hours?
Why both of you think that you can say hurtful things to me and not to your son? You think he would stop talking to you? Wouldn’t I do the same? But most of the times you justify what you say by telling me how you worry for me and I am a woman and the world is not safe. Don’t you think I know that this justification is your trump card and you actually want me to obey you or at least a man from the family? That your biggest problem is that how can I decide for myself even when I am a girl.
Why do you say that my in-laws would not let me do something and that I wouldn’t belong to you? Why did you have me if you had to give me away? And when I ask you, you say because such is society. Why are you afraid of the society? Why every second of my life you wanted me to behave not as a human being but as a respectable girl and a woman who should stay in her boundaries and is only allowed limited happiness and freedom and independence and laughter? Why was the society always more important than my happiness?
The best thing you did, and I am thankful, was to send me to another city to study when I was young so that I could avoid and outgrow these baseless nuisances as much as I could. I know it was hard for you. But that one decision couldn’t overshadow all these impactful behavioral defects.
To the Indian society.
Why do you assume that women can easily survive a full day on fruits and water and sometimes not even those to pray for their men? Why do the men never fast in your most pious books?
Why should I be religious and the organized member of the family? Why are my recklessness and atheism the end of the world?
Why does every matrimonial advertisement (they exist) say we want a fair, slim, well-educated, family valued, working girl? What the fuck are values? I pretended to participate but don’t you think these matrimonial ads should have outdated a long time ago?
Why did my and my girlfriends’ marriageable age come before my male friends? The chances that we would marry the men within our circle are high. Then shouldn’t we marry the men our age? Where do we find older men? This disparity gives the men around us an upper edge. They blame us for making them think of marriage; they are young and marriage is only our problem, not theirs. Their marriageable age as per them is the lifespan of a tortoise. And let us not forget that I only thought of marriage as your forced me to.
Why can’t you accept that I don’t want babies? Why would I be loving and gentle or motherly with children if I am a woman? Because I can shoot out a child out of my body? Let me break the ice — many of us have no motherly instincts. We are not up for sacrifices and changing diapers and admiring the mushed tushy of the child when we apply Johnson’s baby powder. We still cannot take care of ourselves properly.
Why do I take a step back when it comes to career and identity? I have worked hard to make myself who I am. Why should adjustments come naturally to me and not to the man? Why do you have it so ingrained that my own family thinks so?
Why do random uncles become our guardians? Because they are the men, patriarchs of their families, so, of course of the neighborhood. Or because we belong to the same geography and caste? But above all — because we are single and alone women in the jungles of the big city? How can they adopt me without any paperwork?
Why do you judge and make me feel guilty if I enjoy or roam around alone? Am I not entitled to independence and freedom and taking care of myself? The system is such, the society is such, what would people think — don’t you know that I don’t give a shit?
Why are all your rules different for men and women? Why are women and girls supposed to be more submissive and accepting and patient?
To Indian men.
Why do you stare as if someone froze you? Even the youngest and the oldest of you. The married and the unmarried. Walking with your partner and alone. You know that we know. You still don’t care. What do you get by piercing your eyes into us continuously?
Women are exhausted from not being able to go unnoticed. Especially, when we study and work in fields in which we are outnumbered by you. If it were the other way round, women would have also stared at you. But this put-yourself-in-other’s-shoes thing wears out.
Why can’t I enjoy a crowded public place such as a colorful Indian fair without getting groped? I know the biological reasons that explain your obsession with breasts. But please don’t be so cheap all the time.
You grope us in dark alleys and in open grounds. You stalk us. We receive hairy-dick pictures from the most random of you. We receive “fraand” request on Facebook and Instagram and Quora and any other social app because our hair looks nice and that compliment should be enough to get together with you alone.
Nothing is wrong in appreciating beauty. You make Tinder no big deal for us but how do you expect us to appreciate when we know that this Cleopatra-like attention comes at a grave cost?
Would you like if a big hoarding with your beautiful photo is put up at the main city junction but people jerk-off looking at it? That is how we feel all the time.
To the whole world.
Why is beauty a virtue that a woman must possess? Why can’t my eyebrows be bushy and my skin rough? The phases of my life when the world did not consider me beautiful were the lowest. The people around you make it tough. Like if you are pretty they make it easy.
Why do we have to wear bras? They are suffocating and harmful. Why don’t teachers teach in school or mothers tell their daughters that bras are not needed? Why is rather so much money being spent on makeup videos and products?
Why do we have periods every month? Isn’t it insane that you bleed every twenty-eight days for 3-4 days in excruciating pain? Why should I hide that I am on periods? Pain and bad mood and oozing blood — Am I not going through enough that I have to be Sherlock Holmes too?
If I want children then why can’t my husband or boyfriend do it?
Why do I have to be scared of getting raped as I wander alone? Why do I have to think of safety all the time? Shouldn’t we as a society fix this?
Why does every male family member try to come onto us sexually? And you can’t even tell your parents most of the times. If you do, their beliefs would break and their distrust, when it comes to their daughter, in the world would increase. The daughter’s independence — whatever little chunk she has — would be taken away.
Why are we supposed to suffer behind the scenes? Why are the rules of society more applicable to women than men? Why can’t we catch a break?
This letter is a rant, a vent, some questions, some thoughts, some dark truths, some ugly realities, some positives, some sufferings, some childhood pains, some untold stories — small and big nuisances spread throughout a woman’s day and life.
I wrote this letter because no matter how positive and giggly women are, as we cannot cry all the time for what is wrong and unjust and redundant, we should not go through what we go through daily. No one should. Some of the behaviors are even considered natural and nothing is being done to fix them — that is my biggest pain. I would be happy if after reading this letter, even one parent or one Indian man or one person from the world changes one thing that would make the world a better place for women. That would be enough. My purpose of writing this letter would be achieved.
I wrote and I wrote. But then I got tired. So, I wrote this fun song. Sing it along.
Don’t think because I am a woman I would
not like whiskey or sports,
that I do not snort,
My skin isn’t milk all the time,
when winter comes it could easily belong to a crocodile,
I forget the Vaseline cocoa lotion,
we are bored to pour it on us in every morning’s commotion,
if we were to apply so much lotion,
we should open one factory each,
and didn’t you see the legs of men,
so soft that if you run your nail on them, they screech.
Why wouldn’t I eat heart-full?
Don’t expect me to share my meat or my meal.
Why do I order a side salad when I can have the lobster?
Don’t judge me if I order more than the six-member family next to the door,
the stupid green bills with Gandhi on them are mine,
I write to make my own money,
Ain’t asking no one for it buddy,
so keep your expectations in your fries.
Why would not I take more chicken from the biryani?
What else is there in life?
Action and war and gory is my style,
I see more blood than every man every month,
Oh! except for the doctors.
Why wouldn’t I climb up a wall or a tree?
my great grandfather was also once a monkey.
If I sit alone and sip whiskey,
Why do you think I would want to be hit upon?
Maybe all I wanted was whiskey with water and ice
and barbeque chicken wings and peace.
And if I like you, I would send a bourbon.
Don’t think because I am a woman I would
Don’t think because I am a woman I would
if you disturb my peace,
Now run along,
pass this letter,
pass this so that many may read,
that a woman is a woman,
that she could dissolve with the rain and fall to the earth,
that she could be the dry wood that fire the hearth,
that she is half of the world,
that a woman is a woman,
and she ain’t guilty of what she didn’t do.
How do you feel as a woman or a man in this society? Would love to know in comments.