By Geeta Maheshwari
March 8 is not about offering discounts to women in stores and salons, cab rides and cinema halls, and so forth; all of which is mere tokenism. It’s about empowering women so that they can enjoy equal rights and opportunities as men, and can freely live their lives with a sense of self-worth and dignity.
There is no denying that various agencies, governments,and society have a huge responsibility to ensure a safe environment for women, an environment in which women not only survive but also thrive; but the primary responsibility of empowering women rests with women. We should stop waiting for others to do what we should be doing for “us.”The educated empowered women must take the lead and the rest will follow. It’s not a one-time thing, though. Persistence is the key here.
BE THE CHANGE
No matter what age or stage we are at in life, we can inspire and empower other women by changing our behaviors and attitudes and thus make every day International women’s day. Here you go:
• Respect yourself & other women.
• Strive to be better than yourself, not better than men. Understand that women and men are meant to complement each other, not compete with one another. You can’t empower yourself by disempowering men. Carve your own niche.
• Know what you want. If you want gender equality than don’t ask for reservations, exemptions, separate queues and all of that. Aren’t you equal to men, then why these double standards?
• Dress up for yourself and not to make other women jealous.
• Behave responsibly. The onus of taking care of your body is on you, not on men.
• Be supportive of female colleagues/employees. Understand their stress and reach out to them. Make them comfortable. Show that you care for womanhood.
• Don’t badmouth your girlfriends and other women in your life to your partner or male friends. Be their strength, inspiration and motivation, and never betray their secrets.
• Do not label, judge, body shame, slut shame other women. You have no right to.
• If you wish to not be seen as a mere object of gratification, don’t behave like one. Enjoying and dancing to item numbers with vulgar lyrics is consenting to objectification.
• Don’t use your being a woman to seek any favors from men.
• Stay in control. Women have learned to be helpless because it is rewarding in the short term. But it isdisempowering in the long term. Get hold of your life, brush up your knowledge, work on your self-esteem, keep fit mentally and physically, and be confident.
• Manage your finances. If you can earn the money, you can manage it, too. Don’t leave it to your father, brother or partner to decide where and how you will invest. Ask questions, discuss and then decide, and if need be hire a financial consultant.
• Most “light hearted” stuff posted 24/7 on social/digital media is about women being dumb, jealous, motor mouths who are after money only. Liking /LOLing/forwarding these so-called jokes shows that you agree with the image of woman created by these posts, and are also rewarding the sender. Remember there is a little truth in every just kidding. No liking/forwarding jokes demeaning men either. Like I said earlier, you can’t empower yourself at the cost of men.
• Do not speak sexist curse words. A mean woman is NOT a “b***h”.
• Help women in distress. If you see a woman stranded on the road or being harassed at office or any such thing, don’t look the other way. Help her in any which way possible. Remember that if you do not side with the oppressed, you are siding with the oppressor.
• Learn to drive, fix gadgets, book your tickets, buy your jewelry, and so forth. Behaving like a damsel in distress is disempowering.
• When you decide to marry, make sure your matrimonial ad gives information about your qualifications, hobbies and interests, rather than how tall/fair/beautiful you are.
• Prepare for your marriage and not just the wedding. A happy marriage empowers the couple to deal with the stresses that are an inherent part of family life, and makes women less likely to be victims of domestic violence.
• Sign a prenuptial agreement, as divorce negatively impacts women more than men.
• Keep your wedding simple. By over-investing in the wedding you are setting a trend other women may not be able to afford.
• Patriarchy is hardwired in our society and most rituals are an offshoot of this mindset. Have the courage to do way with such rituals.
• Expect to birth a normal healthy baby, not male or female. Thank God for the PNDT act. Most female foeticides were done by apparently empowered women.
• Treat your girl child at par with the male child. House rules should apply to both of them equally. If your daughter must get back home before a particular time, make sure your son does too.
• Stop telling your children fairy tales of the 17th century, that have created a very negative image of women (step mothers) as mean and evil, and that of young girls as helpless beautiful,helpless victims of circumstances waiting to be rescued by their prince charming. Tell them about real life Sheroes instead.
• Don’t tell your daughter that she is short or tall, thin or fat, or any such thing that places emphasis on her physical appearance. Your aim should be to raise a compassionate child who will grow up to live her life with integrity and honesty, and not just a pretty face.
• Invest in your daughter as much you would invest in your son in terms of time, money, love and affection. Allow her to choose her career and support her. Don’t tell her which professions are most suitable for women. Give her the freedom to live her life just as you would let your son live his life. Teach your son about consent and don’t ignore his bad behavior by saying, “boys will be boys.”
• There is more to a woman than just being a mother and a wife. Stop looking down on women who have not birthed a child or those that are divorcees, new wives, or step mothers. Respect their circumstances/choices.
• Support your daughter-in-law. Encourage her and appreciate her for what she does, rather than putting undue pressure on her to be a super-woman.
• Refrain from putting yourself in situations that disempower: Adultery, remarriage, step families, and the like.
Remember that alone you can make a difference, but together we can rock the world. Cheers to womanhood!
Geeta Maheshwari is a psychiatrist and an author, practising in Delhi.
Cover photo credit: Vinita Agrawal