Take a bow with grace

Women in India“It feels painful right now, but I can take a bow with grace.”

At the height of a political tension, I got a very emotional email from a young woman MP. I admire her because she chose to lose and be consistent with what she stands for instead of turning herself into an opportunist who jumps off to where she can find shield and greener pasture. A woman who explicitly speaks about contentious topics easily becomes vulnerable particularly in a male dominated society.

Someone told me I am married to my work and that I talk about it anywhere even on Facebook. He expressed his annoyance on some of my posts where I rant about how conventional media is shaping women’s mindset, making them feel that being inferior and martyr is the way to show their love for a man is true.

Is it okay to say I understand his irritation because he is a man? I am not sure if saying so doesn’t make me stereotypical. What I know for sure is that the depth at which men view women as subordinates is too deep I don’t think I will ever witness the end of women’s fight for basic human rights ending in my lifetime. Awareness alone is not enough to change a man –or a woman’s—long held beliefs of gender roles and cultural norms which are the main culprit of gender violence. It requires a man’s recognition that something is wrong in our society and make the effort to confront his cemented mindset of gender roles; I understand this is not easy. It also stems from a woman’s recognition of her value and rights, and learn to stand up for what she deserves; I understand this is not easy too.

It feels odd why I have to explain to him why I post so much about feminism –I could have just said that men like you who prefer to keep a blind eye is the reason why I do what I do — but I did explain.

A colleague once asked me, “How do we really end violence against women?” I can imagine thousands of answers sprouting in my head like mushrooms that suddenly transformed into a web where one is interlinked to the other. I chose a simple answer, “It must start in the family.”

Children conceive the pillars of their consciousness at home. Unfortunately the case is often where young boys see how their father dominates in the family and young girls see how their mother accepts their inferior role. Then they go to school and read textbooks filled with gender biases and immerse themselves in a society that reaffirms this set up.

Gender violence and inequality have several facets and faces and I understand the importance of tailoring our subject on what people can relate. I have diverse friends on Facebook of which many of them are empowered women. Still, I post if only to keep the idea floating. Who knows it can provoke someone into evaluating his/her preconceived notions around these issues?

I know a lot of women who lost their confidence after a breakup. They start to question their value thinking it is not enough for a man to continue loving her. They carry this feeling of inadequacy without realizing it manifests in how they view themselves, how they relate to others, how they work and in general how they live. Some women are so weak the only way they restore their self-affirmation is to get the man back by pleasing him. Submissiveness is never a genuine act of love because if we cannot see our own worth, we can never learn how to truly value other’s worth.

How women handle a relationship is carried over marriage and what she imparts to her children. I cannot be so idealistic as to think I can change the world. But I am hoping to extend my message in whatever ways I can that our value lies within us, not on how we are treated by a man. We should not allow men’s intimidation –be it in a relationship, in school, at work– to hinder us from reaching our fullest potential. As long as we allow a man to affect us and paralyze our morale, our gender will always be looked upon as weak and incapacitated.

Women India

I believe in the ripple effect and I understand that the principal individuals we can influence are those around us. I cannot inculcate any insights to women –or men– I could not reach out. I don’t know if my writings make any difference although my mom once told me someone who is not even my Facebook friend but who gets to read some of my public posts said it inspired her. After all, this is what matters most right? Making a difference on how one person feels about herself/himself is more than enough.

I may be married to my work but this is only because what I do is not just a means to earn a living, it has become my calling, my vocation. A colleague told me that I have this personality appeal that makes people to want to talk to me, which perhaps she noticed when a lot of our colleagues would comfortably email me. Somehow I managed to bestow myself with the license to be a certified confidante for longer than I can remember. In fact our school principal before has warned me that if I continue to be like this – a sponge – I will face the problem of not being able to deal with my own emotional turmoil. She was right.

Despite my own emotional struggles and burnout, I rise each day and keep going. I always remind myself that my adversities are nothing more than the suffering faced by other women; those women whose tongue were cut and electrified in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s time; women who experienced genital mutilation in Africa; women who were raped, trafficked; the cases of violence are enormous. I rise because it takes one woman to inspire another. And like what the woman parliamentarian had said, we must take each bow with grace.

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