Today is International Women’s Day 2016. Here’s wishing all the women in the world lots of happiness and joy! Here I share my previous article.
The theme of Woman’s Day 2015 is ‘Make it Happen‘. Indeed it should be so. After all a woman is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a grand-mother. She’s caring, she’s an epitome of sacrifice, somebody worth worshiping. Even Aristotle had said, “If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning”. This world is a better place because of women and behind every successful man, there’s a woman. So guys, buy lots of nice gifts for her today, and every other day. The last bit was unnecessary. Oh well! I think I got too carried away.
To be fair, I heartily wish same happiness to all male children of these women, i.e. all boys and men of this world, young and old.
While many similar cliche` thoughts cross my mind today on this day dedicated to us wonder women, I am reminded of one of the previous writing prompts by Word Press’ The Daily Post. “Happy Happy Joy Joy.” The prompt seems appropriate for my feelings today as I probe my identity of being a woman.
The prompt asks: “We cry for lots of reasons: sadness, pain, fear . . . and happiness. When was the last time you shed tears of joy?
Yes, we all cry tears of joy occasionally. Often as an outlet of extreme happiness that we feel for our near and dear ones. While there have been many such instances in my life, I remember at least one of them.
It was when my brother called me to inform that his wife had given birth to their second child, this time a baby boy. My father’s family and extended family have always had hordes and hordes of females, something that has traditionally been often considered a worrisome matter in a patriarchal society like India.
We too are four sisters, my dad’s brother had six daughters. Like so. I myself was an unplanned child, probably a result of my parents’ trial to have a son. Maybe the third one will be a son, they must have hoped. At my birth, there was no celebration like it was when my only brother, the youngest of us siblings, was born after four girls. Not that it mattered to me. Didn’t matter when I was born nor when my brother was born, not even now. We were all a happy family and we loved him for being the baby of the house.
That doesn’t mean we girls were not loved. Our father used to argue with anyone who ever pointed out that four little girls, all under the age of seven, are a big lot. He would retort back and ask, “Why are you worried…are you going to look after them?” My mom used to tell us that she did harbor a secret desire to touch little boys’ (macho) shorts as she was tired of hanging colorful frocks on her washing clothes-line. Later on we were a line young women ready for marriage.
Now, before you start relating this scenario to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, let me narrate my specific context. In those days, that is when I was born well into the 60s, it was embedded in the psyche of most Indian families that girls leave their parents’ home while boys have a greater chance of living with them till their old age. So even if birth of a daughter did not give sorrow and it did give joy, still it was assumed that birth of a son may give a lasting joy, esp. if one already has a daughter or two.
And I shamefully admit that even though I am a feminist who fights for women’s rights…in my brother’s case, for a moment I felt quite like most others do. A feeling that, with the birth of a son, my brother’s family is complete. Even if it was a temporary fleeting feeling, it was there.
So, does it mean that much as we pretend to be the harbingers of change in the society, we ourselves are victims of the old rudimentary thoughts and beliefs? Or is it a fact that these old practices had at least some truth in them?
Of course, as I said before, in Indian context (esp. that of the times when we grew up) it was assumed that a daughter will leave her father’s home and eventually she belongs to her husband’s and her in-laws’ house. Nowadays the social dynamics have changed a lot and therefore young women don’t cry after their marriage ceremony and celebrations, but those days there were so many weepy Bollywood songs that depicted dramatic scenes of a bride leaving her parents’ home forever, as if she is dying or something. The sad tune of shehnaai music added to the woeful drama.
So yes, this thought prevailed that girls have to leave her father’s home at some stage while boys are here to stay. A son and his wife will (or may) take care of old parents. Hence, why would parents not wish for a son?
Another reason for this preference for boys is of course rooted in nature itself. Girls are naturally different from boys, therefore women are different from men. Nowadays they are trying to be like men and are almost there, aren’t they? But even in non-patriarchal societies, that is in the matriarchal societies, a girl has monthly periods and pains since puberty. Come puberty, in fact even before that, a girl becomes a liability, what with fear of rape and molestation in the hands of some barbaric man, as in this rape story. If she escapes all that, soon she faces another physical fact, that a woman has to undergo so much to become a mother. Even the simplest of deliveries are actually a ‘labor’, not to talk of caesarean section or difficult births. After becoming a mother, a woman has a life different to that of men at least for a few years. There is truth in this belief that a good mother is the foundation of good families so a mother often sacrifices her own goals or interests for her children. In most families, if husband and wife both have full-time jobs, it is woman who ends up going part-time, unless and until there is extended family to look after her children. Thus, where is equality in nature??
Put it in another way. There is no inequality in nature but nature created men and women different. The solution also lies in accepting this fact. Women do not have to keep fighting and claiming that men and women are the same. The point to convey is, they may not be the same but they are still equal within these differences.
For men too it is vital not to continue discriminating but women be accepted as equals despite all these differences, not just accepted but encouraged to live with dignity, encouraged to stand on their own feet within their family circumstances. Also, if home-bound women do more than their share of child-rearing or house-hold work, then these mundane tedious services be well recognized and respected.
No superiority or inferiority of sexes. No suppressing. No unfair treatment. Pure respect!!
Oh well, I drifted from the topic of ‘tears of joy’. So I better stop here and discuss feminism some other time.
Coming back to the daily prompt, I did have tears in my eyes as an expression of joy at the birth of a baby boy within my father’s family. Particularly so as my father was not alive to see the baby so it had caused emotions. My brother quiet young when our father passed away, therefore my brothers’ new-born baby boy happened to be the only other man in the family beside my brother. Looking at it that way, there was nothing wrong in feeling happy about the birth of this baby boy.
That brings more varied thoughts on Women’s Day. We, the feminists, say women are important. We want equality – women should get their full rights, women this women that. But men too have a place, esp. if they are strongly needed within some families. Birth of a baby girl and a baby boy, both are to be rejoiced.
To stop thinking about this topic, today I called my mother in India and discussed this boy versus. girl imbalance. She disagreed with me about Indian families wishing only for a boy. It’s all changed, she said. Parents these days want two kids – a boy and a girl. If there is already a boy then parents heartily want a girl and secretly do not wish for another boy, my mother argued while enthusiastically citing many such examples from within our family.
And mama can’t be wrong. For she is a woman, and that too with lots of experience about life, a woman worth respecting this Woman’s Day and every other day.
Header: Silvia Pelissero