A few days ago I woke up to a flurry of messages on my phone – unbeknownst to me the world had declared that it was the day that women – of every make and kind need to be wished thus. So said, the sms-es, the Whatsapp messages and the Facebook updates. Usually my husband and I hardly take notice of such days – increasing as they are by the minute.
But this year on Women’s day I got inundated by people greeting me ‘Happy women’s day’ and so it happened that the Kidlet also got whiff of it. And she asked us innocently enough, “What is women’s day?” To which the sort of appropriate response (is there any?) was given. Which was followed by the predictable rejoinder, “ Then when is men’s day?” Before a flummoxed me could Google out a response, smart ally spouse had an answer ready,“What do you think the rest of the 364 days in a year are?”
Indeed. All jokes apart – Women’s day if anything serves to remind us that it is still a man’s world. And I am not even being feminist about it. So the media is inundating me with messages about why my daughter and I are special – highlighting a difference that is merely anatomical yet is made to mean much more. The CEO of a large technological giant wants me to ‘Lean In’ implying that I usually tend to give in instead. Why the sudden hullaballoo? And what worries me is that these messages are being absorbed by our children. Children, who should be growing up in an environment of unmitigated equality.
I grew up in a house full of girls, five to be precise. And we were brought up by a mother who worked full-time. There was no great fuss made about leaning in or out. We were expected to do well in what we chose to do, be it sewing, swimming, academics or riding a bike. We chose what we wanted to study – be it commerce, economics, history or science – again the only thing we needed to do, was to do well. Bottom line was that we were never told or reminded that we were women. Any different from anybody else. And it wasn’t that my parents didn’t have that choice, they also have a son, but there were nary any comparisons or heaven forbid partialities. Each of us grew up with a distinct sense of individuality, which persists till today.
The first time I came across anyone hinting that men were better than women was when I was doing my post-graduation. By the time I started working it became a regular happenstance, a snide remark here a preferential treatment there, and my shock truly turned into anger, but never acceptance. As I have grown older, it saddens me to see that these attitudes still stick on especially within families. Even in so-called ‘modern’ ‘well educated’ families it is shocking to see how girls are surrounded by cues telling them how they are weaker and not just about equal to boys.
And for some reason, it is phrases like ‘Women’s Day’ that bring this discrimination into brighter focus. A few years ago I would have let it slide. But today, with my daughter questioning me about its very relevance, I need to give it deeper thought. If we need to celebrate, it should be things like equality, humanity and respect. For all humans – men or women. I would truly like my daughter to grow up in a world that does not discriminate between men and women on any count. And that truly would be something to celebrate. And it would take 365 days to do that!