The world recently celebrated International Day of the Girl Child on October 11. The ongoing struggle to make people across all countries aware of the issues faced by a person just because of her gender is real. You can get a lot of statistics from the internet.
The sad truth is even we face the same thing. When I say we, I refer to the urban woman who has had a good education, graduated from college, had/has a job etc.
Let me tell you about an incident that happened today. My neighbour is a doctor. His wife is an engineer by qualification. They have a son. This woman was married off just as soon as she graduated and I figure she is happily married. She now is looking forward to joining the workforce and I wish her all success.
As per usual, my mother and grandmother were discussing this and applauding her. (Also, my father, my sister, and I are in earshot.) The one thing that stood out the most for me in their conversation was how they said that the parents did the right thing in getting their daughter married as soon as she was out of college. They then went on to explain how if they had let the girl work or study further, she would have “raised her head” and become an independent being. (I am assuming this ‘independent being’ is one capable of forming her own opinions and making her own life choices.)
I read such inspiring accounts of how women from older generations are helping their daughters and granddaughters achieve their dreams. And yet today I heard the exact words that make me disrespect some people irrespective of who they are. It is like 2 steps forward, ten steps back.
I know that all this was perhaps meant to be subtle hints to me and my sister (both postgraduates and independent). Honestly, hearing a woman, who was married off at the age of 16 to a man who was 13 years her senior, say this was very disappointing.
My grandmother was born and brought up in Kerala, a place that’s famous for its matrilineal culture. The state has a whopping 1084 females to every 1000 males as per the last census! Her father was a freedom fighter, a very well known personality in society and an accomplished persona in literary circles. Yet, he married his daughter off at 16. She didn’t go to college, she didn’t even contemplate work. To this day my grandmother is dependent upon her children and grandchildren to get things done. She hasn’t even gone shopping! My uncles just buy her saris and give them to her.
Can you imagine living your life where all your clothes were not of your choice? Perhaps my mother and uncles are also guilty of abetting her lack of self-sufficiency. But that’s what they grew up seeing, didn’t they?
I am not someone who can live like that. And I cannot have any respect for a person who thinks this way. It is not feminism. I just want everyone to live their life happily. Irrespective of gender, race, religion, class, caste, sexual orientation, etc. Every single living being deserves a life that makes them happy.
And, I am so very disappointed in them. This incident has taught me to be more independent, just so I don’t ever think such thoughts.