Reaching For A Low Sky

“And what will you say when he asks since when you’ve been unwell?”
“Since yesterday afternoon.”
“And when he asks if you’ve taken any medication?”
“I took some cough syrup.”
At this point, a grin would spread across his face. This scene has been played out so many times in our home that I know what is coming. My fever-parched throat readies itself to whine, call out to my mother.
“And what will you say when the doctor asks when you’re getting married?”
“Mommy!” I shout out to her to let her know of my irritation that has nothing to do with my illness.
Mommy comes over, smiling at my father’s “dreams” of his daughter’s far-off wedding day. Dreams he has begun to have when the daughter in question is seven.
“Your daddy’s just teasing. But one day you’ll have to go.” Her smile turns wistful. The father of the future bride barks out a laugh.

My brother was never teased this way. His fevers and coughs were just fevers and coughs. His visits to the doctor did not have prospective alliances looming over them, brides lurking around in their trousseau. His doctors were never equated to matchmakers waiting for eligible bachelors to fall ill.

Parents, armed with their bedtime fairy tales and their “good-natured ribbing”, are essentially salespeople. And good ones at that. Fairy tales tell you the damsel met her prince and they lived happily ever after. That is the height of your heroine’s aspirations. The ceiling, the sky. For instance, in my dad’s hypothetical scenario, never once does the doctor ask if I maybe wanted to become a doctor myself. Or anything, other than “Would you like a groom with your prescription?

This height of aspirations, not seeing beyond the “happily ever after”, was perfectly summarized in another conversation from my childhood. The youngest one in our group loved (and I mean LOVED!) to play the bride in our games. Just the bride, mind you. She was quite young, a kindergartner at the time if I remember correctly. Our neighbor’s daughter, who was in college, often came over to pinch our cheeks when she saw us playing. One day, she asked the little one why she liked playing the role of the bride. She whispered something into the older girl’s ear, whereupon her eyes widened theatrically and she exclaimed, “Haaye main marr jaawaan!” This roused our curiosity, and after we demanded, “Didi, usne kya kaha? What did she say?!” a few times, Didi revealed to us that, “Use sajne ka shauk hai. She loves to dress up.

That is honestly all that’s sold to us. And that is enough. It leads to a lifetime of insecurities and doubts on self-worth, creating scared little girls whose only ambition is to be a bride someday. (Note how I say “bride” and not “wife”) And why? Because it’s nice to dress up? Play a bedecked and bejewelled centrepiece as a linear continuation of our childhood games?

Now you could argue that this limit on women’s aspirations is a thing of the past. After all, both the examples above are from my childhood. And that now, girls are encouraged to choose other, better ambitions than settling down unwillingly into someone else’s life and getting lost in it. If you believe this, then I’m here to shatter those beliefs (as much as I wish you were right)

girlslifevsboyslife
Image Source

These magazine covers are from September 2016.

This is just the beginning of a certain kind of conditioning that states your main aim is to look pretty. That’s your ladder. It starts at a young age and something we carry into adulthood. An unmarried woman past a certain age is automatically labeled a failure, even if she’s the CEO of a company. She’s labeled “angry”, “aggressive”, “frustrated”. Never “successful”. Never “fulfilled” or “happy”. The world cannot compute even the possibility. The world has not taught the woman to aspire to this happiness, this success. How dare she? 

Then there are some of those (I’m struggling to not use expletives here) who complain, “But if women really could do better than they are now, why are all the famous scientists men?” These people need to be high-fived. In the face. With Thor’s hammer. (Then they would probably ask why Thor is male, but that’s just not an argument that’s worth getting into.)

When girls as young as eight are taught that their whole worth depends on their “swimsuit bodies”, it teaches them that their priorities are different. There are others who do not even have the advantage of a decent education. There are definitely those who go against their conditioning and against these obstacles. But the ones who’ve just been hit with the hammer have never heard of them. Cherry picking exists everywhere.

As for the “happily ever after”, if there’s a more guilt ridden position than “wife”, I’ll be happy to hear it. If you work, you’re guilty. If you don’t, you still are. If you have friends and a social life, you’re guilty. If you don’t, you still are. There’s guilt anywhere you turn, because you are always expected to be a certain way and somehow, you are always failing to meet those expectations. To use my own example, I’ve lost count of the hints that have been dropped around me that it’s now “time to quit my job and take care of the household”. Ridiculous as it sounds, it appears that I’m a rebel of sorts just because I go for work.

It’s taken me years, but I’m finally learning to let go of the “wife guilt”. Letting go of it one wedding bangle at a time. It’s taken me even more years, but I’m unlearning my “Cinderella Complex”. My “Snow White Complex”. My “Hell-literally-any-fairy-tale-with-a-prince-and-damsel-in-distress Complex”. I won’t deny that I suffered from it – it was a part of my upbringing. It is all I heard every time I fell ill, every time I changed schools, every time a family friend came to visit. Every time I was reminded that I was a cumbersome responsibility that my parents had to shed. All of these expectations that didn’t even lead to a cute dress up party, as my little friend claimed a long time ago, but a disappointing, underwhelming experience (which I wrote about here). 

When I wrote the above-linked post, in his comments, Marty Rubin pointed out that women give up so much of their freedom when they get married. It occurred to me that though we all know this to be true in most cases, we still go ahead without a second thought because it never crosses our minds to negotiate better for our future. We put a lid on our dreams because of the fears that have been instilled in us. We don’t even realize it at the time, because our minds have been warped into believing that we’re meeting the ambition that was set for us from childhood.

Why are we doing this to little girls?


This is the Women’s Day week and I’ve written this post as a part of #WomenOfBlogging. If you’ve written a post about this theme, please add it to the Linky:

Edit: The Linkup Widget isn’t appearing on my blog. If you have written a post for #WomenofBlogging, in addition to adding it to the Linky, please drop a comment below as well. Thanks!

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8 thoughts on “Reaching For A Low Sky

  1. Rajlakshmi March 6, 2017 / 4:46 PM

    I would so like to hifi the creator of those magazine covers with Wonder Woman’s lasso. I have read stories about so many women trying to get rid of this complex all their lives. It’s 2017, little girls don’t need any more fairy tales. I am happy that you were able to unlearn and let go of the guilt. Loved this powerful and thought provoking write of yours. Stay strong!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sreesha Diva March 23, 2017 / 11:46 AM

      On one hand we say little girls don’t need fairy tales; on another there’s a movie like Beauty and the Beast teaching little girls to “love the bad boy so that he changes for the better”.
      The magazine cover is repulsive, isn’t it!

      Like

  2. kalaravi16 March 6, 2017 / 5:49 PM

    I can sense how much emotion has gone into this post. Totally agree with you that little girls never are shown the big picture, just tiny snippets in which they play tinier roles. And gender bias makes it worse. I guess things are getting better with parents like you and me trying to broaden horizons for our lil girls. Let’s help ’em reach out for the stars and beyond!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sreesha Diva March 23, 2017 / 11:48 AM

      While that’s true, I think the majority are still raising their girls with the same age old beliefs. I’m no authority on this, but this is something I see in my own family, with my nieces and relatives. Let’s hope all of it changes, even if it’s portion by portion

      Like

  3. Aditi Kaushiva March 7, 2017 / 9:19 PM

    You know as a little girl I never faced biases and the thought that boys and girls are different never struck me. The topic of marriage was never brought up (we are two sisters), not until we found our respective love and went to our parents saying we are ready. But suddenly, after marriage,my parents liberal views took a slight shift. Even their polite suggestions started irritating me. I suffered from the ‘wife guilt’ too as I changed my ways to appease the new parents and new family and went into such a dark hole that it took some time again to find myself again. I am called a rebel, a non-conformist…why…because I just want to live a life that I want. I am ‘happy’ and ‘fulfilled’ but not many see that.
    There is such a massive conditioning the years of patriarchy (both said and unsaid) has set, that it will take a lot many voices and years to change that. We need dialogue and discussions like these, in households, among partners, in social space..to make this change.

    Great write!! Love!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sreesha Diva March 23, 2017 / 11:51 AM

      I’ve heard this said before that even seemingly liberal parents changed after the daughter’s wedding. It’s an unconscious thing that bothers them, I think, which makes them question, “Did we raise them right with all these liberal values?” The answer is yes, but what they see is how others (who are not so liberal) perceive them. A big shift in mindset has to come.

      I’m considered a rebel too. I think rebel is too big a word to assign to regular women who just want to lead regular lives. It diminishes the work of actual rebels who led revolutions. Unless, of course, we are in our small ways leading one of our own, in which case, yeah, call us rebels 😀

      Like

  4. Jaibala Rao March 8, 2017 / 4:59 PM

    And sometimes these biases seep in unintentionally and subconsciously. I have had similar scenes at my place too. And I cringe every single day at the fairy tale syndrome that most girls grow up with. We need to replace those fairy tales with stories of real & brave women like you.

    PS: Yes I meant it ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sreesha Diva March 23, 2017 / 11:54 AM

      Nah, not like me. If I was brave and sensible, I would’ve seen a pickle before falling into it. I am grateful for the vote of confidence, but I’m a bad example 😛

      We’ll remove these biases one by one. Dismantle it. Let’s hope for the best, eh?

      Like

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