Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said, “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant to be your own person, independent!” I have been brooding a lot, recently, over what it means to be a lady or a woman, how it seems almost difficult to advocate ‘acting ladylike’ while also being an ardent advocate of feminism, and the way society echoes if you choose not to be a part of woman or ladylike box. I think I got there now and all I have to say is that this whole thing is gross!
As a female, I’m decidedly against the term woman/ lady because I believe, the word woman/lady does not really have a definition of its own, being defined in opposition to a man and I refuse to believe in this myth of opposition. The definition of the term woman has been largely dictated by misogyny and mindless traditionalism (yes that is relevant to men as well) and the term itself makes me disobliged.
From the time a baby is born, its gender is being socially created for it, telling it how a good boy/girl should look, sound, act, and think. This socialization process continues on every day for the rest of one’s life. When I was growing up, people had a corrective phrase reserved for me, “girls don’t do that”. I learned that there were lot of things girls didn’t do- nice girls didn’t talk too loudly or stay out too late. Girls didn’t talk back to their parents or take their bad moods out on other people. Above all, though, girls didn’t talk about their accomplishments (i.e bragging) or hold on getting their own way all the time. I heard a lot about what girls did and didn’t do. What I didn’t hear, however, was what “nice boys did” and neither did my brothers. I am pretty sure! It is sometimes claimed by the people that there is a biological basis for the behaviour difference between males and females, but I don’t believe irrefutable evidence exists which says that the differences in behaviour that are observed are not the result of very different treatment of babies of the two sexes from the beginning. I was thinking, how as a female, I am being told that I need to fulfil certain requirements starting with my body, including my sexuality, how I act, how I look , what colour I wear and what I value in order to fit into the woman box. I am virtually imprisoned by my own gender. I may have some freedom but if I don’t behave appropriate, there are plenty of prison guards to try to put me in my place. At times when I choose not to follow the socially decided norms and try to create a kind of freedom for myself that my male counterparts have, it is disappointing the way I am not am being called a tomboy (or a boy with lipstick and kohl) and constantly made aware that men would not be attracted to me, because I don’t fit into their ideal. It is maddening the way I am being told to lighten up when cat-called by random man on the street, when in truth, I know that I’m being objectified. In case I retaliate or complain, I am being told to act like a lady and be nice. And the list goes on!
As a female, I don’t feel right ascribing to the normative ideals for my own gender because I believe the very word “woman” is nothing but the works of fiction (thanks to my graduate study classes in sociology that made me realise). I mean, who are you to decide what I am supposed to do, what I’m supposed to enjoy and look like? Who decided that girls only dress to impress boys? Who decided a girl is soft and a boy is tough? Who decided that girls are not allowed to like cars and sports? Who decided that boys are not allowed to like makeup and dolls? Until someone gives me an adequate reason, I will go on to believe that gender barriers are absurd. So, I am sorry society, but I just can’t do it anymore. I am totally done having my role and my self-worth decided by others. It’s time to walk away from the entire fiddle that you have been selling. I just want to be a human and not a woman- a human living out her life without any expectations based on her genitalia. You will be fine without me in your ranks!
About the Author
A student of development studies from IIT, Guwahati and a strong advocate of feminism.
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