Being a woman in a man's world
It has been a bright and sunny day. A couple of hours before sunset, the last bright rays of the sun streak in through the window. She sits by her bay window, looking out at the garden, waiting, killing time till she has to go and attend the evening gala. It is an important day for her today. The day when the world will acknowledge her accomplishment, yet again! And she sits by her window, ready to face the world. Confidently.
It wasn’t always like this, she remembers. Growing up in a home where her parents’ loyalties always lay with her brother and in a society where everyone always made it look like it was wrong for someone to be born as a woman; she always thought she was lacking something because she was not the male of the species.
She has grown up seeing that it is the men who are considered superior. She has seen that it is her brother who is the apple of her parents’ eye and she is, well maybe a sour grape? Even if for a moment she decides to ignore it; the fact is, she cannot. And her brother being a fair, sweet, intelligent boy has done nothing to ease her pain. If anything, her “plain Jane” image has been as much responsible for her parents’ favouring her brother as much as her being the “daughter” and his being the “son.”
But why only blame her parents, she thinks now as she looks at her reflection. Weren’t her friends the same? Didn’t they too side-line her? And they didn’t even do it because she was a girl, for after all so were they; but they did it because she wasn’t as fair, or pretty or good looking as most of them. So ironically, they made her feel out of place because she wasn’t girl enough! And to add to her woes, she didn’t giggle like them on stupid jokes, she didn’t talk about boys, she didn’t try on make-up or heels in her teens like them, she read books when the other girls checked out the boys; and worst of all, she was friends with the best of the boys – the very same boys the other girls had crushes on!
Well, there was a reason she made friends with boys more than girls. They were less dramatic and they did not make her feel unwelcome. They were not mean either. In fact, they had no idea how to be spiteful or behave in a two-faced manner. And they treated her with respect. They understood and appreciated that she was well-read and they could turn to her for information. She wasn’t a threat to them, but a buddy who was cool to hang out with as well as a good listener when they (rarely) needed to rant. But little did they know that it was their being friends with her that made her an outcast among the girls.
She remembers now how she always craved to be part of a group of girls but was kept so far way, that she found it better to spend her time in the company of books than that of girls anyway. And this continued all through school and college; until she found a good friend towards her final year of college who was equally dorky and preferred to hang out with books rather than people. This girl continues to be her friend today although she is in another country and the only contact they have is through regular messages, Facebook and WhatsApp. She smiles as she remembers her friend fondly and thinks of the really short time they did spend together (one year, to be precise); and then both moved on.
As she thinks this, she remembers an article she read recently that talked about the results of a survey that highlighted four very poignant points –
a. 69% of men agree that their judgement of women is based on their looks.
b. 64% of women agree that the judgments passed on them have affected their ability to reach their true potential.
c. 70% of women agree that majority of judgments on women are from family members or friends rather than strangers.
d. 72% of women agree that working women face more judgments on their looks or their clothes than housewives.
“69% of men agree that their judgement of women is based on their looks.” She thinks now. No surprise there.
“64% of women agree that the judgments passed on them have affected their ability to reach their true potential.” Well, any judgmental behaviour was bound to affect the confidence of a person, she knows. But what surprises her is that she had never thought that so many women really let this sort of thing affect them.
But the moment she thinks this, she bites her tongue. After all, wasn’t she herself, like all these women at one point of time? Wasn’t she too letting people tell her what she could and couldn’t do? And wasn’t she too letting people and their behaviour affect her confidence?
And when she reads “70% of women agree that majority of judgments on women are from family members or friends rather than strangers. And 72% of women agree that working women face more judgments on their looks or their clothes than housewives.” she smiles sardonically. Nothing could be closer to the truth, she realises. Of all the negatives that could affect a woman, it was the ones doled out by her near and dear ones that really had the most impact isn’t it? Especially if she was a working woman! Because then she had to face the negatives and also her own guilt at having left her home and her children at someone else’s mercy every day to achieve her career goals.
The truth is, any man would do the same, but it would be she who would be judged. It would be she who would be branded less of a mother; the man would never be branded any less a father because he wished to fulfill his career goals. No. That would never happen.
As she sits there, she sees the roses blooming in her garden and wonders what was that turning point that made her realise that she was more than “merely a girl;” the time in her life when she felt that she could really do something that is important and can make a difference in the world; even if it was a small difference. And her mind zeroes down on the time she spent in post-graduate college where she met a friend. This friend was that pivotal person in her life, who made her do the things she never thought she would do and gave her the confidence that she so thoroughly lacked!
She has tears in her eyes as she thinks of this friend who has been the bane of her existence ever since – the friend who has stood by her through thick and thin. She feels tears sting her eyes as she realises how this friend never even stopped being her friend even when she married him!
She remembers when she had children, how he let her decide whether she wanted to work or stay at home. She remembers when she chose to stay at home how it was he who stood against the world and did not let them judge her.
She remembers how he encouraged her to find her passion. How he encouraged her to write. She remembers how he would stay up late with her when she would struggle to find that perfect phrase, or help her out with the exact words she was looking for. She remembers all the sleepless nights she has spent and all the nights that she has kept him awake talking about her dreams, her stories, her writing!
She looks back how far she has come and remembers how if it wasn’t for him, she would never be what she is today and prays that every woman gets one such friend in her life who helps her realise her true worth. A friend who does not think of her in terms of a “mere woman” but in terms of someone who is a person that matters! And then she thinks what was it that really made her strive so hard to be what she was today? Was it others’ perception of her; or was it his belief in her?
She is still lost in thought when he taps her on the shoulder and she turns, looking up to see him behind her; and she thinks this is how it has always been – him standing behind her, all along!
“Ready?” he asks.
“I have butterflies in my stomach,” she says, smiling.
“What? Come on, it’s your fifth book!” he says taking her hand. “Don’t worry, they love you! You will be just fine,” he says looking into her eyes.
And that’s when she finds the answer to her question; as together they leave for her book launch party.
Image courtesy: Pixabay.com