“Empowering women is empowering humanity”

Light of truth

Reena Joseph

On March 8th every year, there’s a great deal of hoopla in celebration of the International Women’s Day. What exactly this day is set aside to commemorate or celebrate, I’m not too sure about. As I see it, women need to be celebrated every day of their lives for their unique qualities. They are not to be put on pedestals once every year and then taken for granted or trampled upon the rest of the year.

Women can be best to be acknowledged and celebrated by freeing them from unrealistic expectations and stereotypes, from idolisation and unending sacrifice. If only we could stop viewing women from conveniently male perspectives; let them be industrious or laid back, well groomed or plain, resourceful or of average abilities, let them just be the way they are and be happy. Why do we expect so much virtue and social value from women when the same yardsticks don’t apply to men? Don’t write me off as a rabid feminist at this point; I’m simply making a rational appeal here: That we simply acknowledge the uniqueness of individuals – men or women, and leave it at that.

I often come across articles that glorify X or Y as a “super mom” or “super efficient home maker.” Why do women, and women alone have to aspire for these super titles? When society at large stops demanding that women attain socially and culturally acceptable “perfection,” perhaps a woman can breathe easy and get off the tight rope of “expectations” to become the unique individual, she is created to be. Developing her skill sets and refining her social graces will happen in due course depending on a host of other factors–nature and nurture inclusive. Strange as it may seem, when it comes to expecting stringent standards from a daughter, sister, wife or mother, it is very often women themselves who are the taskmasters, coercing their wards to the goal posts of perfection. This is when women become their own worst enemies, in attempts to keep the boat from rocking, and thereby perpetuating unfair and idealistic social expectations in the process.

The burden of various social and cultural obligations placed on women, especially in the Indian context, restricts them to living with very limited options for personal growth. Their aspirations remain pipe dreams forever. If only we would stop using these socially convenient constructs to dictate societal norms and expectations, most women would dare to stop living their lives as a ‘balancing act.’ This freedom from social shackles would then enable them to make more informed choices and live life to their individual potential.

Women’s empowerment has been a trendy phrase for a while now; however, it is viewed by some sections of society as a threat to the status quo. Such people genuinely fear that this tidal wave of empowerment may sweep far beyond socially set boundaries and disturb existing ‘comfort zones.’ Admittedly, change is difficult for us all, but to try to preserve unfair practices in matters pertaining to women is not only morally incorrect, but also unsustainable in the long run.

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