Words can have a lasting impact and what might seem like an innocent, even well-meaning, comment can affect the person it is directed towards. More often than not, women are subject to rhetoric, opinionated biases and statements that violate personal space, from remarks on appearance and professional achievements to relationship status or gentle reminders on a woman’s place are prying and uncalled for.
While we continue to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 every year, it’s time to understand the nuances and not say things that are loaded with double meanings and fall in the category of ‘not your business’.
The ‘Weight Watchers’
The award for ‘things most commonly told to women’ goes to… Among the top five conversation starters is the ‘well-meaning’ and ‘observant’ comment on a woman’s appearance, most often her weight. Here’s the thing, everyone has access to a mirror so they are well aware of the oscillating kilos so there doesn’t seem to be a reason to bring that up in a conversation. Putting on and losing weight can be dependent on multiple factors from lifestyle to stress and a medical condition. So perhaps, just a polite question on general well-being is a good place to start a conversation. No one ever got a medal for being a Weight Watcher.
Breaking up after college/university
Yes, we broke up after college. Sometimes relationships are not meant to be and often break-ups can fester hurt feelings for a long time. If you already know the fact, there isn’t any point in asking her again. If it’s new information, gulp down the taazaa khabar and keep it to yourself especially if you want to remain in the social circle of the person. Oh, also, did you ask the guy the same question?
Why do you have to work anyway?
Well, she’s going to go from papa ki pari to married woman anyway, right? Every time this question is asked to a woman, the revolution for women’s rights (read equal rights) dies a thousand deaths. Financial independence and the ability to take responsibilities or even enjoy your own life with your own money is a right of choice for all genders. Gender equality is not just the woke word for social media and conversations, but a mark of evolution. On that note, a woman isn’t a parcel or an heirloom to be passed on from the care of the father to the husband and then the son. It is 2023 and statements like these make progress as difficult as restoring those glaciers we’ve been gleefully melting.
Your mother looks like your elder sister
While we’re glad you think someone has taken care of themselves and appears much younger than most people their age, one really does not have to study human psychology to understand that comparisons can affect people badly. From Sharmaji ki beti cracking UPSC, to a fairer/prettier/more successful sibling, to the ‘mother who looks like a sister’ line, comments like this ignite interpersonal jealousy and body-image issues. Plus why can a mother and a sister not look the same, is there a rule book for the age gap or appearance?
The woes of late working hours
“You come back that late from work?” Well, yes, the work demands longer working hours making it ‘that’ late to be home, just the same as the male colleague who wasn’t asked the question. Work isn’t really gender lenient or binary and the ‘acceptable’ working hours for a woman are a matter of discussion. Perhaps instead of the questions and the eye rolls when a male colleague drops a woman home, let’s steer the discussion on implementing safety measures for women in the workforce.
You got promoted again and so soon?
No favours were exchanged in the path of this success. The promotion certainly wasn’t a result of the assumptions that are being made the moment it’s announced. A woman can rise and shine at work like a man, and it is usually based on hard work, merit and dedicated efforts. So the subtle character assassination is as uncalled for as the congratulations that accompany it.
Of settling down and old age
Companionship, marriage and everything in between is a matter of personal choice. Perhaps one of the other things most commonly told to women from their 20s is the matter of ‘settling down’. If you’re over the three-decade mark, well, god bless your soul because you have to settle with whatever (read whoever) you get. Age and finding companionship are stigmatised social constructs and youth has nothing to do with compatibility and emotional connect, which, incidentally, are two most important requirements to be in a relationship.
The dangers of red
It’s a colour, get over it. One can wear red at 80 and white at 20 — it’s a matter of individual tastes and likings. Ageing is not a choice and age-shaming in any form is not funny. Letting one live the way they want to is clearly an acquired skill, but definitely one essential for personal growth.
At the end of the day, you are a woman
And she was one at the start of the day too. A woman is made aware of her gender too much and too early in life. Puberty, or the onset of menstruation, results in the loss of certain playmates (read, boys) a part of your wardrobe — shorts, bra straps, low necklines are marks of degenerates after all. Changes in posture and the awareness of how unsafe she actually is follows soon. Unfortunately most women are aware of surroundings and vigilant of people from a much younger age, it’s the sad part of daily life as a woman. Maybe it’s time to stop barring her and helping other people open their minds. Status quos are meant to be changed.