I didn’t plan on writing this, but something triggered me this morning. It was a small video that captured how International Men’s Day is often ignored or overlooked, while International Women’s Day is celebrated with much fanfare. Here’s the video:

Now, here’s the thing. Imagine you’re watching two cricket matches. In one, the winning team’s win comes from the opponent team’s incompetency and the generous extra runs it gives away. Mind you, the winning team was a talented one just that it wasn’t needed for them to prove themselves and the win came easily.  On the other, a team that’s considered incompetent (because they haven’t been given equal opportunities with training and sponsorship) plays against a big team and wins. Which win would you celebrate and why?

Think for yourself and then revisit the video that sparked this post to understand why it absolutely makes sense to celebrate International Women’s Day with more fanfare than Men’s Day.

Now, let me come to the current scenario. I don’t want to mince my words. What follows are a few anecdotes that are still prevalent in the 21st century. These are either my own first-hand experiences or stories that I’ve heard from people in my circle. None of them is fictitious or imaginary.

I’m presenting them in random order using random names that pop into my mind just to protect the privacy of the people involved. The key here is not to speculate about whose lives these anecdotes belong to or to pinpoint anyone, but rather to reflect on whether we have really progressed or we ourselves are part of the problem and how we can work towards creating a more equitable world for women.

Here are a few anecdotes:

  • Radha is 34 years old and lives with her in-laws, her 5-year-old daughter, and a stepdaughter who is 13. Her husband works abroad. Radha takes care of everyone in the household and does all the chores, but she hasn’t left her home in the past 4 years. She doesn’t have a friends circle, and despite her husband drinking heavily to cope with his problems, Radha chooses to make time for herself by taking an online job. She sacrifices her sleep to meet everyone’s expectations, but despite her efforts, she still ends up being abused by her in-laws. Her husband even threatens to cheat on her if she continues with her job.
  • Krithika is a 32-year-old mother of two daughters. She used to work but has put her medical treatment on hold, even though it would only cost Rs. 5000, because she doesn’t have the money. She’s hesitant to ask her husband for the money because she knows he’ll ask if it’s necessary. Even for the baby’s diapers, she has to send him the bill and wait for the money to be reimbursed.
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  • Neha, a teacher who actively advocates for gender equality and independence, is still expected to ask her husband and in-laws for permission to visit her ailing mother on weekends. Meanwhile, her husband simply informs his family that he will be going on a week-long trip with friends and expects not to be disturbed.
  • Kalaivani’s family is embroiled in a bitter feud because she chose to marry the love of her life instead of complying with the family’s decision to have her wed to her maternal uncle’s son, as had been agreed upon when they were children.
  • Vanita is in her late 40s and works as a domestic helper. She’s always looking for more work to earn extra income. She doesn’t wear any accessories and only wears a ‘pottu’ and a ‘thaali‘ chain. Her search for extra income is to support her husband, who is always drinking and abusing those around him. She says work keeps her away from him, thereby, saving her from abuse.
  • In the Iyer household, where everyone is educated and all the women work, there’s a practice of eating previously cooked meals to avoid waste. However, it’s always the women who eat the leftovers, while the men are served freshly prepared food. Additionally, the men expect to be served food even when the women are ill, and they are not even used to picking up their plates after eating.
  • Don’t even get me started on the Rathore family. Every meal in their household consists of three different cuisines, each catering to the palate of Meenal’s husband, her in-laws, and her son. Meenal never bothered about her preferences and usually made do with a mixed platter of leftovers before rushing off to her job.
  • The Menon household is a different story altogether. Despite being married for 15 years, the wife has no knowledge of her husband’s salary, whereas the husband knows every component of his wife’s salary and expenditures. His justification for this is that men are better equipped to handle finances.
  • Kala knows her father’s favourite dishes like idli and sambar for breakfast, and a spread of rasam, sambar, rice, two curries, and curd for lunch. Whenever her father is home, they have the same breakfast & lunch with adai-avial for dinner. However, Tamizh never realized that her mother’s favourite dish was chapati with kurma, which was never prepared at all while she was growing up.
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  • Tara has undergone multiple IVFs, abortions, and medical treatments in an attempt to have a child, but she is still shamed for not being able to conceive and for gaining weight. Meanwhile, her husband is often sympathized with for no apparent reason. Despite all of this, Tara is doing her best to keep the family united while also focusing on her career to provide for their increasing financial needs.
  • Lizy feels compelled to wear a saree and forego her comfortable clothes because her husband prefers to see her in a saree. However, when it comes to his clothing, he gets to choose what he’s comfortable in without any input from her.
  • Reshmi was abruptly fired from her job by her office management, without any prior notice. The management had decided to cut costs and saw the opportunity to save money on paid maternity leave by firing a 25-week pregnant woman.
  • Vandana, a previously independent and carefree person, is now confined to her home and afraid to cross the road or even venture out alone. After marriage, she is constantly accompanied, cannot do anything independently, and is not allowed to have her own friends. This is done in the name of family pride, safety, and love, and everything is provided for her as if on a silver platter. She is an example of the metaphorical bird trapped in a golden cage.
  • Sunita, at the age of 32, is often questioned about her decision to be a homemaker after marriage, despite performing numerous household tasks from 6 in the morning until 10 at night. However, no one dares to question her jobless 33-year-old brother-in-law, who refuses to even pick up a teacup when it is handed to him, for fear of his anger and attitude.
  • Sandhya is a 44-year-old woman who was raised to be the ideal girl: soft-spoken, people-pleasing, religious, and a multitasking ‘superwoman.’ She skillfully balanced work and life and met all the milestones set by society, such as education, marriage, children, and settling into a home. However, due to never being taught to prioritize herself or say NO, Sandhya lacked a voice for herself. Her suppressed emotions began to take a toll on her and was diagnosed with cancer at an early age.
  • Aasma is a divorcee with a young child. She had endured physical, emotional, and verbal abuse in her marriage, and leaving was the only way out. However, even after leaving, things didn’t get easier for her. On one hand, she is being stalked by her ex-husband, and on the other hand, she is under constant pressure to pretend to have a happy married life in front of others, fearing that someone might take advantage of her being a single, young, and divorced woman.
  • Keerthi, a highly educated 35-year-old woman, is frequently told that she is fortunate because her husband is an involved parent who shares household duties and allows her to work, have friends, and make her own decisions. Despite her own hard work and achievements, Keerthi’s success in life and career is often attributed to her husband’s kindness, making her feel guilty for being happy and causing her to question her own beliefs. She begins to believe that everything she has accomplished is solely due to luck, rather than her own efforts, leading her to experience feelings of inadequacy and depression.
  • Zara’s story is an epitome of a well-educated, strong feminist who overcame all the hurdles and shattered stereotypes to climb the corporate ladder. However, after choosing not to embark on the journey of motherhood, she reached the pinnacle of her career in her 40s, which did not sit well with male-dominated management. They pressured her to resign, threatening to defame her. Zara decided to oppose their demands, but as a result, she was subjected to slut-shaming.

The aforementioned anecdotes provide only a glimpse into their lives, representing less than 1% of their entire story. Moreover, these anecdotes are not unique to just a handful of women; countless women share similar experiences that deserve to be shared. Despite progress, the notion that women and men are equal in all aspects of life, and that there is no need to commemorate Women’s Day, is far from true.

PC: AZ quotes

There is still a significant way to go before achieving gender parity and true equality. So these celebrations are needed as it serves as a call to action for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it provides an opportunity to celebrate the progress made in various areas while acknowledging the challenges that remain.

As mentioned earlier, I share these anecdotes to reflect on whether we ourselves are part of the problem and how we can work towards creating a more equitable world for women. It was definitely not easy for me to pen this but then as a woman with the privilege to write and have a voice, I felt it would be unfair of me to ignore the reality and just post a WhatsApp forward wishing a Happy Women’s Day.

PC: Yours truly!

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