A young lady told me she is upset over the double standard that prevails in society. She said she feels sad and angry that a girl has to conform to rules, is expected to adjust and compromise in life, and also change herself to suit her in-laws’ dictates if she wants a fairly well settled marital life. She felt boys do not have to compromise, they can wear anything they want, they can go out and come in late, and they can talk to anyone.
I can understand her frustrations. When girls are as good as boys, why this discrimination? Maybe it all started with the overall feeling that the female gender is weak. So they required protection. Here the focus was on the physical capabilities. But over the years, this noble feeling has been mutilated and wrung out of recognition. Now it is has been reduced to a question of rights, and a subconscious thought that women are not capable. And the feeling a girl now gets is she is second to a boy, she has to be one step behind him. Even women themselves lay these rules for girls. So where does an idealistic young woman get solace? She is naturally frustrated.
It is a known fact now that freedom for a girl is what is encouraged in a family. If a family treats the boy and girl as children, teaches them coping skills, encourages them to experience situations to learn lessons, gives them age specific decision making responsibilities, disciplines them according to the seriousness of the wrong doing as well as age, then both a boy and a girl will grow up to be responsible and mature adults. Here the gender is not seen; the emphasis is, responsible adult.
But if the family perpetuates the norm of discrimination, then age old rules get applied. So change has to happen from the family itself. If your family has not treated you as a capable person, but a girl who has to follow rules wherever she goes, whether they make sense or not, then you have to start the change with your children when you have them. You have control here, you can teach your kids not to discriminate based on anything, especially gender. You can start the change you wish to see in society. You can influence your friends, network to get people to start the revolution, and also educate those who insist on following the age old norms.
Many people simply do not know or are too entrenched in certain ideas. Any new idea means change, your comfort zone is removed. You have to struggle a bit to gain a new comfort zone. It is easier to follow the rule laid down by elders and society; at least you do not have to stir yourself.
What idealistic girls like the one mentioned above needs to know is that things are not so easy for boys too. They too have their own gender stress.
You can also either start an organization to guide young girls to be self sufficient or join such an organization to do so. It is easy to talk and fume. You need to get into action if you wish to see change. But if you expect others to do it, you will only talk, then you are not serious. Educate the weaker section, be it women or elderly or other groups to assert themselves, better themselves and look for ways to uplift themselves. Then you are walking your talk.
Have you seen the advertisement for sanitary napkins? An accident occurs, an elderly couple have been knocked down from their two wheeler and their purchases are scattered on the road. People just avoid them and go about their business. A couple of young women drive by and one girl fumes at others for not helping this elderly couple. Her friend goes out of the vehicle, and helps the couple. She tells her friend you need to be the change you wish to see. Then this young woman too helps the elderly couple gather their belongings and proceed on their way. This is walking the talk.
There is a lot that can be done quietly. You need not shout from roof tops about how unfairly women are treated by society. One, because shouting does not achieve much, second, because not all families are following such patterns. Changes are happening in some families; so these families should not be targeted. If you really feel you can contribute to better the status of women, then please do so.
Education is the best route. See if you can educate more girls, and motivate them to look for jobs. Give them soft skills training and tips on how to handle relationships. You can be assertive, not aggressively oppose unfair treatment. There are creative ways of getting your way, but in certain circumstances one also needs to mind others feelings. You cannot do just about anything in the name of freedom.
For instance, a girl has the right to dress the way she wants. When she gets married, she may have to follow certain dress code of her marital family. As long as she can subtly get it across that in other times, for example, going for a party she will need to dress in a non-traditional way, she can have the best of both worlds. A young woman I know had to wear a sari at home. Her in-laws expected this of her. But when she goes out with her husband for movies, visiting friends, travel, or parties, she wears jeans, pant, skirts with fashionable tops. She herself does not believe in wearing too many revealing clothes, but also does not dig the sari much. She has found a way to have her way as well as respect her in-laws’ wishes.
So you need to look for ways to assert yourself, be yourself without stepping on too many toes. You also need to know when to stand up for your values. It is a tightrope walk, which can be done successfully when you are a mature and a responsible individual.