HT Exclusive: Happy women’s day, or is it? Vidya Balan writes
The Second Sex, a sort of bible of feminist literature, reads, “Humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself, but as relative to him. So, a man can think of himself without a woman, but she cannot think of herself without him.” But that is changing now, and that is exactly why now is the best time to be a woman.
We are slowly, but surely, realising that no one, but we ourselves can and should be the stakeholders in our own destinies, and therefore, we can lead our lives the way we want to as individuals, and as people.
This means more and more women are making choices that often defy the norm. They are training and excelling in professions that were, hitherto, male bastions. Who could have imagined Pooja Thakur leading the Inter-Service Guard Of Honour at the 2015 Republic Day celebrations this year? What’s more a matter of pride is her proclamation — “I am an officer first and then a woman” — that echoes the sentiments of the multitude of working women in the country today, who wish to be seen as equals because they are performing equally.
Then wouldn’t celebrating International Women’s Day be self-defeating in a sense? Personally, I find the very idea patronising. I would diligently ignore the many messages that simultaneously attack me via billboards, on TV and pamphlets that come with newspapers; not to mention a flooded inbox in the days leading up to Women’s Day offering me movie tickets, bar admissions, pedicures and hair colouring at half-price with a gentle line that says, “Because you are worth it!”
All of this would get my goat not because I am an actor and we are used to getting things for free — half-price isn’t good enough, you see (wink wink) — but, because to me, it meant that Women’s Day was all about allowances to make one feel superficially special. Yet, here I am today, writing a special piece to commemorate the day.
In the past few years, relentless reportage of rapes, molestations, honour killings, female foeticide and the ever-increasing school dropout rates of girls has changed my attitude towards this day. It has led to the uneasy, but definite realisation that I, and most women around me, can rant about how every day should be Women’s Day, because we can afford to.
We’ve been to schools and colleges, we work alongside men and sometimes above them, we negotiate our pay packets and promotions, we wear or don’t wear what we wish to, we choose who to have sex with and when, we fight bitter divorce battles and can arm twist for alimony, we shoot videos and upload them on WhatsApp when men outrage our modesty. We are because we know we can be.
For millions of other women maybe today gives them an excuse to pay a little attention to themselves, to remember that being a woman doesn’t only mean being a giver or living in fear and judgement, to know that they have the right to dignity, to hold their body and their will. Or that it could also mean that we deserve the respect of having a day dedicated to our needs so that we awaken to the truth that not just today but every day could be ours, just as every breath is ours. Until that happens, here’s wishing you a Happy Women’s Day!