The upcoming International Women’s Day recently got me in a bind after I impulsively agreed for a virtual discussion online.
Questions like — who is a modern woman, how do you think women can be empowered etc. are not easy for me to answer. More so because my views are slightly in variance with the popular views one often hears and I refrain from expressing them openly to avoid conflict.
Before I am condemned as insensitive and an ignoramus, I want to clarify that I am all for the idea of women having a happy, fulfilling, and peaceful life. But what confuses me are the jargons. Liberation, empowerment, feminism, freedom, breaking the glass ceilings, equality etc.
They are amorphous concepts in my head; mere platitudes than anything substantial. I know that millions of women go through unmentionable torture in the world day after day, and it pains me to no end, but ask me how I can help them, and I haven’t the slightest idea except by saying an ardent prayer. Allow me my honesty. I don’t want to pretend to be a warrior who can slay all the demons in one murderous stroke.
We live in a world where to be heard and seen is more important than to be found acting effectively. We say things that we don’t often mean, project ourselves as something that we just aren’t, we posture and please the galleries, because not doing so will make us irrelevant to the times.
So, does it mean I don’t endorse the empowerment slogan?
No, not by far. I strongly feel that every human being should be empowered to lead a good life. But I have questions about the definitions of terms that claim to manifest happiness for women. Freedom. Emancipation. Empowerment.
Pray tell, what are they?
Audacity and belligerence? Throwing caution to the winds? Being an unbridled badass? Leading a life with gay abandon?
Creating new female avatars that challenge biological patterns and laws of natural selection?
Defying everything that our past has prescribed?
This is the refrain I hear everywhere: women must be allowed to do what they please without fetters of any sort. That alone is freedom.
It is here that I beg to differ.
Freedom is not doing things as one pleases and then claiming immunity from harm. Freedom is, not having the desire to do things that might bring one to harm.
Freedom is not being obsessed about tilting the apple cart. Freedom is being at peace with oneself, in the circumstances that naturally exist.
Empowerment isn’t wanting to invade male bastions. Empowerment is to have the capacity to make informed decisions about one’s life and the courage to act upon it. It is not calling for men to supplicate to women’s demands; it is about each woman finding the strength to take stock of her life and knowing what will make them better physically, mentally, and spiritually.
A woman who is abused must find the nerve to walk out of the relationship and build a life of her own. A woman who is consistently exploited must resolve and do what it takes to get out of the diabolical settings and charter a new course. This, to me, is power.
Empowerment, to me, is not fancy grandstanding and glorification of women’s virtues. It is making each woman realise that her life is in her hands and that she has the power to decide what is good for her. And no one other than the individual woman has the right to decide what is good for her.
No one outside of her can empower her. At best, what the external influences can do is to make her aware that her freedom rests within her and all she needs to do is draw upon her innate resources. She must determine what is important for her and what kind of life she wants to lead and eliminate all forces that stop her from leading that life.
The sooner we steer our debates and discussions around this fact and don’t limit them to who should do the dishes and the diapers, or go ballistic about clothes, make-up, night-outs, promiscuousness and brazen self-importance, the better life will be for millions of women who silently nurse their bruises in their own shadows. What these women need is a prop to leap out of their pits and not nauseating propaganda.
Asha Iyer Kumar is a Dubai-based author, life-writing coach, and founder of i Bloom FZE.
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