I am in a position of privilege, to be honest. I am comfortable, I lack for nothing, my family is amazing, I have the full support of my family, and I get to do what I love.
But I’m exhausted, because I’m a woman, and irrespective of where a woman is in terms of privilege, there will always be certain conditions placed on her acceptance. Sure, unconditional acceptance comes, many-a-times, but it seems begrudging. In a ‘what can I do if she desires this?’ manner. If acceptance is begrudging, is it unconditional? And is expecting unconditional acceptance even realistic? But then again, in a world as chaotic as this, is it really a bad thing to want a safe space where you are accepted for who you are and not for what you can offer? Is it really a bad thing to want to do what I want to do instead of fitting myself into a role that society has created for my gender? Who gave society that right anyway? Oh, wait… But let’s not get into that right now because I might combust.
What I want to say is that I’m exhausted.
I’m exhausted at the number of people finding it appropriate to comment on my choices. Be it dressing, of choosing what to do with my body, of not fitting into the stereotyped role of what society deems is a woman.
I’m exhausted at the ‘You’re a woman, you should know how to cook.’ I’m a human being and I know I should know how to cook and I’m trying. Don’t tie gender with cooking. It’s hypocritical on such a large level, because if only women were to cook, a majority of the chefs worldwide wouldn’t be men. But they are, because patriarchy doesn’t want women to be paid on par with men, even while doing something that THEY say women are made to do.
I’m exhausted at the number of people asking me to dress appropriately for a woman. As a Hindu woman, apparently, I need to wear a bindi and bangles because it is more befitting. And as a married Hindu woman, I need to wear my mangalsutra and toe rings because if I don’t, my husband’s life will be affected. My annoyance is not against the people who do these things wholeheartedly, because it is after all, a matter of choice. Instead, I get annoyed at all the people who think that it is completely okay to slot women into these roles. And not just this, it is also about how people view me when I wear different clothing. Not that I’m bothered a lot, but the way people look at me (appreciatively) when I wear a saree differs largely from how they look at me when I’m wearing a Western dress. Hell, even a sleeveless kurti raises eyebrows. But to be fair, it’s gotten a lot better than even a decade ago. Is it enough, though? That’s the whole question, isn’t it? And it is this uncertainty that tires me out.
I’m exhausted because the discourse on women and how we NEED to have kids just never seems to end. There are a million reasons people have and they keep finding more.
‘It’s a natural process that you need to follow.’
Or ‘Who will support you in your old age?’
Or ‘Your biological clock is ticking. You need to have kids pronto.’
Or ‘Have a kid and all your problems will disappear!’
Or the worst. ‘Have a kid and all MY problems will disappear.’
Why do us women never get a respite from this constant pressure? As if we don’t matter until we have a kid. As if our life doesn’t have meaning until a kid comes along. As if we’re made just to have kids. As if without kids, we wouldn’t know life.
I know so many women who have kids. I love these women, their kids, and the joy they feel for having their kids. And I’m glad for them. Happy for them. But not all women want to have kids. Another way in which women’s choices are erased or smashed to the ground. We are told that we will get used to it or that you will see the meaning of that joy. So basically, with patriarchy and society, it’s ‘highway or my way’. By saying things like, “you MUST have kids”, they are telling us that. “If you don’t listen to us, you might as well not exist because your life won’t have meaning.”
Society is consistent while treating women this way, to be honest.
The moment our studies are done (for those of us fortunate to study), it is ‘Oooh start looking for a boy, or it will be late’ or ‘Okay now that her whims have been fulfilled, marry her off!’
The moment we get married, it is ‘When will you have kids, ha? No news yet?’ And this literally happened to me. Agreed, that this came from an older generation of my family. But that is my whole point here!
When we have the first kid, it is ‘Give your first child a younger sibling to play with’, as if that younger sibling is a toy that can be produced out of thin air.
Society always asks more of women. Whatever we do isn’t enough. We have no say over what we want to do with our bodies because there’s always someone thinking they know better about our bodies than we do. The worst part is, patriarchal conditioning is deeply embedded in women as well, and they think reinforcing these age-old “natural processes” that encroach on a woman’s bodily autonomy is completely okay. It’s their ‘duty’ to guide those who don’t know the way, apparently. And you can guess what my reaction to all of this is. I’m just spent. I’m exhausted…
My exhaustion isn’t just limited to this patriarchal conditioning, though. I’m also exhausted at how much life demands of us. Of how much modern society glorifies working our asses off to get a pittance in return. Of how creatives have hardly a place to express themselves (ourselves) without fear of receiving nothing in return. As a writer, I found myself wondering, ‘Why couldn’t I have loved coding instead of writing?’ and felt instantly ashamed for even thinking of it. Writing doesn’t pay well. Coding does. But what would have changed if I had stayed in Information Technology? Perhaps more medication. At least now I’m doing something I love. But is it enough?
For as Woolf says in her masterpiece, A Room of One’s Own, A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction. But though that was the case in the past, with the arts inviting patrons in droves, modern society, despite having more people than ever, has barely any respect for the written word and fiction, outside of the circles, of course. I wonder what I would do if I had patrons supporting me in this manner, like patrons used to in the past. I’d combust with joy, most likely.
I’m exhausted, trying to find the point of life in general. For all of us come from nothingness and to nothingness we must go. I see why people say, “Make your stay here worthwhile.” Sure, but that makes for a Romantic viewpoint on life that more often than not melts in the face of reality.
I’m not a cynic through and through. I do have an optimistic bone or 10 in my body. But how it switches completely depends on the day and what I’m talking about at any moment in time. Right now, every bone – cynic or optimistic or both – is exhausted.
And I’m exhausted trying to keep up a happy, bright, optimistic façade, because if I don’t, I’m yet again bombarded with people telling me to look on the brighter side. To look at the positives and not fixate on the negative things. As if I have control over it most of the times. Ableist, but that’s how the world is.