Never Dim Your Light
Last month, I wrote an article in KASHMIR CENTRAL, explaining the trauma a woman has to go through in our society just because she is a career-oriented woman – just because she decides to do what some may label as ‘not correct’.
The write-up was titled ‘Not Marriageable Material’. It noted how a section of young men in our society do not want to marry career-conscious women. They demand that their brides-to-be should not have moved beyond Jawahar Tunnel for work or study. This myopic worldview is so regressive and confusing, I had noted.
While writing that article, I was expressing what I had felt over the last few years, and what I other career-conscious women like me had experienced. I was skeptical about how the article would be perceived. I felt that the article may offend a lot of people. But it was also important to put on record the pain felt by our young women – a vital part of our beautiful society.
Now I am happy that I wrote the article. I have got so many responses from my colleagues and friends. Some agreed with it, some agreed to parts of it, and some showed their disagreement.
‘We All Have Faced This Discrimination’
The day after the article was published and shared by me, some of my friends really liked it. They said that they could relate to what I had written. I was approached in the university by a woman who is doing Ph.D.
She said to me, “You know, we have all faced this discrimination. We all have been stereotyped in one way or the other. You were stereotyped for not covering your head. I received the same treatment for being too simple. But it needs courage to point these things out. It needs courage to say in black and white that our own society is judging us unfairly.”
A man who read the article conveyed to me that he is engaged to a woman who has been studying outside Kashmir, and that he doesn’t have any problem with it. I respect him for this. It is expected that a decent, educated man shall give the same respect to the women in his society, as he expects from them.
‘Career Conscious Women Continue To Be Unfairly Judged’
Tahira, who is my senior and is an assistant professor in a college, said that she too has experienced this discrimination. She added that judging women who choose to make a career for themselves or who choose not to cover their head are not isolated incidents. She said that she knows many women who continue to be unfairly judged. Tahira said she wanted me to keep writing, bringing such issues to light. Only then we would be able to finally break these stereotypes.
A young woman from the university seemed to be rather offended by the write-up. She responded with this terse comment. “Men and women have decided roles. This is how society is working. Only thing is both of the genders should have respect for each other. As a woman I will never want to satisfy my ego to push males into the kitchen. This kind of pseudo feminism should be strictly condemned”.
Her response reminds me of that old wisdom – women are responsible for other women being discriminated. This young woman called me a pseudo feminist for telling the truth about our own society – a truth we all are aware of. This was disheartening, and more surprising because it was coming from an educated woman. We call education the opening of the mind. This young woman read into my write-up what I hadn’t written or even hinted at.
I was amused by her response, because nowhere did I say we should disrespect men or tell them to take charge of the kitchen. My only point was – why should young women be labeled as bad if they decide to pursue their career, like men do. But it’s better to move on from such a negative response, because one encounters enough positivity too.
‘More Power To Women’
Harneet, one of my juniors, left me a beautiful message. She wrote, “Reading about this has given me goose-bumps. I had no idea that women are referred to as ‘not marriageable material’. Are we materials? Educated women know what is good for them. It is utterly disappointing that they should be labeled.”
Another friend expressed her support with this response. “Truly it’s a men’s world, particularly those who are misogynists. It’s sad that these things are still happening in the society, but this should not stop women from doing what is best for them. MORE POWER TO WOMEN.”
One of my seniors, Dr Aijaz Ahmad wrote that he feels sad that educated women have to face this discrimination. He said that women should not be stereotyped or labeled depending on one’s personal likes or dislikes. Dr Aijaz told me to keep writing on such issues so that we all question and correct our negative attitudes.
Farah, a former colleague, also appreciated my writing. She said that now it’s time for girls who study outside Kashmir to reject guys who live or study outside Kashmir – like a tit for tat thing. I laughed when she suggested that. I like the way she thinks and I might actually try that.
A girl came to me and commented that I liked what you wrote, but perhaps things aren’t that bad. What you wrote seems to be an exaggeration. I was so amused the way she was living in denial of what educated young women are experiencing. I told her tongue-in-cheek, “Yeah I saw all of it in a dream and decided to write on it.”
I don’t know why people assume that if something did not happen to them, it has not happened at all. Seems to be an ostrich thing – the bird sticks its neck in the sand and refuses to acknowledge the negative force. People, especially women, should not have this ostrich attitude. If I am stereotyped for one thing, the society may stereotype you for another. Social attitude that normalizes stereotyping or labeling makes all of us vulnerable.
The Harsh Realities We Face
A constant feedback that I got was that I must keep writing about such issues more and more. Dr Amit at Jammu University candidly admitted, “This is a harsh reality that women have to face in our patriarchal society. One must keep writing about these issues so that people become conscious of their wrong social and mental conditioning in some aspects, and correct it.”
My friend Atika Khajuria, a research scholar in the Department of Economics, left a thought-provoking comment on my Facebook page where I shared the link. She wrote, “In my day to day life, I always used to hear about the management skills of a woman in every aspect. A woman has to focus on every single skill – be it household work or their jobs. A woman has to prove her ability at every step of life and still has to live her life like the other demands her to live. We are in the 75th year of Independence, and still men say that skilful and educated women are not marriageable material”.
Another friend of mine Mehak Kour, a scholar, wrote, “This article has become a voice of all those women who are unable to express themselves share their deep thoughts because of the fear of being judged. It has happened to me too being judged for the way I dress and for telling and sticking to my true image. She made some good observations and pointed out that it’s not just Kashmir. It is happening everywhere here in Jammu too. She has faced it and she has witnessed many woman have faced this problem.
Another senior scholar from Jammu University, Sheetal encouragingly said, “Kudos to the spirit that hails within you. Just wanna tell you that you are beautiful the way you are and right person will find his way and will respect you for NOT BEING MARRIAGEABLE MATERIAL.” This comment made my day and all the days that follow. I want to tell all the women who have faced these issues: Remember that you are beautiful. You are confident. You can conquer the world. Never dim your light just because it strikes the eyes of those who don’t appreciate it.