You are being watched. I am being watched. Everywhere you go, the eyes follow. The steps to the rickshaw, the departmental store, that new restaurant, a friend’s house, all are being watched and judged. Aside from the innately sexual and inappropriate stares of men, I realised there are other eyes set on me.
I am talking about the eyes of women. The women in my apartment building, my friend’s mother, my friend, my neighbour’s second cousin; they all look at me. We always assume that it’s only the men who snatch away our freedom, but we often fail to discern that women are sometimes equally to be blamed.
It is not lost on us that women often sit down in groups and talk about other women. I am extremely offended by this because I realised how much I love us, us women, and how much it hurts for me to watch others being shamed.
Sadly, I have been on both ends of the stick. I have caught myself participating in conversations where the object was to belittle another woman. However, I have mostly been the victim in such conversations because I was different, utterly oblivious.
I am certain that if a girl wears a short skirt to a party, other women there will talk behind her back. They not only talk about her skirt, but about her character, her mind, her body, and at times about her existence; ultimately concluding that a piece of clothing is her identity.
But the question is whether or not the conclusion could be different if she wore jeans that night? The answer is no. No matter what she wears, she will be judged and not respected by other women.
A woman going to work will be looked down upon by her own mother and female friends. Why is that? Why is she considered a “bad” girl? Is it because she decided to make her own living? Why is it such a sin to decide to become a person of her own and not want to be dependent on a male caretaker? Why can’t the girl with the scooter go to work without being sneered at by the women on the streets?
How can men respect us if we cannot respect ourselves? Why is the girl in skinny jeans and tanktop considered lewd? Why do some women feel no compassion towards the girl whose pictures were leaked by her ex-boyfriend? Why is it okay to think that the single mother living upstairs has no principles, and that her body is available to any man because she does not have a husband?
We need to stop, you and I, together. We need to stop looking at women condescendingly. Being a woman in any country is challenging, especially in a male-dominated country like ours. Growing up, I realised that if you have to be different you need to learn to fight for yourself. But I also realised that it takes a lot more strength and emotional strain to fight another woman.
I run out of things to say when I try to make another woman understand why any rape is not justified based on what the girl was wearing. I am at a loss for words when women question a 24-year-old young woman who is not married, and is still studying and pursuing a career.
Birds of a feather do not always flock together, we are still far from being a source of strength and support for each other. The attitude of women towards other women will not change overnight in this country. The so-called norms of our society will not alter in a week. Not every girl will be allowed to get an education or work, or say “no” to an arranged marriage immediately. But I know that change will come.
But for now, all I can do is show my appreciation towards the one that has decided to break the rules and be herself. That is why I have a little message for all you strong girls out there, fighting and surviving each day: Go out, wear anything that makes you happy, and most importantly, love yourself and be yourself, no matter what others have to say.