Let me start by telling you a brief version of my own story. My brother and I were brought up by our mother after my parents split up. Since I was eight years old, my relatives would advise me, "You need to be the man of the house and take care of your mother." Therefore, when I used to go for my tennis practice, I would literally beg my coach to allow me to play with the boys and not the girls. I switched from Barbies to car-racing video games. I started wearing cargo pants and shorts rather than skirts.
When we attended family functions, I would see my mother being criticized heavily by others for marrying a man from a different religion; hardly anyone was supportive. I started believing she must have been wrong until one day when I overheard someone saying to my mother, "Women are weak and they need a man's support. You are not doing justice to your kids. Just remarry." I was shocked because at no point in my life had I observed my mother displaying any kind of weakness. For me, she was and is the strongest woman I know. At that moment I tore myself away from what society had been feeding me. I realized it was all a farce.
As a single parent, my mother handled me, my brother and herself with grace and integrity. This, in a state like Uttar Pradesh...
As a single parent, my mother handled me, my brother and herself with grace and integrity. This, in a state like Uttar Pradesh where single women are frowned upon. I knew that Disney's story of the 'damsel in distress' being saved by the Prince Charming was a futile fantasy. I learnt from my mother that in the real world only I could save myself. I think every girl should be taught the lesson that she must be her own hero and saviour. Even Disney is rewriting the tried and tested script with films like Tangled and Brave which feature gutsy heroines.
Women have their own strength. They do not need men to protect them. Even a woman's emotions, to me, are a sign of strength.
On the occasion of International Women's Day, I would urge people to stop comparing genders. I believe it's nonsense to say that one gender is 'better' than another, or that either has a monopoly over or even a penchant for specific characteristics over the other. While the average man is larger than the average women, the variety of sizes seen in men and the variety of sizes seen in women are much wider than the differences in the average. And that goes for every quality. To consider women weak is ridiculous. Just look at history--Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi were just as quick to go to war as the next guy when force appeared to be the answer. Accomplished women abound in all areas of life, and for all the odds they encountered they fought hard and reached the pinnacles of success. Marissa Mayer, Indira Nooyi, Sania Mirza, and Oprah Winfrey are a few names that come to mind.
I think every girl should be taught the lesson that she must be her own hero and saviour.
I would like to see equal representation of both genders in every walk of life without any comparison. Physiological differences don't play that significant a role. Today, as women are flooding into the workplace and becoming more career oriented, many more men are becoming caregivers and staying back as home as the primary parent. The world is changing, and for the better.
Now, the onus is on the media to help promote powerful images of women instead of always painting them as oppressed. All women need is encouragement and that alone will empower them to reach great heights.