Today is International Women’s day. But today I don’t feel empowered. I feel scared and disturbed. I feel like Women’s day died a while ago and we are celebrating its funeral today. The moment I bought 2 cans of pepper spray for me and my mom a part of it died in me. Then when my lady friend saw the can of pepper spray and got “offended” that I didn’t remember her when I bought it, it died once again. The spirit of women’s day has died a million deaths every time we check if “too much skin is showing” as we get up and dress up because god forbid we “tempt” and “entice” men around us. Alas, we end up “asking for it”! Today I feel pain and unrest for the 16-year-old, who was impregnated by a Catholic priest, for her life will never be easy for her. And all her 16 years of Women’s days she lived through didn’t prepare her for this. I feel for the actress violated by the goons on that fateful day in Kochi. All she wanted was a happy and beautiful life to nurture her love and passion for her craft. She never asked for an opportunity to show the courage she is now forced to show, that we now celebrate at her cost. I feel for all those nameless and named women who suffered, some in silence or otherwise. Women’s Day died in me the moment I stopped smiling at people out of fear of what their intentions might be for me.
I want to apologize to all the good men around me for I may look at them in suspicion. And, I feel sorry for me and for all the wonderful and beautiful friendships I may miss out on as every day the world teaches me that as a woman you ought not to trust anyone. Not the priest, not the driver, not the teacher, not the boyfriend, not the brother, not the neighbor, not anyone! And if something ever goes wrong expect everyone, even women, to blame you. “Why did she wear that? Why did she go there? Why didn’t she complain immediately?” I want to apologize to all good men also for all the times you were blamed unfairly and unjustly. You have had to carry the weight of prejudice caused by someone else and that is sad. I understand that #NotAllMen comes from a good place. But please understand that all women have, at one point or the other, been molested, violated, and/or abused and they have neither liked it nor have wanted it to happen again.
So, after all this, don’t wish me a happy woman’s day like it’s my birthday. Don’t try to cheer me up with a few discounts thrown in randomly. Don’t tell me how great, special and important I am. Don’t tell me that you respect women. Please don’t respect us because we are women. We don’t deserve your respect like that. If you can, please respect us as human beings; as living, breathing, thinking individuals capable of choice and decision. Respect us for our achievements if any, or for our thoughts and actions, but not for our gender.
We don’t need “brothers” to protect and safeguard us. Don’t burden us with words like ‘morality’ and ‘culture’. Just let us be. All we want is to think, feel, wear and talk our minds without your judgment. If you don’t agree, even that is fine. Let’s argue and argue, and if even that doesn’t work then let’s just agree to disagree. But, let us be.