Every year around women’s day, we hear lines like how every day should be women’s day, but then we realize it was only spoken from the top of a cliff with rippling waves as the audience. I mean to say, nothing ‘really’ changes. People think women want chocolates and flowers rather than any real-world change, any significant conversation.
There are people who’re still clinging to the conventional idea of a perfect woman. Sexism is now available in the garb of unfunny jokes and subtle remarks. Misogyny and delusion are visible when MRAs (men’s rights activists) protest that they are the ‘victims’ of gender equality.
Besides, here are 9 societal stigmas women STILL have to put up with. Almost every day.
1. Women with body hair are ‘unwomanly’
Sporting body hair or not is a personal choice, but try implying it in our setting. When did female beauty get equated with hairlessness? These insecurities are apparent and so deeply ingrained that young girls resort to painful methods of hair removal right from a young age (I was one of them). The pressure to look a certain way starts young. You grow up, and then your families pressure you into looking like a woman, or whatever that means. “Who’d marry you?” they’ll ask.
Ultra-thin, fair-skinned, hairless beauty standards for women are also extremely commercialised. Marketers have a history of preying upon women’s insecurities, where a hairy body becomes unwomanly and unattractive. Why is the idea of body hair on men considered sexy and on women gross?
2. Women wanting to stay single & unmarried is scandalous
You reach your mid-twenties, and suddenly there are parents who had forbidden their daughters to date their entire lives, now wanting to get them married to a stranger. They’ll secretly put you on matrimonial sites, fix meet-ups with random guys, and force you to say yes. Your neighbours would smirk as they pester you asking about D-DATE. Relatives will rant about wanting to dance and look pretty at YOUR wedding. And heaven forbid if you were to be 30 and unmarried and single.
3. Women choosing to be childfree are selfish
Again, wanting to embrace motherhood (or not) is also a matter of personal choice. Some women do not wish to have a child. The institution of marriage has, for centuries, forced the idea of motherhood upon women. Last year, a group of Supreme Court justices in the US, the majority of whom were white dudes by default, put a ban on abortion. In a single decision, they snatched a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. In India, we literally have parents putting a case against their son and daughter-in-law for not giving them a grandchild. Women are demonised, called selfish, for wanting to be childfree as if our bodies are obligated to bear a child. It’s ridiculous!
4. Period blood stigma
Growing up, the shopkeeper uncle used to wrap pads in newspaper and black polythene, and I remember wondering why he was guarding it so much; it was not a bomb. In another incident, my aunt once asked me not to talk about pads out loud, cos it was not good (shameful, perhaps?). There’s also this popular myth that period blood is dirty. Periods have been stigmatised for the longest time, and menstruating women have been deemed impure. It’s deeply problematic how women are still made to feel ashamed about how their bodies function naturally.
5. Exclusionary discourse for trans-persons
There are people who’re openly bigots. There are also TERFs who talk of being a feminist but dismiss the rights and struggles of transwomen. The conventional gender binary is exclusionary. Transpersons have to put up with societal disapproval and familial rejection. They’re stigmatised, denied opportunities, and basic facilities to sustain life.
6. The divorcee woman stigma
The conventional idea of marriage seeks to trap women in matrimony FOREVER. After being literally blackmailed into marrying a stranger and giving a baby, society is not OKAY if a woman seeks to live separately or file a divorce. Divorce is a matter of embarrassment in traditional settings, especially for a woman. A divorced woman is deemed unworthy; she’s viewed with judgement and pity. And heaven forbid if she were to find love again, it would be a scandal for the self-proclaimed guards of morality.
7. Women prioritising career over family is a moral sacrilege
Life after marriage for a woman only becomes more complicated for now they’re expected to uphold all of the traditional family values. By default, the burden of household responsibility falls upon a woman’s shoulders and they’re expected to choose between career and family as if the two can’t co-exist. Besides, shouldn’t responsibilities be equally divided? According to the NFHS survey last year, only 32% of married women are working in India.
8. Stereotypes & subtle sexism
From ‘women can’t be good drivers’ to ‘women can’t do tech,’ from avoiding their inputs in meetings to asking them to do MoM every single time, stereotypes and sexism run strong in our society and workplaces. We’re exposed to these ideas early in our life. They are thrown around so casually as if they are normal, and these become a deeply-rooted part of our life. That sexist tech bro, that casually regressive remark, that unfunny joke only signal that we haven’t moved away from the orthodox mindset.
9. The ‘overdramatic’ female rage
“Is it that time of the month again?” “You’re being unreasonable” and “You are overreacting” are just a few remarks women hear when they are angry. The angry woman stigma paints women as hyper-sensitive, over-emotional beings who have a tendency to give exaggerated and unthoughtful reactions to situations. Their issues and experiences are dismissed; they are gaslit because their problems are deemed to be existing only in their heads with no relation to real life.
It’s 2023! And yes, such discriminatory discourses and societal stigmas are — VERY MUCH — a part of our everyday reality. So, please stop forcing the regressive understanding of gender roles to this day and age. Please, LET US BE.