Hi gals! One fine morning, in the year 2001 that was being celebrated as Women Empowerment year, enlightenment dawned upon me and I could clearly envisage the difference between the “so called empowered women” and the “real empowered women”, and this great secret is what I am going to share with you as I know empowerment is what all of you want to achieve. No, I didn’t have to go and sit in meditation under any Boddhi tree; all it needed was a few sittings at the backbenches of some official functions that were instrumental to reveal this secret to me.
Frankly speaking my heart bleeds when I see you wearing those shabby and dull looking workshop uniforms, dull enough to kill any interest that a boy may have in you. My eyes shed a tear or two (not crocodile tears) when I find you competing fiercely with boys in all spheres of college life. Am I jealous of you? Oh! No, it is pity that overwhelms my poor little heart. Such a waste, a real shameful waste, of beauty and good looks.
What are you after—a good job which will give you financial security.
Self identity that will make you look apart from crowd.
Self respect which will help you get self esteem in your own eyes.
Above all a name of your own!
And in your own idealistic state of mind, you perceive these to be some of the attributes that will empower you, how mistaken you are? My foot, sorry, my big ugly foot! And if you want to know how my feet became ugly, although big they always were, it was because of running to the office, market and where not? Didn’t I tell you that in my ideal to become a perfect woman—I had to have time for everything and everything on time—and for that I had to be on constant move? My dreams of housing lovely, dainty feet strapped in thin golden-leathered delicate sandals vanished in thin air when I opted to be a “so called empowered woman”. Oh, dear I am sure I am not frightening you but you would not like to look the way I look.
And my hands—they say the hands of a person speak volumes about him or her, though I believe that it’s the woman’s hand that are more under observation, remember—the hand that rocks… kind of idioms. My big working hands, similar to that of a working maid’s, albeit, devoid of any embellishment like enamel, ooze out the story of the “empowered status” that I enjoy. I sincerely don’t have to have that status. How many times had I to hide my hands under my shawl when my so-called society friends were scrutinizing them critically!
If empowerment is what you are looking forward to, keep your eyes and ears open and observe critically the women you feel are the real empowered ones in the town, who really constitute the power echelon. And how to do that is quite simple—observe the woman who would head straightway toward the front rows during any social or official function.
Yes, you get my point, these are the really empowered ones. Dressed in exquisite silk sarees, flaunting their husband’s status and wealth, these figures of power would straight away go and occupy the front rows. Honestly answer my question—have you observed me during such gatherings? I head towards the forth or the fifth row or even to the benches at the back to make room for these “really empowered women” at the front.
Dear girls, it baffles me at times to ascertain as to why these women, most of whom had been, invariably, the backbenchers throughout their academic careers, reach the front benches. I know from my personal experience about their academics, so trust me nothing is being exaggerated. And the ever-elusive answer came to me during the enlightenment that I talked about.
The secret is that these women knew an age-old secret well that successful men love marrying dumb women! Please don’t laugh. When acting dumb can get you what acting and being smart can never get you, why not to act dumb?
Didn’t we talk about in the beginning about the attributes that “so-called empowered women” must have and the first was to achieve financial security. The harsh fact is that what the “so called empowered women” get after working so hard and slogging in work places from 9 to 5 seven days a week, the really “empowered women” get for free. And if you think that men love women with beauty and brain, you are seriously mistaken, my dear. Intelligent, smart and successful men prefer to socialize with not a particularly intelligent women as it might hurt their fragile ego but with a dumb beauty who will boost their ego by listening to their silly matters, awestruck! So what would you prefer to become—a so called “empowered woman” or a “really empowered one”?
And job satisfaction—if this is what you have in mind, forget it. You have to do everything better than a male colleague to prove yourself to be at par with them. To top it all, when it comes to managerial assignments during an official function, thank your stars if you find yourself in Decoration committee. They don’t put you in a Decoration Committee because they know about your artistic skills but because being a woman you’ll surely end up behaving just according to their plans, turning up in your Sunday bests, looking like a doll would fit the role of a decoration piece on the D-day. Oh dear, I can almost hear your whimpers. You might be questioning as to what stops you from looking your best during your working days? If you feel like it, nothing stops you. But your own inner voice which tells you to wear non-specific clothes as subdued appearance may help others to focus on your work than your looks. The cycle repeats itself and ultimately you end up looking nondescript and even nonentity at times. Just look at me and stop being a starry eyed fool. On the other hand the “real empowered women” are free or are rather encouraged to project their best image. The looks they cultivate help them get into limelight during all functions. Whereas I try my best to merge in the dull and drab background of my official colours, oh how boring indeed!
As if all this was not enough, when it comes to gracing social occasions by their “benign presence”, getting time out of their very busy schedule(?) to act as judges for literary activities, painting competitions, sports functions etc., whom do they invite? Me? Never. It is, invariably, someone big’s(?) wife, as if by marrying judiciously and calculatively one becomes accomplished in all such arts to pass judgment on the efforts of dedicated and committed contestants. “Am I feeling jealous?” If this is what you plan to ask me, no. The choice was mine, why must I feel jealous?
I think we agreed in the beginning that the so called women empowerment lies in having an identity of your own, self-respect, and a name for yourself to mention a few.Let us discuss all these terms one by one.
Identity—do I have it? Sure, I do have it. Over the years I have developed a cold and indifferent expression on my face which initially I used as a mask to hide my real feelings but to my dismay, this mask has become my identity today. A look at my face and people put a tag “a working lady” and another adjective that they don’t utter but is clearly written all over their faces “a poor working lady”, and this is my identity.
What about self-respect? Humiliation at the hands of my superiors and brash behaviour by my juniors, have tried to remove all traces of self-respect that I did possess before becoming a “so called empowered woman”. The only fragment of self-respect that which I still possess stops me from rushing towards all the prestigious sofas, however inviting they may seem, during a social and official function. I am sure you never had such an ides about self-respect!
And a name for myself? The big dream that I chased like a fool similar to a wild chase to get a pot filled with gold at the end of the rainbow, unfortunately, still remains a dream.
If I question myself if I really have earned a name for myself, the only honest answer that comes to my mind is, yes. Perhaps I have earned a name which you, all my dear students, have coined for me—a red head or perhaps even a pig head!