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“Don’t Give Your 100% To A Man”…Really?

“Dear girls, get a degree, start earning, buy a house and a car, give back to your parents and then get married. Don’t put your 100% on a man.” Saw this on my social media feed today. Needless to say, it had more than a few thousand likes and hundreds of comments.

Then there is another post doing the rounds on social media regularly – about women not being exactly “thrilled” about the idea of wearing bindis, sindhoor, bangles, toe-rings and other similar signs proclaiming their marital status to the world.

And then there is also this fact that the culture of arranged marriage in our country (with the age of the groom never being much of a concern; but the age of the bride preferred to be in the early twenties); is seeing a significant change. The average marriage age, for the bride and the groom today has gone up considerably; especially that of the bride; which brings me back to the whole Dear Girls post mentioned above.

These posts stem, no doubt, from the idea of women empowerment; because frankly, in our country we make a lot of noise about women empowerment. And we should too, because there are still many women who do not have the right to education in our country, several who are fiscally reliant on their relatives, and even many, even urban educated women, who undergo abuse at home or at the work place and have no one to back them and support them. That is where women empowerment really needs to happen.

Refusing to get married before a certain age, or before achieving a certain goal, or refusing to get married at all; refusing to wear the so called symbols of a married woman because they do not go with the modern “liberated” attitude; choosing to wear western dresses to show that we are empowered, liberated and free of the shackles of our traditions – really, I don’t believe that is being empowered at all!

For me, empowerment is in the mind. Why else would so many Government run schemes for women empowerment not be a shining success they were intended to be? In many cases, despite the resources made available to women, they still think twice before stepping out of their homes. There are courts and the police and a bevy of lawyers at her disposal if a woman decides to report abuse. But does she? No. Because what plays on her mind, is that no matter what the result, it will be her name and her reputation that will be tarnished. Why does a rape victim not report the incident if she can help it? She doesn’t, because in our society, it is not the perpetrator’s name that is remembered by people, but the victim’s.

You see, we make women empowerment only about women. But that is wrong.

Women empowerment is about changing the mindset of the people.

It is about everyone accepting and appreciating the value and the freedom of women in our society.

It is about making the woman feel empowered.

And that is why I ask, will not wearing a bindi or a chooda really make her feel empowered? Will not marrying till she is in her 30’s make her feel empowered? Will having a successful career with a large corner office in a big MNC make her feel empowered? Some may say yes, but I say, that is only a part of being a woman.

We have all created these stereotypes of empowered women; and we refuse to look beyond them. But being an empowered woman in so much more than that!

For me, being empowered is about having confidence in oneself. It is about being comfortable in one’s skin, being a free spirit. For me an empowered woman is one who can make her own decisions and stand by them. I don’t mind her relying on a man, why should I; men rely on women all the time! I don’t mind her to be a married woman and a mother even. I don’t mind it if she is a homemaker or a grandmother.

For me, the woman who doesn’t earn a penny but manages the financial affairs of the household is empowered. I don’t see her as financially dependent on her husband; I see her husband depending on her so that he can go out and earn the money for their home.

For me, the woman who was gifted diamonds by her husband is as empowered as the girl who bought herself diamonds from her own earnings; because the one who was gifted the diamonds was selfless as well as capable enough to have helped her husband through the work and the effort it took him to be able to afford them.

For me, the sense of being part of a family and raising the next generation right is empowering.

For me, sharing the journey of life with someone who respects and understands you is empowering.

I don’t have anything against the single women who have made a mark for themselves, mind you. I respect them, I really do. But if you tell me that not dressing up traditionally and not following the traditions is the only way to women empowerment, then I beg to differ. Because there is so much more to life than toe-rings and bindis!

Which brings me back to the Dear Girls post I mentioned in the beginning. Well I know no one asked me, but here’s my two cents – so dear girls, you want to get a degree, get it, get two or more, in fact; you want to earn money, go ahead do that; you want to buy a house, a car, please do! You want to give back to your parents, by all means, put your foot down, give them what you wish.

But girls, know this – it takes courage and a very big heart to commit to a man and have the mental and psychological strength to see it through. So if you think you don’t need a man in your life, think again. Because it takes so much more to succeed in life when you are sharing it with someone, thinking about them as well as yourself, every step of the way!

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