Being a girl in a desi household means being surrounded by nosy neighbours and judgemental relatives while surviving in a patriarchal society. From “itni late ghar aati ho?” to “aise kapde pehenti ho?”, most women are bombarded with unsolicited and misogynistic comments. How women should live their lives is somehow an international, national, regional and mohalla-level debate. While the majority of the female warriors turn a deaf ear to them, wanting to pull out your hair after hearing some of the statements is common. Here are 10 habitual sexist and patriarchal things women have to endure with tips on dealing with them politely but firmly. But before you dive in, watch this video of some Desi Aunty Taanes.
10 Everyday Smack Comments Women Have To Hear
1. Itna Padh-Likh Kar Kya Karogi?
Become the CEO of your own company? Lead a brand to new heights of success? Get named in the Forbes list of highly successful women? The choices are endless. The mindset that every woman, at the end of the day, has to get married, have kids and just take care of the house is unreasonable. Take the example of the co-founder of the online marketplace ShopClues and the Chief Business Officer Radhika Ghai Aggarwal. She is an Internet entrepreneur and India’s first woman to enter the Unicorn Club.
What’s the best response to this annoying question? Simply shut them down with your success. Keep doing what you love and climb the ladder of success.
2. 25 Pe Shaadi, 28 Pe Bachha
Just like the new annual calendar that arrives home before year-end, women are born with one that sets their birthdays as deadlines. She is expected to finish her studies and get married before her 25th birthday and become a mom by 28. Not content with the timelines, women are often encouraged to compare their lives with others and feel guilty about their life choices. In a recent TC46 article about turning 30, the founder & CEO Akshita Gupta put it brilliantly. “For me, life has just started. I made the best of my 20s by experimenting with life, figuring out who I am and what I want the direction of life to be. And a great lesson I have learnt is to be comfortable with myself. I have seen friends take the “married at 25, baby at 28” route, making me wonder about where I am headed. But now I know that we all have our unique lives to lead.” Curious about the 10 things every about-to-be 30-year-old should know? Read it here.
Sania Mirza‘s brilliant response to Rajdeep Sardesai‘s question overriding with a patriarchal tone about her ‘settling down’ is a mantra all women can adopt. “The question I face all the time as a woman, that all women have to face — the first is marriage and then it’s motherhood. Unfortunately, that’s when we’re settled, and no matter how many Wimbledons we win or number ones in the world we become, we don’t become settled.”
3. Gendered Chores & Roles
Yeh ladkiyon wale kaam and yeh ladkon wale kaam hai has to be the most frustrating thing to hear. Women are often told they need to be in the kitchen and men are expected to handle finance and other “manly” tasks. Media and different forms of entertainment have us convinced that Indian men aren’t too happy about taking up household chores. But this is far from the truth. Learn how to split up chores with your partner with ease here. Jyoti Ann Burrett, a certified trainer at Nike and footballer for the Indian Women’s League is a great example of women making it big in male-dominated sectors. Learn from her how to take up a sport as an adult here.
Ask those who put you in a box to read about all the special women who have defied societal norms and helped make our society a little more progressive here.
4. A Working Mother? Tauba!
Twinkle Khanna’s speech at the 2017 Vogue Awards was hilarious, with witty remarks that showed society a mirror. “The most important thing I have learned is this—for centuries, women have been looking for a cape and they’ve been handed an apron. And it’s only recently that we’ve learned how to swing our aprons around, let it fly on our backs and take to the skies.” Just like her, several women are chasing their dreams and accomplishing their goals and ambitions while handling kids. Unfortunately, Indian women, once they bring a child into the world, are asked to give up their careers and focus on the family. Several women excellently manage their homes and family, more often than not, when it is their choice to do so. This choice, to stay at home as a mother or continue to work is what matters. Neither choice makes for a “bad decision”.
5. Beta, Tum Thodi Patli/Gori Hoti Toh
TC46 recently put out a post asking – What would you say if someone told you: “Tu zara patli hoti toh zyada achchi lagti”. And the comments section was filled with savage replies! “You need help and education”, “I thought the same about you and your big fat mouth”, “Tumhari soch agar achchi hoti toh kya baat hoti” were some of the top comments. The toxic prejudices about skin colour and pathetic beauty standards are all walking out the door with awareness and self-love. And yet we still see fairness creams being advertised and fitness promotions relying on shaming women for their bodies.
6. Pati Parmeshwar Complex
“Millions of Indian women fast for their husbands’ long lives every Karva Chauth. I don’t think our 3,033 Gods are really listening. Because on the mortality charts there are 147 countries above us where their men outlive our good old Indian dudes. So, ladies stop because it’s clearly not working.” Twinkle Khanna’s quote from her speech is an outstanding example. Desi wives are told to worship their husbands, fast for their long life, eat once they are done and do what’s best for their pati. And this so-called pati parmeshwar can’t even fetch a glass of water from the kitchen for his patni!
In TC46’s Father’s Day special, a retired banker, Ravi Pathak shares his thoughts. “Since I am now retired, I try and take over responsibilities that I couldn’t while I was away. Today, I have the opportunity to take care of the house while my wife goes to work and that brings me peace.” Read all about new-age dads here.
7. Curfews & Restrictions
How many times have you faced your dad’s dagger stares and mom’s unlimited taane for coming home late? Whether it’s for work or a night out with friends, curfews for women seem to be constant. It doesn’t matter if she is 20 or 30, the ghar ki izzat should be home by a certain time. The ghar ka chirag, on the other hand, can stay out the entire night without worry. Having had the biggest battle of my life on this topic, I, Srushti, the author of this article, can say with some authority that, “It is a war. But a war worth fighting for. I have managed to change my dad’s mind with unwavering strength, open communication and by standing my ground and so can you.”
8. Achhe Ghar Ki Ladkiyan Yeh Nahi Karti
“You have too much body hair, you have to wax it”, “Don’t wear clothes that show so much skin”, “Girls are only beautiful with long hair, so don’t cut it” – the list of what a good Indian girl would and shouldn’t do is laughable. From “sit like a lady” to “don’t wear too much makeup”, women are advised about any and everything. Even if a woman does follow certain standards, she is not better or worse than any other woman.
The solution is simple – practise self-love, build up your confidence and trust your instincts. The right to do as you please is granted to all genders. And you have no one to please but yourself!
9. Galti Tumhari Hi Hogi
The classic tagline for all issues and problems faced by women is that it must be her fault. Even in 2021, domestic violence against women is excused as “that’s how men show their love” and “tumne hi kuch galat kiya hoga”. The trend of victim-blaming is even prevalent in molestation, sexual assault and rape cases. Here the woman is asked intrusive, illogical questions like, “Why were you out at that time of the day”, “Tum akele kyun thi”, “Why were you with a man”, “What were you wearing” and more.
In 2020, Justice Krishna S Dixit of the Karnataka High Court made outrageous statements about a rape survivor. In response, Aparna Bhat, a senior Delhi-based lawyer, wrote an open letter to the chief justice of India and the three female judges of the Supreme Court.
10. Thoda Adjust Kar Lo
This mantra of women needing to adjust and compromise in order to lead a happy life is downright awful. Thoda adjust kar lo is the Indian way of creating what psychologists call a compulsive people-pleaser, particularly among women. Pleasing others and making others happy is part of the delight of belonging to a family or a circle of friends. And Indian women are taught that this is the way of life for them. Read here about these Indian women who share their thoughts on compromising in marriage.
To make marriage life successful, both of them should give wings to each other’s dreams and should manage the house and children together. That’s the key to a happy life.
In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticised anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” So go ahead and live your life the way you want to!