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|Volume 10 |Issue 09| March 04, 2011 ||
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
When I was about six years old the surest way for my brother to get me all worked up was to insist that I was a boy. It would induce a screech of protest: Naa ami meye! (No way, I'm a girl!) followed by me charging at him like a raging bull towards the matador and trying desperately to scratch his face. It is unfathomable why older brothers find such great pleasure in teasing their little sisters to insanity but that's another story. In retrospect I realise that it was very early in life that I had decided that I was very comfortable with being female and had no desire whatsoever, to be a boy.
As I grew older, I also had to admit that being male in this culture entailed unbelievable benefits. Boys could go out alone, whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted. They had access to cars and rickshaws, they hung out with their friends for hours on end, using bad language, playing cards, running after girls, doing all sorts of things they were not supposed to and getting away with it. They didn't need chaperones just to go to a neighbour's house. They were not called downstairs from the terrace just because it was dusk. They were not made to feel like criminals for liking a member of the opposite sex. They didn't have to go through the pains of becoming a woman.
One would think that such an unfair deal would bring about extreme bitterness and envy, enough to result in mass-scale sex changes from female to male. But thankfully, that did not happen. While we do resent the discrimination, the objectification, the unfair share of physical strength, the lack of respect and often understanding, the truth is we are happily resigned to being female, warts and all.
The reasons are quite complicated and of course differ from woman to woman. Generally speaking, most women feel secretly superior for being able to bear children, something no man, not even the most sensitive kind, can accomplish. Others get immense satisfaction knowing that their male counterparts will never have the pleasure and luxury of being able to wear things like muslin jamdani saris or designer gowns, transform their faces with zillion kinds of cosmetics or immerse themselves in the excruciating pleasures of choosing the right shoe and bag. Yet others draw strength from the fact that most men have a very low emotional quotient compared to women, hence they find it so difficult to express their feelings while they, their female counterparts can gush about theirs to all and sundry.
It's a big burden being a woman in a man's world. Being always in the marginalised category, we are resilient, adjusting, compromising; we know how to survive. We know that to be accepted we must be witty but not loud, caring but not prying, smart but not showy about it. We may earn but never gloat about it. Most of all we must always look good or at least be well-groomed, no matter what, even if the whole world is tearing its hair out, figuratively speaking. American feminist writer Gloria Steinem has summed it up: Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.
So today when an agent for credit services addresses me as 'Sir' even after hearing my voice, I don't scream 'Hey, I'm a woman' or want to scratch the caller's face off. I know what I am. Besides, the agent was a woman; I thought she deserved a break.
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