Taking this Karvaan forward, let us introduce ourselves to each other. But respecting the name of our blog (our journey), let us make this process a reflective process. Let us together remove the layers one by one which together forms our identity, which makes us “what we are”. I approach this process of un-layering (even dis-covering) via the ecological model of Bronfenbrenner — a model that acts as a framework for one to study, understand and examine the relationship of individuals with themselves, with their community, and the wider society they live in.
Family is part of my immediate environment and hence, plays a vital role in giving shape to my identity. And here, I assume that it is the common case for most of us. I, in this piece, will be talking about my identity from the eyes of my parents and brother. And before moving forward, let me make it clear that I am not complaining about anything or not even trying to highlight any negative areas. All I attempt to do it, consciously see the reality I live, address it, and reflect on it.
My family sees me and identifies me in various roles and responsibilities. But, the first and foremost out of all of them is my gender which gets defined by my biological body and not my choice. So, for them, I am a “woman”. I am a woman carrying the biological body of a female. And they see me as a woman first even before seeing me as Advika. Advika becomes a name given to a female body that happens to be their daughter/sister. Being a woman then comes to some aspirations, expectations, limitations, protections which again becomes an important part of my identity. They want their daughter/sister to be protected by this vulturous world who sees every woman merely as a body (and maybe, therefore, even they see their daughter first as ‘having a female body at home’ to protect than anything else and do not understand the concept of the consent).
The concept of consent brings me to another topic and aspect of identity that is — having a voice. My family does consider and identifies me as having a voice. But is it true for all places? No, of course! I do have a voice, to raise my opinions, concerns, desires, and even complaints. But that voice, sometimes, is just heard and not considered and, in some places, it is even over-heard (ignored!). This happens because I am a woman. And according to the cultural rules of the society, a good woman is one who speaks less, who speaks only when asked, who speaks only when required. And in the belief of some people (the so-called intellectuals of Sanskar and Sanskriti of society) women even do not have the capacity to think. Lucky me, my family does not fall under this category but I am aware of many whose family does. This makes me wonder about the trendy wave of consent. Why will the consent of a woman matter for a society that hardly cares to hear the opinion of that woman? I mean it sounds funny that the society which stands intolerant to a woman’s thought/opinion (and considers them incapable of the same) wants to develop some tolerance for their decision. What do you think?
Coming back to what we started with my identity from the eyes of my family. They identify me as a hardworking human who has the potential to achieve anything which I desire to if worked hard towards (with all the शिद्दत). The identity of me as a woman remains intact all the time with my family and also for society. And therefore, they desire that I should work hard enough to not only achieve my personal goals like academic excellence, bright and successful career but also achieve excellence in areas of the domestic sphere like cooking, looking after the house, keeping everyone in the family happy, etc. because this is expected out of a woman in our society on a primary basis.
I am blessed to have a family, loving, and considerate. But being a human, I too, hold the characteristic of greediness in me, and therefore, I greed that my family would have been more understanding and accepting towards me as Advika and be a little less expecting from me as their daughter/sister Advika. You would find this silly. But, I would like to tell you what change will it bring in. Their identifying me as Advika first than their daughter would:
- Allow me to keep all my desires, opinions, thoughts, etc. fearlessly without an expectation that a woman should stay silent (should not voice their desires, opinions, thoughts, etc.) just to avoid quarrels in the family
- Turn my family and home as a field to solve problems instead of a courtroom where if I express my desire to go to my friend’s marriage, for example, I get an answer no, with a reason that the world outside is not safe. My home then would turn into space where my desire is considered and worked out instead of getting turned down with just yes and no.
- Make me feel a human first than regretting me carry this female body because then, I suppose my family (and many other families of this society) might come up saying that I understand your desire but since the world outside is not safe can I accompany you (even when they don’t always desire to go to that marriage, for example)
- Allow me to breathe in relaxation saying that it is okay if you cannot multitask and take care of your work and home together. Instead, I would get a feeling that it is completely fine to follow your dreams. The other things can be managed by all of us together like a family and many more such feelings would come in. The list goes on endless.
Before you all just sign off, I would like to ask you all:
How many of you sit with your sisters/daughters asking them how they feel being a woman? How many of you would work out on a solution (maybe by accompanying them, or preparing them for self-defense, etc.) instead of just giving out your verdict of yes/no over her expressed desire? How many times have you overlooked your desire and will over hers and how many times have you expected her to make visa-versa happen? How many of you have identified your sisters/daughters as humans before a living creature with a female body?
I know the world outside is not safe. The work is still on and therefore, till then protection takes the shape of restrictions. But in this motto of ‘making the world a safer place and till then protecting our daughters and sisters’ let’s not make them hate being born in the female body by just crushing them and their dreams under the cages and rule books of protection and expectations. In this wave of ‘teaching our sons right’, let’s teach them to look at their sisters as humans with voices before seeing them as sisters/women/females.
“Let me be ‘me’ before others bent me to their desires…”
(Adopted and Modified from Forest of Enchantments, Chitra Banerjee)