Ananya (15), was sitting in the school canteen with her friends Nyasa and Deepti. She looked quite glum so her friends asked her what upsets her. And that was it! She shared something which resonated with every girl in the class! What was her common problem?
“Ananya, you haven’t even touched your tiffin. Everything ok?” Nyasa asked.
“Nyasa, I am super bummed. Just feel so upset that I can’t even begin to tell you! I asked mom to give me permission for a sleepover at Neha’s home this weekend, she did not allow me!” Ananya complained.
“But my brother gets to go to his friend’s place to play video games whenever he likes. He always gets his way. This is unfair!” she added.
“Oh I can relate to you Ananya. Calm down. Did you ask your mom why she denied your request for a sleepover?” Nyasa suggested.
“Yes, the usual, she told me that she is worried about my safety”, Ananya replied.
“My mom gives me the same reason”, added Deepti, who sat next to them and was overhearing their conversation.
“I know, I am so upset”, Ananya sulked.
Sit at home?
“Well we should think from our parent’s angle too. Their concern is very relevant, considering how unsafe the society has become. The other day a dog went missing and some days ago someone stole my cycle!”, Nyasa tried to reason.
“So what should we do? Sit at home and not venture out?” a frustrated Ananya asked.
“Try to reason with your mom. Maybe introduce her to Neha, so she is well acquainted with her family. This way Aunty will feel safe about your conveyance. You can give her Neha’s or her mother’s phone number so she can call if she needs to check up on you”, Nyasa suggested.
“I think that would be a great idea Nyasa, maybe you should try it”, Deepti chipped in while munching on her sandwich.
“Deepti, it worked for me last time I wanted to go for a sleepover at my friend Sheetal’s house. Guess what, now her mom and my mom are very good friends too. My mom drops me at her house, spends some time there and has a chit chat too with Sheetal’s mom”, Nyasa smiled.
But that is not the point!
“I will use your method Deepti. Let me see if it works at my house or not but that’s not the real point here. Don’t you guys also feel that we as girls are treated differently than our brothers or male friends?” Ananya asked.
Both of them nodded.
“Do our parents not love us as much as our brothers?” Ananya said, probably asking a question to herself.
“I feel you Ananya but please don’t feel this way! Of course they love us”, Deepti said.
“You know the other day I was uploading a picture on Instagram and my mother asked me to delete it, saying it was not safe for me to do so. But when my younger brother does that, she says he is just a kid! ” Ananya complained again.
“Well, you know how these online trolls are! I have actually deactivated my Instagram account because of this. The comments on my page were so horrible. Your mom might be worried about your online safety too. And yes, I am sure when your brother is of your age, he will get to hear the same”, Nyasa replied.
“But Nyasa it is not just that. You know the other day at my aunt’s place I was asked to help with all the cleaning while my brother was just chilling on the sofa”, Ananya’s complaints were not over yet!
“That’s not right Ananya. You should have talked to your mom”, Nyasa said.
“I tried but mom said stop arguing. He is too young. Anyways, aren’t we girls are expected to behave in a certain way, to adhere to certain duties, and enjoy limited freedom compared to the boys?” Ananya was just going on and on. Their class teacher Madhu ma’am, who was also there, was listening to them.
“Ananya, you are so right. These things happen. It’s a reality that boys and girls are still treated differently in many homes. You see, parents often treat us the way they were brought up themselves. Your mom might have been told to do all household chores, or not go out alone, when she was a kid herself”, Madhu ma’am explained.
“Yes, maybe”, Ananya listened patiently.
“Well, come to think about it Ananya, parents have many such expectations from boys too. They are shamed for crying no matter how hurt they are, they can’t wear pink, else they are called feminine, they have to start earning for their family. These expectations are thrusted upon them by the society because of their gender i.e being a male”, Madhu ma’am explained.
“Ma’am still, we girls still have to bear more. I think we should just accept our fate, these things will never change. Just ignore them”, sighed Deepti.
“Deepti, turning the other way won’t make the problem go away. You have to face the music, the world we live in has not always been fair to us girls. We have to acknowledge it and strive for a more equitable atmosphere for us”, Madhu ma’am now sat down with the girls as she explained.
“But how?” asked Ananya.
“Start by accepting the fact that we are just as equal to our male counterparts and no less. Boost your self-esteem, and never accept any discriminatory behaviour. Till you don’t value your worth no one else will”, Madhu ma’am said.
“But what if we still face any discrimination at home?”Ananya asked, as she was all ears.
“Baby steps Ananya, baby steps. Start slow. You can’t change these social norms in a day. So start by politely reasoning out with your family and friends who do so with you. Such gender biased behaviour towards someone is called sexism. Many girls start noticing such differences around the age of 11-13 and the best way to cope with it is to openly communicate about this. With practical reasoning you can turn your parents and friends to be your support system”, Madhu ma’am said.
“But ma’am parents don’t listen to us. If we try to explain any of our points of view to them, they say we are arguing!” Nyasa, who was a silent listener till now, said.
“They will listen one day, Nyasa. Mine eventually did. You just have to be extremely patient and even listen to them too. It takes time to change the things that have been going on for a long time. A good conversation is always two ways, right?” Madhu ma’am said and the bell rang. Everyone hurriedly finished their lunch and got up!
“Let us go guys or we will be late for our lecture”, Nyasa
“Thanks Ma’am. This was a very good discussion. We should talk more about this. Perhaps we can also have a club!” the girls said in excitement as they rushed to their class.
Have you ever been in this situation? Share with us in the comments box below. Remember not to share any personal information in the comment boxes.