~Published as my contribution on gender stereotyping on Incredible Women of India for the 6th Women Scream Art and Poetry festival, Kolkata Chapter~
The clock has barely struck eight when her phone starts singing a mad tune. Rakhi glances at her phone screen and sighs.
“I got to go, Megha…”
“But it is barely eight!”
“I know…but you know as well…”
Both the girls sigh in an implicit understanding and Rakhi turns to go.
Where you ask? Why, to home sweet home! The curfew has struck. Cinderella needs to be back or in this shadowland of crime and grime, she would not just lose her impressive attire but her life itself.
As the moon ascends in the purple sky, we see gals hurrying away, their family frantically waiting to usher them home, even as guys order another round of beer. When I was a kid, I kept hoping to grow up, thinking that adulthood was the license to stay late. I couldn’t be more wrong.
To validate my statement, just plan a trip with a couple of your girlfriends. If you get an instant nod from all family members, then please inform me. I would like to meet the great souls. At least once such a question or one of its variants might come up- “An all girls’ trip? I hope there would be at least one man with you people?” As if that one man would be some kind of Hulk or Hanuman. I agree the security issues are huge especially in the country we reside in, but my naïve mind wonders if hemming all women in by a certain time of the evening is a really good idea? Doesn’t it steadily give rise to an all-men night? What a weird dystopian thought!
The curfew timings for girls may vary and in some cases, might not even exist. But in most parts of the country, women today do have such a time. I call it the Cinderella time. What is your Cinderella time, if I may ask?
If you are a Y chromosome, you might not have heard of this phenomenon before. But then you might surely have accompanied a Curfew-ridden Cinderella back home or at least offered to do so? Well, isn’t that what a knight-in-shining-armor supposed to do? Or for that matter, a chivalrous prince? Hold the delicate hands of the dainty princess and walk her down the aisle. Or lay down your life for your lady love. It does sound so wonderfully Victorian era-ish, doesn’t it?
But what if the knight doesn’t feel strong enough? Or the damsel is not really in distress? Do they still need to play their god-ordained, or shall we say society-ordained, roles? For the sake of romanticism perhaps. Or for saving face in front of the policing ‘society’ which has nothing better to do than pass judgments and provide unwanted critiques. The very same society which rushes to call a man effete who doesn’t feel up to some ‘manly’ task and which deigns to look at a woman who is way too good for its liking. The questions just keep coming…why is it such a pain to put up with a more successful woman? Why cannot we readily find examples of hypergamy among men?
Talking about stereotypes, how many of you have cringed at the thought of being driven about by a woman? Or marveled at a gal steering an SUV? Somehow the idea just doesn’t seem to stick. We still feel the need to respond extraordinarily when we see such otherwise pretty ordinary happenings. Add to that, the preconceived ideas of women considered inept for certain roles leading to biases against female managers or women in top roles. No doubt, the likes of Chanda Kochhar and Mary Barra are storming male bastions but the examples are few and far between.
Oh but let us not forget the famous Indian dilemma! The moment a girl reaches adulthood or turns into a lady, before greying hair can give her the news of her age, her family does the honors. How you ask?
Like job offers, marriage proposals pour in from all conceivable corners. Guys can wait, but a woman unmarried at say, 30 must surely be an old maid!
‘What’s wrong with her?’ people will whisper. ‘Facing too many rejections perhaps!’ they venture. And the poor parents rush around begging for decent in-laws. Sigh!
I agree the biological clock is ticking. But why do we have fairness creams and age-defying gels directed primarily at women but no brand yet claiming to keep a man young? We will drool over George Clooney (okay I admit I do so too) calling older men sexy but see an ageing woman as a crone?
There are just too many Cinderella moments in women’s life. Sometimes the curfew time, some times, the biological clock. Oh dear Cinderella! What a race! Running and always running…
“Oh, that clock! Old killjoy. I hear you. Come on, get up, you say, Time to start another day. Even he orders me around. Well, there's one thing. They can't order me to stop dreaming.” (Cinderella)