I grew up in a small city in Uttarakhand called Roorkee. It's a half-hour drive from Haridwar. Roorkee is known for the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. The Famous Ganges Canal runs through the center of the town which was made by some white dude within the East India Company so yeah it has some quiet history too. I was born into a well-known family within the city. So naturally, I have lived a very sheltered life.
Five years ago, I remember our helper used to bring her daughter along with her when she would come to our house. Her daughter was a year younger than me and was such a joyful person. I remember having conversations with her and my mom telling me about how hardworking she was even though she was younger than me. Recently, I received a photo of her in a wedding lehenga, hands covered with Mehendi and arms covered with red bangles. She was getting married at the same age I was completing school. And I couldn’t understand why was she so happy in the picture. Her eyes were twinkling with excitement in the picture, there was a cheerful girl in the picture but all I wanted to understand was if she was really happy? If she wanted to be more than from being someone’s daughter to someone’s wife? I realize her struggles are different because I have never faced them. But questions like “Was she pressured?” Or “Was that something that she had just accepted at such a young age?” come to me from time to time.
From childhood, boys and girls are subjected to gender-specific norms of behavior, play, dress, and so on. a girl has set boundaries by her family and society from the beginning. She can do this and can’t do that. She is taught how to serve her family.
After getting married, there comes an enormous difference within the girl’s personality. While there is no change in the man’s personality. But women ought to wear Mangalsutra, Sindoor, Bangles, etc., as markers of their conjugal status. Why do only women need to fast, especially “Karwa Chauth”. When pattered from a young age, such opinions shape a person’s personality and don’t allow them to find who they are. I have grown up in a very privileged environment with parents who have taught me to speak my mind, which led me to possess a robust personality. But what about those who do not have such privilege.
From the time you're born, girls are told to follow rules. To be seen but not heard, to feminine but to not be girly, to be sexy but to not be slutty. All types of rules, women need to walk a tightrope about who they are, how they ought to be, and the way they're perceived by the world. Women who are considered ambitious to not likable and likable women could be considered incompetent. And if the women go against the grain then their likability is gone out of the window. you've got the right to study, but you can't choose a life partner on your own. You've got the right to drive and travel alone but return before the clock strikes the hour when men have the freedom to assault women. Of course, you're given the choice to wear whatever you wish but you can't wear anything indecent, revealing or that shows an excessive amount of skin. You've got the right to form your own decision, but it's no big deal to comply with some expectations of your parents/in-laws after all they have given you adequate freedom. Women’s freedom to reclaim their identities and choices is usually conditioned and restricted by patriarchy.
As a girl who has reached the age to know the ideologies of society, I even have realized that the aunties, uncles, and other people you know and don’t know will make too many attempts at making you a neutral, soulless version of yourself who must please everyone, doesn’t offend anybody. The moment a woman’s demand for equality transcends the concept that they're a subversive gender, her feminism becomes “too much”. So the only question that one needs to ask when we talk about gender equality is - Do similar behaviors and traits that make men likable make women unlikable? And the answer is Yes. And the ironic example to prove this point is when a man talks about feminism, he is seen as “The Man” who is given applause for saying the same thing a woman is shouting on a microphone where she will be seen as an abrasive and loud woman, absolutely defeating the concept of gender equality and feminism.