On the occasion of Women’s Day, we find out social media, our WhatsApp forwards or Facebook feeds flooded with various definitions of womanhood. Mostly, male ideas of what womanhood should ideally represent and hence be worth respecting. Messages defining womanhood mainly through the roles they play in a man’s life are abundantly shared in most family groups. These claim specifically how a mother’s patience or wife’s understanding or a daughter’s devotion make the women in men’s lives, valued assets and why they must be treated with respect, so and so forth.
Popular television commercials rent out advertisements making a clear distinction regarding the kind of woman that ought to be celebrated. This is the woman who always puts her husband, children and family first. Learns to hide all her grievances, sufferings and pain and cater to the needs of the family. More often than not, sacrifice their dreams and aspirations because they conflict with the family’s needs and demands. The primary role that all these forwards or commercials paint women in is that of the caregiver, the one that nurses and nurtures into healing all that is wounded. And never considers tending to her own wounds in the process. The ones that do so are immediately branded as selfish in society’s perception.
It is difficult for society even till date to accept that women can be emotionally exhausted. That their identities and purposes do not revolve around providing care and nourishment, physical, emotional or psychological, to men. In fact, there isn’t any definition to womanhood that men are authorized to assign. A trans woman is as much a woman as an individual who has been assigned the sex of the female at birth and has their gender identities in sync with genital identities. Gender roles or biology do not define womanhood.
Several women who decide to love out of the box, choose to not have children or abort their unborn have their womanhood questioned. This is due to the assumption that maternal instincts are innate to the idea of being a woman. And these ideas form the crux of Women’s Day messages, greetings and forwards. Women either have to be strong and mighty in the emulation of men to prove themselves equal and deserving of consideration in a patriarchal world or be the embodiment of maternal care and warmth to be worthy of respect.
It is difficult for the world to envision women as just human beings, neither a mother goddess nor a braveheart warrior. This is the place from which their dehumanization starts. Marking a day separately for womankind is inherently representative of the rift of womankind from the agents of society, men. Women do not have to be limited in their roles serving men to be valued and cherished. Women do not need to be cherished. They exist and deserve to exist as human beings with rights. Not as fragile entities in need of guidance or emulators of masculine characteristics. Let women be. Do not impinge on their spaces to define their identities for them. That’s perhaps the biggest change of thought towards understanding who women are and what their womanhood stands for.