The Feminist Times
An Open Letter to the World
There are days when I wake up and feel the sun on my skin- the world seems like a good place. And then there are days when picking an 'appropriate outfit' sucks the joy out of everything. The sun doesn't feel pleasant; the sky seems dull, every desolate corner feels dangerous, and there is a nagging feeling that makes me question my safety. The hands of the clock remind me how quickly I must rush home because women aren't safe in the dark. Even at work, my voice is stifled under those of my male colleagues because women don't know what's best. A promotion would come at a compromise. My paygrade doesn't compensate for the amount of work that I do. Even if I can see everything, I am barely privy to anything. Sexist remarks aren't uncanny. Such incidents disturb me, yet they expect me to keep smiling. "The glass ceiling is shattered"- they say. But if you ask me, I slam my face into that ceiling about ten times a day. A pretty smile is ideal, but a frown is unacceptable. My goals shouldn't mean more than my family-my dreams will have to take a backseat. My education is always an issue of contention, my speech- always under scrutiny for moderation. My thoughts shouldn't bruise egos or hurt sentiments. I am, after all, just a pretty ornament.
Every book I've read boasts of a knight in shining armor and glamourizes the damsel in distress. The ones who rebelled and revolutionized this world burned as heretics and witches. To be more brilliant than a man was unheard of- to be quick-witted and clever was troublesome. If a woman is a shrew, she needs to be tamed- sensitive, docile, quiet, and agreeable is the only way. Timid and pretty is desirable- a sharp tongue and mind are considered burdensome. Tempers must be kept in check lest you come out unladylike, sit properly and keep the legs closed tight. Skirts shouldn't be too short, and the hair must be braided- you can't parade around dressing provocatively. You must know better, you're going to distract the boys, and they'll do something unruly. My uniform feels like regulation clothing- there's an institution that keeps my freedom and movement caged, and if something goes wrong, I'm the one they blame. "Your safety lies in your hands"- they always say. So is this why the elderly, the infants, and even the ill aren't safe?
The standards of beauty keep changing, and I can't keep up with them. One day I'm fat, the next day too skinny; some think I'm fair, others say I'm dusky. "Men like women who are..."- is the way how most sentences start, to everyone telling me about the right and wrong, the acceptable and unacceptable so religiously, do you think I care about your perception of me?
To the world that has been so kind yet cruel, you've spared me no ordeal. I've been objectified and sexualized before I could even spell those words. Though it isn't easy, I've learned to ignore the catcalling and cruel advancements. I fight for my agency- my speech will be free. I'm no longer going to live in fear, as I stand for all that is brave, true, and free. Your wishes aren't commands, and I'll do as I please. My clothes don't define my character, nor does the clock that chimes away to glory. My talents will shine through my work; you won't be able to ignore me. My beauty is at par with my intellect, try and challenge me. My talent and skills will shatter the glass ceiling. I embody the feminine essence, and that doesn't make me weak. Not letting others control my body or expression doesn't mean I'm a disagreeable person, It only means that I am exercising my right to live as a dignified human. Teach boys and men to be more civilized, girls and women as humans too, not something you own- like an object or chattel. Being fat or skinny, dark and fair, isn't a definition of my beauty. If I wear make-up or tight, short clothes, it doesn't entitle you to pass a judgment on me. I don't want temples or pedestals, I want safe public places and to be able to travel freely. There are plenty of things I have to say, and I hope you will listen to me. Treat me like an equal- I am also a human being.