Silencing women has been going on for so long that it has now become a part of our deep-rooted social conditioning.
The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou
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Indian girls have often heard the phrase "keep quiet because you are a girl." We can deny all we want, but even in 21st Century, this is a sad reality.
Social Scientist Dr. Deepa Narayan dug deep into society's fabric and found seven key habits that may dominate women's everyday lives, despite their education, success, financial status, and family background.
This is the topic she talks about in her groundbreaking bestseller Chup: Breaking The Silence About India's Women.
Dr. Deepa Narayan has over 25 years of experience working at the World Bank, the UN, and NGOs on poverty, gender, and inequality in development, and has written 17 books. She has been named as one of India's 35 Great Thinkers by India Today.
Narayan's TED talk, which Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan hosted, where she spoke about the seven deeply entrenched norms that reinforce inequality, is a must-watch eye-opener for India's society.
The author talks about a vital concept in India's culture: adjusting. The dictionary defines this word as "the result of adjusting something; a small change; a minor correction; a modification or alteration." Why do women and little girls can't escape from the external hands that want to correct them as if they need it to be perfect because there is always something to "fix"?
Narayan stresses, "adjust trains girls to be powerless, not to exist, not to be seen, not to have a self, and it trains boys to claim power and authority over the world."
Let's take a look at the seven habits that we all need to change.
1. "You don't have a body"
In many Indian homes, parents never talk with their daughters about a woman or a man's body. The country's population growth shows that they are not unfamiliar to intimate and procreate. Then why is it still a taboo topic among most families? Narayan also points out that 90% of women say they dislike their bodies because of a male-dominated society's unrealistic beauty standards.
2. "Be quiet"
The author talks about an ideal girl in most Indian men's head: a young female who doesn't get angry and is always smiling brightly without talking at all, not to disturb men when they are talking. After interviewing many women, they told Narayan, "when I was little, my mother used to scold me and say, 'Don't speak, be quiet, speak softly, don't argue and never answer back." If we don't teach little girls to speak up and be true to themselves, they will be dominated by other people in the future.
3. "Be a people pleaser"
Although society makes evident that there's nothing better than a woman that doesn't say no, this way of thinking is unrealistic and doesn't describe a free human being.
4. "You have no sexuality"
Women have the right to feel sexual desire without feeling ashamed. They do not need to be suppressed. Showing themselves as pure and little girls to be respected is a sad reality that many women face daily.
5. "Don't trust women"
It's easier to demolish a woman that is alone. It is not common in this culture that women come together in solidarity. Jealous men want to keep their wives at home, only for them. Some of them, not even let their wives hang out with friends.
6. "Duty over desire"
Dr. Deepa Narayan is worried about women becoming a residue after they become mothers. Why is the definition of being a good woman related to sacrifice and living to please others?
7. "Be totally dependent"
All these habits fulfill little girls with fear, feeling discouraged and alone. Consequently, they become dependent, usually on a man that convinces them that they are not self-sufficient.
Finally, the author reflects, saying, "all these seven habits that we thought were good and moral snatch life away from girls and position men to abuse."
Little girls, especially in India, need the support and encouraging words from their mothers to end this toxic cycle that doesn't help gender equality bloom. Little girls and women worldwide who have experienced these bad habits feel touched by Deepa Narayan's strong but kind words, encouraging them to change the rules.