empathy

11 Lies we tell girls about being women

Painting by Anita Arbidane

Painting by Anita Arbidane

It is no exaggeration to say that we live in a world where stereotypes have become a part of our staple diet, occupying a glaringly large proportion of day-to-day discourse. As children, we are often lied to. We are often made to inhabit nests built from these stereotypes and before we realize it, we’ve grown too comfortable to get rid of them.

I spend a lot of my time surrounded by women, whether it is women from the countryside, women from the city, my colleagues at the female-only institute, my story-telling grandmothers or my female friends. We’ve all been lied to, here are some of the most-common untruths we’re told:

1. This is a world full of colors, darling, but the color we have prescribed for you is pink: hot pink, deep pink or light pink. Your life is a catalogue of pinkness. You must become the charming princess who feeds on pink to become pink, because pink is the color of delicate and you are delicate, fragile, handle with care. After all, it is the highest mark of femininity.

2. Pretty is the prettiest virtue. Wear frocks with frills and pretty lipstick to parties so you can ace the games little girls play like ‘Who looks the prettiest today?’ Do not forget: there are no two kinds of pretty. There is just one, and if you are not that, you are not pretty enough.

3. Smiling is good as long as it is demure. Laughter is good as long as it is mild. Talking is good as long as it is not too loud. Intelligence is good as long as it is not too much. Excesses will get you into trouble. Dignity lies in respecting the lines they have made for you: stay within the lines; don’t wander.

4. The needles of the scale will be your compasses for life. You must watch how much chocolate you eat. Each wrapper you hold in your hand should hurt you. Feel the guilt for eating too much, being too much. Boys don’t like fat girls. Nobody likes fat girls.

5. You are as good as your brother, but your curfew time will be earlier than his. This is not a safe city; peril lurks in its corners and preys on young girls. Girls are easy to prey on, vulnerable, easy to control. Girls will be unsafe wherever they go because they are the weaker sex. You will not be able to fight back.

6. Football is not a game for girls. You will hurt yourself in this process of wanting something not meant for you. The dimensions of this ball spell different versions of danger. Choose a simpler sport, something that is meant for you. Don’t be such a rebel. You cannot run the world.

7. Concealment is the art of the wise. So skillfully hide what needs to be hidden. One day, you will bleed and you must remember to not talk about it. You must remember to practice the art of silence through the pain. If you want to cry or scream, don’t do it where others can see. One day, you will bleed and you should know that the stains it leaves are more psychological than physical.

8. Your report card will reflect your future prospects. Every number here denotes success or failure. How high you go or how low you fall is entirely a product
of these numbers. Who you are and who you will be rests in these numbers. They are your fate, so have faith, work harder, strive for more, you can never get enough.

9. You know nothing of love because you haven’t seen enough of the world, you haven’t loved enough. You don’t understand heartache. You are too young to know pain. You are too young to know love. You are too young to decide. You are too young.

10. You live in a world which will determine your worth in relation to how pleasing you can be and how good you are at sweet talk with sweet boys, so learn how to be sweet, but not too sweet. Be the kind of girl boys will find easy to love. Don’t kiss too much, they’ll think you a whore. Don’t drink too much, they’ll think you an addict. Don’t talk too much, you’ll simply bore them. Dumb yourself down.

11. You are a girl and that is all you can be. A girl is a girl is a girl, and you must fit into the brand of the girl-est of girls, skinny, sweet, (somewhat) smart, long hair, tight jeans, crop top. This is what girls are meant to be. You cannot be untamed, unshaved and unruly.

Swastika Jajoo is a final year English Literature student, with an ardent love for words and food ingredients, and a self-proclaimed ability to create new flavors out of both. She thrives on the poetry of Agha Shahid Ali and believes in afterlife.