I can tell you what I have learnt till now,
that womanhood comes with a list,
a list that people made for you when
you were secure and warm in your mother’s womb,

and from then..
as long as you live, you burn that unending list
in every forest fire that tries to crack open
a crimson gash in your world.

**           **              **              **             **

Don’t play in the sun for long, good girls stay home
and play with dolls, keep them neat and well dressed.
Don’t make your hair short. No boy wants to have a
crush on a girl with short hair. Grow them long so that
when they admire you, you remind them of Rapunzel,
safe and caring and comforting, like a fairy tale.

Don’t read too many books. What will you do with
your knowledge? You cannot argue with your man,
because man is always right, and if he’s not
then there is something wrong that nobody can fix.
As you grow, you will know that world
doesn’t love a girl who knows too much.
Because truth hurts, and it restores strength
every time you feel broken and hollow.
World loves a fragile girl, just look for clues.

Stop playing with the camera. Do some real stuff.
Tell me how much sugar will you add in a cup of
morning coffee? Do you know I fed you some sugar
the moment you were born? Look how sweet you
still look when you smile with your innocent eyes.

Low cut tops make you look like you don’t
belong here. No. You don’t have a right to choose
your outfits. It’s the society that decides that.
Do you know how many rapes happen because of
those low cut tops and shorter hemlines? No.
Don’t argue on that. No boy will be blamed,
shamed, and pregnant for wearing low cut tops.
They say it’s an equal society, but you don’t
have to be educated to understand prejudices.

Don’t travel the world. Don’t look at the stars
and start counting the moment they appear
on the gray sky. Stay alert. Who asked you
to travel alone in night? You’re a girl.
Eat less, and make time for exercise. No,
you cannot be overweight. You’re still single.
No, don’t wait till thirty to decide about life.
Remember, your days are limited. It doesn’t
matter if you write a hundred books or
display a million award winning photographs,
you’re not a woman if you don’t create another life.

Now don’t get hurt. Even if you are, just
smile, smile more and go with the flow. We all did.
The generations followed rules and they did well, 
and that’s why we are here, enjoying this earth.

Don’t put too much make up, it makes you old.
Don’t wear shorts, you’re not fifteen anymore.
But I couldn’t wear shorts when I was fifteen.
So you held that grudge against us all this while?


Author: Archita

Musings about life and photography.

45 thoughts on “Womanhood”

  1. Thank you. Yes, the situation is sad, but that’s womanhood right?In all metaphors and realities, it’s all truth.

  2. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read, it speaks truth.
    I nearly cried. Literally. I liked it ,mainly the last part. I’m kinda seeing this every day, and i know the feeling , so I can confirm every word. The situation is sad though. I think everyone should see this post !

  3. You’re welcome, Eliza. )

    Yes. A long history of patriarchy. Plus many times women are women’s biggest enemies. A lot of women of this generation still face problems because of the women from older generation there. But things will change soon, hopefully in next 200 years! It’s just a 69 years old independent democracy. Pretty young nation that way, but one of the oldest civilizations with huge population and versatility.

  4. You’re welcome, Elaine.
    I may not know everything about life, I have a long way to go. But in my opinion, every life is different. Each person’s goal in life is different. So those strict guidelines on women sometimes don’t really signify anything great.Objectification of women is another problem in the society. 🙂

  5. Yes. So many times.
    I used to think education would change mindset, but then I see so many people, educated yet still in stone age- blaming women for rape, restricting women from working, studying, basic rights! Dowry didn’t stop. Honor killing didn’t stop. Only cell phones and selfies are validating modern globalization there!

  6. Well done. Even though some of those guidelines were not as strictly enforced by the time I was a teenager in the 60’s, I was so endoctrinated because of my parents’ own upbringing that rubbed off on mine, that I imposed them on myself. I am older and wiser now. But some of the guilt I grew up with lingers. Thank you for a great post!

  7. Thank you, Indira. 🙂 I was hopeful in early 2000s that things will change. 16 years later, I have accepted the facts. What I heard from my Grandmom and mom- I realized nothing changed!

  8. I don’t see it. I know some of my Indian friends and families who went to great schools, traveled the world, they are globalized. But most of them didn’t change, their thoughts about women are still pretty backward. Things are just same, just modern words replaced the old names of certain customs and traditions.

    India is an old civilization. There are so many different languages, so many different customs. It’s complicated. There is caste-ism, politics of caste-ism. Some people hold on to old traditions, knowing those traditions don’t mean anything. In my reply to the previous reader, I wrote about it in detail.

  9. In early fifties/sixties I was hopeful that things will change for women. But not much changed. In the name of culture and tradition still do this and do that for them. You write with very mature outlook and excellently.

  10. Thank you, Arch! ❤
    Truly speaking, when I write or talk about "womanhood" my comments/writings are always very sarcastic, I have understood the world around me pretty well and I see double standard, biases so clearly that I just cannot get angry or sad about it anymore. It's more fun to see people's reaction toward women. And I deal with extremely educated people of this society, not the kind who directly call woman "sex object" or just their "girl."

    In India, well, if I write about "Womanhood in India" – an entire blog won't be enough. Actually there is a beautiful blog dedicated to it " The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker." Check it out when you have time.:) There are infanticide, foeticide, dowry, honor killings, dowry killings, and amazing mother-in-laws who never had any career or education but decide if the highly educated daughter-in-law can go to office after marriage! Well, I don't know when that kind of "sickness" can be cured completely! Not in my great grandchildren's lifetime! ( Oh! And on matrimonial ads on Indian newspapers and websites, how people ask for "fair-skinned" girls for their sons! They never mention skin color of their sons ever! :D)

    My Indian boss once told me, daughters are depreciation and sons are asset- I protested but slowly I understood its real meaning. In India, parents of a daughter sponsor her whole education, save money for dowry( or gifts in modern terminology) and when the daughter grows up, she needs to take in-law's permission before helping the parents or going to her own parent's house! When an Indian parent gives birth to a son, well, they see a great future along with that birth- their son's money is their money, every decision about their son's life is their decision! If the son goes to Harvard – well, see what kind of "asset" he becomes!

    In USA, most of the men and women support their own education and even wedding cost! I find it very liberating!

    I wrote my poem keeping other subtle things in mind. In India, we had woman prime minister, governors, chief ministers, president. It may be a developing nation, but unlike other super developed countries, it didn't have bias against a particular gender!

    In USA, I have seen enough ivy league educated women taking break to raise children. Ya, their mothers-in-law didn't take their decision for sure. But there is a clear bias, wage gap, issue on who will be home and raise children vs who will earn money! I have seen other women judging stay-at-home dads! Well, the world is pretty same at some point!
    Everywhere women are judged for their weight, looks, career choices, travel plans, motherhood, aspirations. What to do! It's reality! 🙂

  11. Brilliant post! So saddening that we women have to fight for things that are rightfully ours! I wonder if I will see this gap fill in my lifetime. Though we are seeing change, it is coming after a lot of struggle and revolt. It shouldn’t be that way! 😦

  12. This sounds like something that could have been written prior to the Women’s Movement in the 60s/70s here in the US. Perhaps there is hope that cultural changes will happen there as well?

  13. Hmm, The answer is : because we are women, and people love giving us lists! Maybe because we are too strong, too nice and hard working souls! 🙂 The battle doesn’t end. It won’t ever! But what I wonder is why being a woman means losing identity and some basic human rights! Plus this list is made of all obvious biases. There are so many subtle rules/prejudices/opinions about womanhood that every woman comes across every single day. I think, people can do anything they want to do as long as they are aware of values, ethics and responsibilities for their own actions! Thank you for reading, Sampada!

  14. It might be our mothers, fathers, in-laws, neighbors, cousins, siblings, friends (people who should have mattered) that are holding us back. And like you said, they’re “trying to keep us from doing all the things they never got to do.” So agree! Thank you for leaving this note. Made me think about it again! 🙂

  15. Amazing! My journey has been a lot like yours; I have been raised by an education-loving, normal, ambitious parents who never gave/give me any list. I just am myself when they are around. They are my pride too. But the world is not just about our parents. I came across a lot of people with rules set for women; they were men, women- friends, extended family members, some people I got as wedding present, colleagues, bosses, and most of them were extremely educated ones!
    Like you, I am still learning too. The list is just an addition to that learning.
    Appreciate your visit and your comment. 🙂

  16. Totally agree! Though I’m aware of that list (Here it’s just a short form of an unending list) I am just in those two initial paragraphs. I have burned mine a long time ago. Truly speaking, I really don’t need any appreciation from those list-makers, I just want them to mind their own business. But that’s a dream that will never come true!
    Appreciate your visit and the comment. 🙂

  17. So well put. Why does it have to be so hard for us? It just makes me sad. With every fight to strike off a rule from that list, we face the risk of being outcast. But fight we should.

  18. What a poem/story, and how interesting that, in the end, it might be our mother’s that are holding us back, trying to keep us from doing all the things they never got to do. Very thought-provoking, and a fascinating take on a much-discussed topic.

  19. Totally f**k that list. It only exists in the minds of the egotistical and self-conscious, which just so happens to be most.

    Be that unashamedly sexy-ass, shorts-wearing, night-walking woman that you need to be and let everyone else crumble in all of your glory or walk with you in sheer appreciation for everything that you are.

  20. I am very fortunate. I come out of the Deep South and my mother’s and father’s ambitions for me were always high. They wanted me to achieve those things that they were not able to achieve because of their skin color. So, I was taught to appreciate myself, my hair, my heritage and to educate myself, to learn as much as I could, and I am still learning today.

    Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge.

    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

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