Why Should We Always Be The ‘Damsel’ In Distress?


Do not laugh loudly. Take small bites. Sit cross legged. Do not interrupt when two people are talking. Know how to respect elders. Learn how to cook round chapatis. Come home by 7pm. Do not think of your career, think of your family. Marriage is important and so are kids. You do not have the ability to handle your dad’s business. Do not have an opinion.

And many more thoughts are imprinted onto the minds of young girls, so that they turn out to be ‘desirable’ and ‘marriage-material’ women. We are known to follow the norms and societal rules that are handed to women, generation after generation, if any but with few alterations.

Well, it is an established fact that the society we live in is indeed a sexist one. Surprisingly, sexism isn’t just subjected to the norms as per what should be adhered to by various genders; it is deeply ingrained in things as petty as laughter too. I am sure, many of us would have heard not too laugh too loudly, as it attracts unwanted attention and exhibits (un) ladylike characteristics.

Whilst travelling in metro once, I recall laughing a bit too loudly than was ‘expected’ from a girl. The thought that ‘laughing is contagious’ was shattered right there and then, when I was subjected to scrutiny by a lot of aunties, who just despised my act of laughing hysterically, and must be thanking their Gods that their daughters don’t do it. No wonder we are asked to cover our mouths while laughing. Or rather is it just a tiny step for the entire process of curbing our voice?

Moving on, if laughing wasn’t an issue, a woman flirting or making an advance towards a romantic inkling is such a shocker that she is immediately termed as a whore or a slut. Whatever happened to gender equality and women pursuing what they like or want, the society will demean her and label her in a manner that would surely restrict her from making such advances again. Yes, a woman cannot flirt or advance for a sexual relationship, because, no one wants a whore.

From laughing to talking, from eating to walking, everything is regulated by our elders who would want their daughter to have nothing but ladylike features. After all, if she cannot get married and procreate, what good is she?

It saddens me to think, how our voices, our thoughts and our actions are hindered, so as to adhere to the ideal image that every girl must be attained with. Going against these norms is like blotching a black mark against the dignity of the family name, and I am sure no one wants that.

I won’t ask to start deliberately breaking these norms, and going against the highly ‘insightful’ teachings of our elders. However, I am going to ask to start living the life the way it should be lived by you. Challenge yourself, not others, do things to make yourself happy not others, and study to gain good career not a good husband. Teach your parents a thing or two, and never give in to things that shouldn’t be done by you.

Wanted that pixie cut or that tattoo for ages? Go for it. Nothing should inhibit yourself but you.

While we may have been taught to remain shy, docile and a ‘damsel in distress’, we can easily break these bonds, break them to be free, break them to be strong, and break them not to rebel but to actually exist.

Yugansha Malhotra

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