Mama raised me to be a yellow sapphire. Unbreakable. Strong. Empowering.
If my disrespect makes me that sapphire, so be it. I would rather you thought of me as shameful while my head is held high and I am proud of who I am; then succumb to your oppression.
I’m never going to stop teaching myself how to work on self empowerment.
It amazes me to see that in a global environment where we are trying to empower women regardless of their age; Indian women still bring each other down. The youth are trying to free themselves of the sociocultural negativity that has imbibed social conscience about their culture and heritage, but they’re forcefully tied to the earth by their families. Their mothers, fathers, grandmothers, aunties, uncles. Elders. Women elders.
When women should be helping each other stand, why are the older generations of Indian society pulling younger women down?
Our lives aren’t your tea party. Perfectly arranged out where you want. Shiny, sparkly and proper. Our lives are to create something of ourselves. Fight for our rights. Raise our voices. Use our power. Embrace our strengths.
I love all the different aspects that create my bicultural identity. But when my heritage shares the paradox of stunning vivacity, beautiful food and an appreciation for beauty with systemic oppression, judgement and backward beliefs; how can I anticipate change? If we fail to evaluate and critically understand the flaws in our current cultural system, how can we truly feel empowered and achieve equality?
God gifted me with a powerful voice. A voice that can carry emotion and meaning in both English and Hindi. A voice that sings out the prayers she was taught to love and respect. A voice that stands for equality, her rights and her beliefs. A voice that isn’t afraid to speak out against disparity and wrong doing.
But then you silence me with
“Ladikyo bole ti nahi he. Vo suun ti hai”
Be quiet. Girls don’t speak, they listen. Under a patriarchal iron fist, I’m made to hold my tongue, sit quietly and not share my thoughts or opinions when they are equally valid. But obviously, I don’t sit quietly. Why should I? Why do we foster a culture where men do the talking and women sit, demure and quiet? When we are taught that are voices are one of the most powerful tools, why are we silenced?
When I speak my mind, say what I believe in, and choose to argue; I’m called difficult. I’m told no one will marry me if I don’t control my tongue. I’m told that speaking out against things that I don’t agree with make me intolerable. Dramatic. But I’m also told that I need to stay quiet when men make jokes at my expense. Because, of course they’re allowed to blatantly sexualise and dehumanise me. I’m just meant to listen.
Why have we fostered a culture where women speaking up for themselves is looked down upon? Where having a voice and standing up for our rights is a crime? Why do other women turn their heads when we come to them in times of need? Why are our pleas silenced? We don’t live in a man’s world. We aren’t accessories.
I don’t stay quiet. I’m not your sanskari beti. I will not stand for someone vocalising ideals that hurt me. I will not sit quietly and let others make my decisions. I will voice my opinions, speak my mind and empower myself with knowledge and my voice.
I was gifted with golden skin. Eyes that are dark and expressive. Mocha in one light setting, whiskey in another. Prominent features, the ability to transform my physique into that of an athelete, and of course a body that is able and allows me to move, dance and seek out my empowerment.
But you strip me down to a series of criteria that I’m just not good enough for:
“Waxing kyu nahi karti?”
“Eyebrows kitne dinno se nahi bane hai”
My skin is never fair enough. My brows are never perfect enough. I have hair on my arms and legs. My body is never good enough.
I’m followed by the constant whispers of, who will marry Simran if she’s dark?
I was asked to not play in the sun. I was told to constantly apply all of these remedies to my skin to bleach it naturally. Innocent questions were thrown around about when I was going to get my arms and legs waxed. People would offhandedly comment on my thick eyebrows, the beauty marks on my face and the acne scars I still have.
We come into this world with no inhibitions and restrictions. But as girls, we’re fetishized by social obsessions with fairness. And for what? Being fair does not attain anything. You feed us incorrect assumptions that to be fair is to be successful. You make me feel inadequate when you strip away all the beautiful elements that make me who I am to comment on the factors that make me less desirable.
I am not a series of paint swatches. I am my own person. I love my tan skin. I love that I become bronzed in the sun. I love that I was blessed with thick brows. It has taken me years to love the body I was gifted. It has taken years of training my mind to see beyond the flaws in my skin and unlearn the ugly duckling beauty treatments. Today, I am empowered by the rich tones I wear at my most vulnerable. I am empowered by the knowledge that yoghurt draws out imperfections in my skin so I can clear up acne and be left with a fresh face. I am empowered by my physique and my features. Most of all, I’m empowered by the fact that I make beauty decisions for my own happiness. Not for your satisfaction.
I am not your doll. I am not here for you to scrutinise my clothing. My choices. My expression.
Why do the older generations feel the need to scrutinise the way I dress? To be called a slut for wearing shorts is regressive. To insinuate that being confident and showing skin makes me a slut doesn’t do anything but send us fifty years backwards as we fight for our rights to expression and equality. My shorts aren’t demure enough. I shouldn’t wear shorts while running around with boys.
My clothes become the issue if unwanted attention is drawn.
“see this is what happens when you dress like that”
Being groped or inappropriately whistled at isn’t a strike against the disgusting pig who did it. Rather it’s an interrogation of whether my dress was too short, or if my jeans were too skin tight.
Why do we teach our girls that our clothing choices are the reason we get unwanted attention? Assault, whether it be verbal, physical or sexual, does not work that way. Our clothes aren’t invitations for lewd remarks. My shorts do not give consent. My outfits are not an invitation for your viewing pleasure.
My clothes also aren’t a dinner table discussion piece. Afterall, I’m not your doll.
I find empowerment in my denim shorts. I find empowerment in my jewellery and my bold aesthetic. I adore makeup. And I won’t stop because you believe wearing lipstick at my age is an invitation for unwanted attention.
Do not try to entrench your own visions for a perfect life on me.
This is who I am. A disgrace in your books. Unsanskari. But if disgrace makes me empowered, then so be it.
I am a young woman of colour. Brought into a world where I have access to the joys of two cultures. I find empowerment in my voice. That same voice that argues in English and in Hindi. That same voice that won’t back down and won’t let another walk all over her. I find empowerment in my physicality. I find empowerment in understanding clothing and makeup. I find empowerment in educating myself. I find empowerment in my writing, the photos I take and my passion for business. I find empowerment in my dedication to making myself happier and healthier every single day.
What I don’t need, is for you to try and squeeze me into your doll house.
After all, mama didn’t raise a gemstone for nothing.