श्रुतीला मी ती प्राथमिक शाळेत असल्यापासून ओळखते. ही माझ्या मैत्रिणीची मुलगी. 'संयुक्ता' च्या 'महिला दिन' कार्यक्रमाबद्दल मैत्रिणीशी बोलत असताना ती सहज म्हणून गेली की श्रुती यानिमित्ताने काहीतरी लिहू शकेल. श्रुती एवढी मोठी झाली हे तेव्हा पहिल्यांदाच मला जाणवलं. तिला विचारल्यानंतर ती म्हणाली कश्या प्रकारचं लेखन हवं, Serious, stat-oriented, or whimsical, personal-oriented? थोडं 'हलकंफुलकं' असलं तर बरं अस मी कळवल्यानंतर पुन्हा आठवण करुन देण्याआधीच आठवड्याभरात लेख माझ्याकडे आलासुद्धा!
'संयुक्ता' च्या 'महिला दिन' कार्यक्रमात सादर करीत आहे श्रुती एकतारे लिखित "The Young Collegiate Woman"
In the past decade or so, the entire concept of “being a woman” has been approached from so many different angles that women themselves hardly know what side to take. From radical feminists to conservative traditionalists, women across the world have clamored to make their opinions about their gender the accepted opinion. But what is the right opinion? How exactly should a woman feel about being a woman?
As a college student, I hardly have time to sit around and think about the socioeconomic ramifications of being female. On most days, I mostly just thank my stars that I wasn’t born a male, because, as my roommate enjoys reminding most of our friend circle on a daily basis, “Boys are so stupid.” In college, the concept of woman creates a slew of drastically varying characterizations. On a campus so large, it is hard to find a working definition of what it means to have two X chromosomes.
Some girls basically create the stereotypes that other women work so hard to defeat: the ditzy, make-up caked, short skirt-wearing sorority girls with the breathy voices and huge, blank eyes. Others work just as hard to rebel against the so-called “beauty” of their gender: these are the frumpy, frazzled looking girls with the mismatching earrings, rumpled sweaters, and baggy sweatpants who look like they could use a shower and a hairbrush. Finding a medium is difficult, and the age-old advice of “being yourself” hardly fits into an environment with strict unspoken rules about how a girl is supposed to dress or supposed to look like.
It is this particular characteristic that makes womanhood difficult for the average 20 year-old female. Convention dictates a style of speech, a particular fashion sense, and a generic appearance. If you don’t fit into it, complications may ensue. Boys may never notice you. Girls may mock you ceaselessly. No matter how rebellious a girl claims to be, she doesn’t want to be the “weird ugly girl” in the back of the class. It is easier to adhere to social convention than to risk emotional scars from battling it. Is this right? Probably not. But being a rebel for the sake of being a rebel can hardly be characterized as social change. No matter how many inspirational feminists hold demonstrations in front of the While House about how the media distorts society’s version of femininity, the fact that humans are social creatures makes it impossible for any woman to ignore her appearance or her behavior.
I want to make it clear that these gender-based difficulties aren’t limited to women alone. I do sympathize with the opposite gender, for I am sure they have their own challenges, but this sympathy is highly limited and leaning strongly towards aggravation. Males have it easier. There’s no glass ceiling for males. No one cares if a boy wears the same T-shirt three times in a week. A boy can be rude, insulting, angry, and apathetic without offending his gender. Studies have shown that female teachers call on male students more on average. On top of this, males have the tendency to whine about how feminists are “men-haters.”
But there’s no point in complaining about how the female gender has had the short end of the stick since the beginning of time. As a college student very close to entering the work force, I wanted to know what to expect when I left the bubble of safety that is a college campus and was thrown into a world where respect isn’t a social requirement. This curiosity led me to take a feminism class (and I consequently endured a semester’s worth of teasing about taking a class “on being a girl, who needs to know about that?”). Did I learn a lot from the class? Yeah, but mostly I learned that the best thing I can do as a college girl is be female in the way it suits me. A clear advantage to being in college is that you can choose your degree of femininity – that’s why the two extremes of girls I mentioned are so commonly seen. They have found their definition of woman and they’re living by it, responding to social requirements on their own terms. Sometimes I want to battle the norm and look completely exotic. Other days, I’m going to a party and I really want that cute engineer to notice me. If I want to wear eyeliner, I’ll do it. If one day I wake up and I don’t feel like looking nice because I’m so tired, I’ll scrunch my hair into a bun and throw on a sweatshirt. But most importantly, as stupid as boys are, I’ll be sure to associate with the ones who’ll treat me well regardless of how I look on those awful Monday mornings.