As the world celebrates International Women’s Day this month with the theme of ‘Choose to Challenge‘, a key thought that comes to my mind is that at a very grass root level, it all begins with a woman’s will. If she wants it, she can do it. If she does not want it, she can say no to it. A woman can dream, aspire, work for and achieve all that she wants.
Yet, it is not as easy as it sounds. Why?
What stops her? What holds her on her path? Why is a man able to easily plan his life ahead along with enjoying the pleasures of life like family, fun and work? Yet a woman is not able to, with equal ease. Why cannot career and family coexist? Why do some women feel compelled to make a choice between motherhood and career? Why does cooking and putting a meal on the table every day is still a female bastion in our country?
I see it is as an aspect that has two broad connotations – external and internal. Our social conditioning, some deep rooted perceptions in people who love us and the broad gender role definitions form the external factors. Each of them go further deep and lead to a myriad of expectations in a woman’s life.
The other factor is internal – a woman’s own mind. Women are highly perceptive and tend to over think, hear the unsaid and feel the unexpressed. And that is more than enough to her to curb her aspirations and fall back into the standard expectations framework of those around her. Yet – that is what she should not do.
The battle is largely internal. The mind is cluttered, the expectations from those around her is pulling her, the standard diktat of society is cautioning her, and there is that aspirational voice of hers that is trying to get her attention, albeit feebly. A constant tussle that can be overcome only by clearing the clutter in her head, focusing on what she wants and then going for it.
While the external factors are very much there, women of today must realise and be grateful that we have it easy. There are many many women before us who had it much tougher. Back then, each of them had much larger hurdles to face, had many glass ceilings to break and rehash a lot of definitions to change the norm. They paved the way for us. They did it in less conducive circumstances. We have a relatively better set of circumstances.
Today, in 2021, as we choose to challenge while clearing the clutter in our own heads, let us take a moment and get inspired by reading what the women before us had to say to us. Each one of them has a story which they were born into, yet they chose to give the ending as they saw fit or what appealed to their heart.
This issue we bring to you some inspiring speeches from women who redefined the norm and carved out a life for themselves and also made it easy for the entire womanhood who came after them. Some old, some new, we hope that these powerful speeches help in lifting you up and leading the way in building a free, equal and fair world for all of us.
While Virginia Woolf reminds us that it is up to us to decorate the room that we have as our own by clearing the clutter and not being the angel that the world expects us to be, Maya Angelou chides all those around us who want to see us broken and goes on to inspire us to adopt courage as a virtue. Facing defeats are unavoidable along the journey of life, yet we must not allow our spirit to be defeated, she urges.
As we move on, clearing all this clutter in our lives, Lupita Nyong’o reminds us to not get swayed away by society’s definition of the word ‘beautiful’ and redefine it as something that enflames the heart and enchants the soul. It is an unfair world that we live in, but it is up to all of us to make it an equal one for both the genders. Reese Witherspoon pushes us to embrace our inner shrew, not allow it to be curbed by those around us, and Emma Watson nudges us to build a gender equal world, while our young voice Amanda Norman reminds us that we have a hill ahead to climb.
Well, who is to stop us, the woman of today, when we have such inspiring women ahead of us to emulate and help make our choices.
So – my dear friends, are you ready to clear the clutter in your minds and choose to challenge what does not appeal to you?
Chief Editor, Eyra
*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*