What is my identity?
There are times when the simplest and most obvious questions don’t have easy answers. Does it ever happen to you? Let’s say you are in a conversation with a group of people and someone throws this random question that sounds as simple as someone asking who you are but you don’t know what to answer or how to answer or have more than one thing that you wanna say!
Last week has brought some sudden tragic news to my family which got me into thinking again about what a women’s identity truly is! Is her identity just about her and who she is or it depends on the time and place and the context in which the question comes across. Am I really myself or am I merely just a women who is married or a wife to my husband. Well, when my mom reads this she is definitely going to tell me that I seem confused in my writing (she has turned out to be quite a critic of my work) and so, I am going to say it loud that I am in fact confused about what actually a women’s identity is! Also, I am going to be mindful of how much I talk on this here as I have been told by my dad that my blogs are quite long and I should consider writing them short. (Oh daddy!)
Let’s talk about who we really are. I am going to talk from a women’s perspective but I can see that it is relevant for any man too and at the end of the day it is all about what your identity is as a ‘single individual human being’ and not about being a woman or man. But with first hand experience of being someone who goes by the pronoun ‘she’, I am going to talk about what really is a South- Asian women’s identity.
My culture teaches every girl to dream about a prince who will come one day and sweep you off your feet. Every Bollywood movie (almost every but now the world is changing and so is Bollywood) and every TV show on the Indian television portrays a South Asian women’s goal to be able to find a perfect husband and marry him. You are taught to be this one man woman. If you are privileged enough, your parents will allow you or support you in your education and career but it all still comes down to finding a right match and getting you married. The customs and traditions are so white washed in half fiction and half pretence of what the ancestors and generations have been following, that now it seems to me that the South-Asian cultures have become misogynistic. Basically as soon as you are born a girl, your training begins in how your identity will constantly be associated with a male counterpart and irrespective how much you achieve, it all boils down to if you are married or not. Your achievements are measured against the threshold of whether you have a husband that leads your household or not. It Doesn’t matter how hard you work to make a name for yourself, if you are not married or don’t get along with your husband, you are not a ‘nice woman’ or there must be something wrong with you. You are tagged with numerous labels just in case you don’t have a man in your life.
You might be expected to behave a certain way or sit in a way that makes you more feminine etc. , all in the ‘honour’ of your family that is led by a male head in almost every case. This dependancy on a male counterpart associated to your identity as a woman is so deeply engraved in us that even being a woman, you almost dehumanize to such society and participate in it without even realizing how your identity is wiped out. Really, if you are women think about this question- What really is your identity? Are you just someone’s daughter or wife or sister or there is something more, something so unique just about you that makes you who you truly are?
As I just mentioned earlier, that last week brought some shocking news to my family when one of my uncle passed away. My thoughts seemed to be quite stuck on my aunt, not to pity her for her loss but more so to see how everyone around was almost not realizing that she is hurting as an ‘individual’ and not just as a wife who lost her husband. Obviously her relationship to the man who passed away was the main reason that she was hurting but to me as a woman who spent all her married life with this one man was hurting. I saw that even when hurting she is expected to be a certain way because that brings ‘honour’ to the family or rather keeps the ‘honour’ of their relationship. I am sure everyone around wants to help and support her, but wait, why set an expectation and associate her again as being only a wife to a husband who is now deceased. Let her cry when she wants, let her scream if she wants, let her choose to just stare blank and not want to talk to anyone. Let her just be this human who can do what she wants and how she wants in order to mourn the passing of the partner of her life. If she chooses to bring herself together and accept the reality of her life, let it be her choice. Let’s not label her again as a widow of her deceased husband!
I am sure now you feel just like me! Your head must have started spinning around with all these questions that I have posed. I told you that it is the most simplest question that anyone could ask but then the answer is so damn complicated especially for a woman in the South Asian culture.
Recently, on a Women’s day celebration, I was a part of this event were survivors of abuse spoke about their empowering life stories. One such speaker questioned the community for the lack of support from the female counterpart while she was trying to survive the circle of abuse by her dominating and infidel husband. She was questioned and labelled as ‘a woman who definitely was having an affair with a man who wasn’t her husband’ just for the visible fact that she was pretty and was always dressed in nice clothes and wore the best make up. I was not surprised to hear that her husband’s identity who was womanizer was never labelled but rather this survivor woman’s identity was once again labelled.
I grew up learning all the ‘so- called’ appropriate ways that I was taught being a ‘girl’ in India as I didn’t know any other way. But then, I have also made constant efforts to unlearn some of these things as I go ahead on this journey of life. Being a part of such a culture where there is this constant reminder that your identity is just associated with you being either someone’s wife or daughter or sister-in law doesn’t leave you even when you die. I don’t want to be remembered as just being someone’s wife. I want to be known for who really I am and my own identity, which then can be associated with my father or husband or brother.
In a nutshell, I hope this dialogue opens a question within yourself to find who you really are or what your identity is apart from a woman who has a husband or a boyfriend or a brother. I definitely want to break this stereotype of being associated with a man every time I reach a milestone of my life. I wish we change nurturing this idea into the growing up girls that it’s all about finding the right man as this creates an automatic dependency and association of your identity to this male counterpart that is superior to you. Rather why don’t we just raise our society to focus on who they really are and shape their identity in a way they dream. If then that dream is about being with a man and letting him lead the show, by all means it is OKAY! It’s all about choice and not being forced to fulfil a societal norm or expectation.
To end it, let me try answering,
What is my identity?
My name is my identity. So get it right. It is spelt as ’D-h-a-r-a’. (Every alphabet in it matters!)
I am passionate about what I do.
I am ambitious.
I am driven.
I am strong but I also cry when life throws me in an uncomfortable situation.
I argue when in my opinion something wrong is happening.
I am a human!
And I can go on and on………..
Most important, in addition to all this, I am also the daughter of a man who taught me to not run away from hard situations and stand for what’s right.
I hope my writing makes some sense! (For the first time I feel my mom is right- I am quite confused!!)