Strong Women: Lovable In Fantasy, But What About Reality?

Published on 7 Mar 2017 . 5 min read

Women’s empowerment has evolved into a ‘fashionable concept’ that everyone loves to subscribe to; or at least be perceived as its supporter, whether they truly believe in it or not. Be it at school, college or workplace, people love this idea of a 'badass' woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind.

A strong and fearless woman is apparently a source of inspiration, but is this true in reality? No! Instead, she is misperceived as bitter and as more intimidating than inspiring. Though times have changed for the better, there still exists a substantial gap in the way men and women are expected to behave.

Does this mean that women are still vulnerable in the modern world? We assume women have come a long way since juggling different roles, struggling to overcome barriers and fighting for equality. But is women’s empowerment really in practice in every aspect? Does a woman have enough freedom to voice her opinions? And if she does, is she really heard and respected? Or are we just masking our hypocrisy by using fancy words to play the safe game?

When a woman stands out and tries to speak up against pre-existing notions, she is immediately judged, labelled, criticized and ultimately repressed. People find innumerable ways to shut her down, break her and overpower her; all this just to remind her that she is a woman! 

The recent incident of Gurmehar Kaur is a clear example of how a girl's voice for a cause was ridiculed by mindless trolling, misjudging, and by blowing her words out of context. The involvement of celebrities and political leaders, questioning her on various fronts of patriotism and freedom of expression only made it more controversial. 

Social media platforms have made it easier to spread hate and defamation with pointless hashtags, thus increasing the impact of the blow on women who raise their voices. All Gurmehar Kaur did was post a picture on social media with a clean intention, but eventually she was forced to give up her efforts to campaign for peace; not to forget the death and rape threats, clearly implying that rape is the ultimate method to shut down a woman. It is ridiculous to go to this extent to suppress someone for taking a stand.

The ability to accept and respect contradictory views and perspectives is still a distant dream, especially when the contrary opinions come from a woman. The implicit expectations of a patriarchal society and our value system are to respect elders and husbands irrespective of their ideology. This is the key reason why women who walk the talk are labelled aggressive. Thus people try to prove their dominance by finding ways to suppress these women as it becomes a question of their authority.

It is indeed certain that our society is suffused with hypocrisy, as we do not practice what we preach. We love the idea of empowerment and equality but we seldom apply or follow these when it comes to us. For instance, a man who admires and encourages a fearless female colleague at his workplace, may actually reject a potential bride for being too opinionated! While he supports this whole hoopla of women empowerment, in reality he isn't really ready to share his life with such a strong woman.

Similar is the case of the modern mother-in-law. No matter how educated and contemporary a mom she is, many still look out for a 'soft-spoken' daughter-in-law, as the one that may stand against her views is considered troublesome. A woman who makes her own choices, speaks her mind and refuses to fall prey to societal pressure is often judged the most and attacked the most; whereas a man with similar attributes is usually appreciated for his strong-will, self-reliance and self-esteem.

On the professional front, a confident and strong woman is often stereotyped and misinterpreted as being confrontational and mean. Female employees who voice their views strongly are hardly treated on par with their male counterparts. While men with opinions are often considered assertive and self-assured, women are labelled as bossy and overbearing. Many women hold back from expressing their views fearing toxic judgment and negative consequences.

The inherent feeling of male superiority still exists in various walks of life, thus making it an obvious reason to suppress a woman, no matter how strong she is. This is done either by degrading her, harassing her, calling her derogatory names or even threatening her with sexual violence and loss of life. All this makes it very clear that as far as society is concerned, a strong woman is lovable in fantasy but hateful in reality.

Written by Srujana Kavoori

SHEROES - lives and stories of women we are and we want to be. Connecting the dots. Moving the needle. Also world's largest community of women, based out of India. Meet us at @SHEROESIndia

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