Dear future daughter,
The year is 2017.
While I do hear some encouraging and uplifting stories about women finally gaining equal rights, women being empowered to fight for their own rights, women fighting for the rights of other women and even men partaking in the fight for women’s rights, I also continue to hear horrific stories about female trafficking, female genital mutilation and sexual harassment at the workplace. And so, I am terrified. Terrified that another 30 years from now, you might be writing this same letter to your own daughter. Terrified that my fears for today’s tomorrow will during your own time still be your fears for tomorrow.
I hope that by the time you are a young adult, the concept and notion of ‘consent’ has become less ambiguous than it is now. I shall hold on to the hope that both the men and women in your lives and the society and nation you live in would have finally understood that ‘no’ means ‘no’ and that only you have rights over your own body. By the time it comes to your generation, hopefully it is a room at least half-filled with women before any decisions about how a woman should lead her life are made. Perhaps, more ideally, no one will be making decisions for you at all and you will be left alone to decide for yourself what you can and cannot do with your own body.
I also hope that if under any unfortunate circumstances, you are a victim of sexual harassment or misconduct, you will not be required to justify your choice of wardrobe, choice of language or even choice of timing to be outside. Perhaps, in 30 years’ time the length of your skirt, the friendliness in your personality and the time of the day (or night) will no longer be unjustly used to determine your virtue or the validity of any accusations of sexual misconduct. You will be free to hold those who violate you accountable without fear of tarnishing the ‘honour’ of yourself and your family.
In the department of self-love, I shall be optimistic that no one ever encourages you to use fairness creams or slimming pills and, more ideally, that people will not have to remind you and your generation that you are amazing regardless of your skin colour or body size. If you inherit my dark brown skin tone, I hope that you are able to find leading ladies whom you can relate to in the movies that you watch. I hope that incidences of plus sized and dark women being mocked in Tamil movies become so far and few that you instantly become enraged when they occur – unlike now, where we have all pretty much been desensitised to it such that we sometimes barely bat an eyelid.
At the workplace, I hope that your effort and talent gets you the same recognition as your male counterparts and that you do not have to work twice as hard to receive a fraction of their salary. If you are blessed or maybe cursed enough to be a leader at the workplace, I hope that your assertiveness will not be incorrectly labelled as bitchiness or your determination as arrogance.
Also, I hope that society will support you regardless of whether you choose to start a family or not and that your worth as a woman will not be tied to the number of children you produce or your ‘ability’ to snag a husband. If you do decide to have children, you should not have to bear any more ‘guilt’ about being a working mother than a working father does. I hope that society empowers you enough to walk away from a terrible or abusive marriage without having to face the debilitating shame associated with being a female divorcee.
Hopefully, we will live in an era where you will not have to bear the blame for your husband’s misgivings and infidelity.
Most of all, in 2047, when you will be reading this letter, I sincerely hope that you will be laughing your head off and remarking to me: “Amma, you were paranoid about nothing.” But in the event that your future resembles my present, I hope that you will continue to fight the forces that diminish the value, abilities and spirit of a woman and encourage your own daughters (and sons) to do so.
It’s International Women’s Day today and hopefully in the year 2047, this day can only be found in the history books.
Your anxious mother trying to change the world.
The team at ChutneySG wishes all ladies reading this letter a very Happy International Women’s Day! Find out how you can #BeBoldForChange here.