Cultures have more differences than they have similarities. Cultures rarely see common struggles. If there could be one exception to this rule, it would be women’s mental health. Since times immemorial, women, in every culture, have faced magnanimous challenges – one that goes beyond the capacity of a normal human being to bear and fight.
Many would disagree and others would justify with how the times have changed. But, has it? For women, time never changed. By the time I finish this article, I do not have a clue of how many rapes, assaults, cases of violence against women, cases of bullying and overt (and covert) discriminatory comments would have taken place around the world. Let us take a look at everything that takes a toll on her mental health. A normal day in a woman’s life would look like this:
As I reach the door, my husband casually mentions how my cleavage is showing and he won’t allow that. My mother-in-law barges in and asks me to be home early because I need to spend quality time with my baby daughter. As she leaves the room, she simply says that had I given birth to a boy it would have been so much better since I would not have to take next chance of conceiving another baby in hope of a boy child. As I reach the gate after getting dressed “properly” and comforting my crying daughter, the aunt next door smiles at me and says, “Take care of your health love, you are gaining pounds”.
I start my car and amidst the heavy traffic I see few men passing lewd remarks on my driving skills because they think that female drivers who are cautious, careful, rule abiding must be amateur and unskilled. I get to my office and suddenly my phone rings. It is my husband. Must be something really important. I hope my daughter is fine. She was crying too much this morning when I left. I take the call and the voice on the other side is that of my husband. He sounds angry. “You made sandwich and pancakes for breakfast. Dad and Mom don’t like it. You should have cooked something else for them. What will they eat now?” Before I can say a word, he hangs the phone. I have been guilt-tripped most of my life. But that is fine. I am used to it now.
As I reach my table, a “fun” colleague passes a funny remark on how I am too active for my age. I am 32. He is 45. But yes, he is “funny”. I try to look interested and alert at all times. I get a message that my boss wants to see me. I forgot; it is appraisal time. As I enter his office, he gets straight to the point. “Roy (male colleague) deserves better appraisal than you do. He is present whenever we need him.” I agree. He mentions that spending more time in office is important for appraisal and also, I look like someone who will leave the job because I have a family to tend and that should be my priority. None of this was stated explicitly, but was expressed perfectly.
I am about to leave office when my “fun” colleague asks me stay longer. Looking at my face, he apologizes quickly and suggests me not to get too emotional. Yes. Perfect. Thanks. As soon as I reach home, mother-in-law starts screaming, “I asked you to come home early. You never seem to listen”. She hands over my girl to me and then instructs me to come to the kitchen to help her. My husband is also back. His mother asks him to rest as he must be exhausted. I change. Go back to kitchen. Cook. Serve. Tend to my little one. Eat. Do the dishes.
I cannot bare open my wounds because that would make a modern woman weak. I wait in silence. Wait for miracle – when a woman’s normal day would be considered at least as “not normal” by a man; when a man will understand how different are the worlds that we live in even though, objectively, everything is the same.