Who is a “good woman”, I often ask myself? If one is to follow society’s definition, a good woman is an obedient, calm, submissive, caring, selfless, and virtuous woman. In case she is unmarried, it helps if she is a virgin. If she’s married, it helps if she puts her career on hold and instead focuses on her family and home. With these endless demands on our plate, the right question to ask then is: is being a “good” woman worth all the fuss?
The problem with society’s definition of being a good woman is that it leaves a very narrow margin for women to exercise their agency. For example, a good wife does what she is told – this could mean opting for science after your tenth advice because it brings prestige to your parents, but also giving up your hard-earned degree and job to take care of your family, because it also gives your parents a reason to walk tall. The set of expectations on our part differs depending on our age and marital status, and we must do what society deems to be right, no matter how conflicting the standards are and adversely impact our lives.
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I read a tweet today, which said: feminist thought teacher in class today – “every woman is a bad woman. she has to do very good things to become a good woman. while every man, by default, is a good man. he has to do horrible things to become a bad man. a man becomes bad, a woman is bad. And when you think about it, it seems true.
The stereotype of the good woman
Women must constantly work to appease society and be perceived as “good”. One misstep and your hard-earned goodness medal shatters into pieces. Choose a man to marry against your family’s wishes, start dating publicly with no intention of marrying your partner, refuse to give up your career after marriage and motherhood, refuse to live with your in-laws parents if you find their behavior abusive and suddenly you become the woman who needs to be isolated and avoided. “Stay away from this woman, she’s a bad influence,” you might hear such whispers when all you had done was follow your heart and put your well-being first.
However, it may not be entirely true that men are “good” in the eyes of society by default and have to do something terrible to be seen as “evil.” Ask any boy who gets bad grades in exams, shows little professional ambition, and you’ll find a thousand anxious parents who want their raja betas stay away from it kharaab ladka, which could deter them from their own goals. Men don’t fare as badly as women when it comes to gender norms, but we have to agree that, like women, their lives are also spent living by the stereotypes that place value on their existence. What makes us “evil” differs, and therein lies the cruelty of this system.
Many of the above mentioned parents in our society turn a blind eye if their son befriends a lustful boy who harasses women and shares intimate videos of women in a non-consensual way because boys will be boys and what harm can this behavior cause? Unless of course said boy is going to do something really horrible like abusing a woman. So, is our society’s definition of evil and good even worth frowning on?
Should women let this misguided understanding of good behavior ruin lives, squander opportunities, and fill us with a lifetime of resentment and regret? No. Dear women, don’t buy all this hype because social expectations are endless. So why not devote your time and energy to doing what makes you happy? Shouldn’t feeling good be more important than being good?
The opinions expressed are those of the author.