Women have a tendency to feel guilty and apologize for everything, including their existence, not only to men who sometimes demand that women feel guilty about it, but also to other women, some of whom like nothing better than putting their own kind down and shaming them.
When I tell you that it is high time that you stop feeling guilty about certain things, it is not because I am asking you to become insolent and rebellious. What I am trying to drive home is that there are certain things pertaining to women which society has turned into ‘flaws’ or ‘abominations’ and ‘crimes’ which prevent us from becoming the ‘ideal’ woman in their eyes, should we commit these ‘errors’. All these things are false propaganda, which has been constructed to maintain the unbalanced status quo of the community.
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The good news ladies, is the fact that times are a changin’ and there is nothing, absolutely nothing on the following list that you should be feeling guilty about. The next time you feel like you should say sorry to someone and apologize for your looks or actions or decisions, have a look at the following, and carefully assess whether you should be feeling guilty at all.
1. Your body
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One of the things that women are made to feel guilty about the most is their bodies. Things like stretch marks, breasts, pimples, dark skin, curly hair, straight hair, body hair, and everything else seems to offend everyone and unless you look like a photoshopped version of a favorite model on a billboard, you are at the butt end of their criticism. It is not impossible to change the mindset of the people and it is slowly happening, but what you can do for the time being is stop feeling guilty about it, because your imperfections are what make you who you are- it makes you unique and apologizing for those is like apologizing for who you are.
2. Saying ‘no’
In a chauvinistic, male-dominated, patriarchal society, it is naturally expected of women to be reticent and yielding to men, whether they are comfortable with it or not. For some reason, women have not been allowed to identity with the concept of dissent and disagreement, not only with men, but with everyone else, including women themselves. Saying no is apparently a sign of insolence and disrespect, which is basically nothing but emotional blackmail towards women so they are not allowed to say no, even if they want to. Saying ‘no’ does not signify any of that; what it does signify are your limits and your lines, which no one should cross without your consent, so even if you do end up saying no, to a man who wants to date you, or to a friend who wants to go out with you, or to your ‘superiors’, do not feel guilty about saying no.
3. Liking sex
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Even though sex as a taboo topic is slowly receding into the past, the associations made between women who like having sex (and are very open about it) and immorality and lack of culture and respect is still a persisting problem. A woman is looked down upon as a fallen woman and as a whole lot of other things if she likes having sex, whereas no questions are asked when it is men who are guilty of the same supposed misdeed. The truth of the matter is very simple- men and women are equals and there are no misdeeds when it comes to sex, so if you like having sex, it makes you human, not immoral.
4. Not being too bothered about your social life
In commercial cinema and in other media, women are projected as social butterflies who engage in kitty parties and socials and have thriving social lives with tons and tons of people vying for their attention because there are just too many parties to attend. In case you like staying home with your cat and a tub of popcorn and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy in your PJs, labels are slammed on including things like ‘antisocial’, ‘rebellious’, ‘sad’, ‘lonely’ and many other things. As you grow older, you realize how little a thriving social lives mean because you only have a couple of people who really care about you, and that is all that matters.
5. Weight changes
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Women are criticized when they are too thin; they are also criticized when they are not thin enough. This dichotomy is something which is enough to drive you to the point of guilt and apologies and explanations, which is completely unnecessary, because again, whether you gain weight or lose weight should be nobody’s concern other than yours, and you should definitely not be feeling guilty for it.
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6. Standing up for your beliefs
Here is another patriarchal convention which has driven women into hiding their opinions because they have been repeatedly told that theirs is the opinion that rarely matters. This trope too, is changing, but it will be impossible to stop the constant undermining of women’s opinions and beliefs until you speak out. No matter what you have an opinion about, instead of feeling guilty, you should make sure it is heard.
7. Your opinions about marriage
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In developing countries, women or rather, girl children are still seen as future marriageable commodities, which is why certain notions about marriage are imposed on them from a very young age. Even in developed countries, being a 40 year old spinster is considered ‘abnormal’ or ‘tragic’ because of the unavailability of a man in your life, whose ego you won’t be able to feed. Whether you decide to get married at 25 or 52 is completely up to you, and the last thing you should do is let society guilt-trip you into getting or not getting married at a comfortable age.
8. Being emotional
When people say ‘you scream like a girl’ and you ‘cry like a girl’ and other such stereotypical nonsense, they impose certain emotional expectations on them, which makes women feel instinctively guilty for their emotions, which is why they are afraid of showing it. What you should not be feeling guilty about is your emotions, which is why you get to cry whenever you want to, laugh as loud as you want or be as cold and open as you feel like.
9. The way you dress
Just like women are made to feel guilty about the way they look physically, they are also shamed and guilt tripped for the kind of clothes they like, because there never seems to be anything satisfying enough. If you like dressing up for non-spectacular occasions like college, you are garish. If you like wearing sweats everywhere, then you don’t try hard enough. If you like skirts and crop tops, you are too girly. If you like sneakers and hoodies, you are too boyish. Here’s some news for you- you are neither of those things, which is why you don’t get to feel guilty about it. If the way you dress makes you feel comfortable and makes someone else feel uncomfortable, then it is their problem, not yours.
10. Your career choices
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Women are judged whether they choose to have a career or not, and even if they do choose to get a job, they are criticized for the choices they make. In fact, so strong is the hate for women in jobs that wage gap is a real thing, where women are paid much less than men for the exact same job. Women are free to choose whatever career path they want to pursue, because they take the same course as men do to educate and establish themselves. Choosing to be an art curator or a NASA scientist or a stay at home mom is the last thing you should be feeling guilty about.
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11. Your choices
To sum up what I have been ranting about for the last ten points, it is important that you, as a strong, independent, thinking woman, not feel guilty about the choices you make in your life. Whether it is about your dress, your body, your relationship status, your likes, your dislikes, pro-choice, no-choice and anything else, it is your choices which make you who you are, and there is nothing anyone can say which should make you regret those choices. There is one singular reason why you shouldn’t be guilty for your choices- because people try to tell you so to put you down and not let you live your life on your own terms, because it would undermine the leverage that society has over you.
The moment you start apologizing for your actions and your decisions, you admit that you are wrong and everyone else is right in putting you down, which is something not very conducive for you, or the community in general in terms of progress. Be the badass that you are, because in most cases, if you are being reprimanded for your choices by society, then you are doing something right.
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