Her methods are old. Her world is limited. She has lost relevance in the corporate world. Can she upgrade herself? Can she regain her lost confidence? A typical story of most women who have crossed 40, who never really stepped out of their homes or made a choice to step out of their careers.
The interactive play I directed earlier this year, #Andme? explores the wide disparity prevailing amongst women, where on one side they are supposed to be empowered and taking their own decisions yet on the other the other side, they are asked to give up their dreams when it is time to raise children or take over other responsibilities.
In the age of Millennials where all social taboos are broken and we have moved into a society which is completely driven by social media, we still come across women who are bound by social behaviour they had adapted as children. This play is from the point of view of women who grew up in the 80s and 90s, when careers were often sidetracked for familial responsibilities.
There is nothing inherently wrong with giving up a career to raise a family. Many have taken this route and lived fulfilling lives. But for countless women, this starts a vicious circle of putting others’ needs before her own; hearing other perspectives and accommodating the truths of her husband and children who are more active in the outside world. Inevitably, they wake up one day to ask themselves – When was the last time I was heard? When did I last decide? Call the shots? When is it my turn?
The journey towards this choice begins right at the childhood when minds are conditioned into stereotypical gender roles. When girls are taught to be 'proper' and boys are asked not to cry or display any ‘girly’ emotions. Girls often need to put the needs of the family first and themselves later leading them to giving up their dreams for others. The journey continues all their life where fairly simple decisions are dictated in an unwritten rule book, stating how to dress up, what time you can step out, how to behave and much more. The seemingly harmless mirror they stand in front of every day asks them several questions - it’s never as simple as just looking into it, it’s about confronting the tough questions posed daily.
Further down the line when she has managed to reach the peak of her career; often its marital and household duties that force her to be the one to compromise and step down for the sake of the family. What’s a girl to do? Leave her job to take care of home? Multi- task and manage expectations all around? Earn a living, dress the part, cook a wholesome meal, keep a clean house, and look flawless while doing it all? These expectations are so ingrained in some parts of our society, that people often completely miss out on their own sexism.
Of course, it’s hard to fight the same battles, day in and day out, not only with people outside but even worse with the cops in your head. So many of us gave in. We gave up our financial independence, personal desires, provocative identities, to fit a mould that was made for us. And somewhere, reached a breaking point – when is it enough? When do I call the shots?
Why do women have to reach this point? Where do expectations from women set in that make them prisoners in their own world? Is it women pressuring women? How does gender differentiation build the demarcations in roles? How do the society norms become the normal? And when she thinks she is ultimately ready to decide, why is she is unsure if she can pull it off, why does she loose all the confidence?
Many women don’t voice this breaking point, even today. They fear being called selfish or aggressive or too opinionated. So, we want to give them this voice. #Andme? the play brings these hidden dichotomies to the forefront to ask the glaring question – what about me?
From graphic designing to branding strategy and from interior styling, event design to advertising, Yashika Punjabee brings a unique perspective on style and design