Modern society condemns sexism but continuously criticizes women who stay out till late, have male friends and smoke, drink and have sex because, they can’t “have urges”, can they? They can’t have desires and certainly cannot be independent, unless society says so. They are not allowed to be themselves although they are taught over and again that they must not follow other people, and that they must be their own person. How can a society be so contradictory in the way it treats its people?
This is just another day in the life of an average, ordinary girl (woman?) who was expected to be the best student, the best person, the strongest person ever, the most independent girl/teenager and the perfect human being while also dealing with not-so-subtle patriarchy on the way. This is not just a rant, but also a synopsis of the jumbling and battling thoughts in my brain.
The person I am today is an aggregation of the values I have been taught at home, the norms of the country I was born in and that I lived in for about a fifth of my life and the formal education that I was imparted at school. Being a villager in Mauritius is very normal, given that the number of villages (and also villagers) in Mauritius outnumber that of towns (townspeople?). What was not conventional for me was, going to one of the best secondary schools in the country, of which I was proud (obviously because I wished for that my whole life!), but which was a blow to my confidence and my self-esteem.
My parents could not understand how I suddenly became selfish to want the best for myself (maybe I was a little bit selfish), when they themselves pushed me, and encouraged me to be the best throughout the 11 years that I was on this earth (when I used to consider myself an all-rounder). At 12, I was unable to cope with feeling less intelligent than other students, but being the “good, strong and independent” teenage girl that I was labelled as, I was not allowed to complain about it because I wanted that kind of life. I chose that life. It’s as if you dangle a carrot in front of the horse in order for it to move forward and then when it gains confidence and runs ahead, you ask it why it is being selfish for leaving the carrot-holder behind.
I never realized that I was being brainwashed; that the independence that I supposedly had, was really just pseudo-independence. I never understood the real meaning of strong or weak. I never knew how to be the real me, the unfiltered me. I was never taught to be myself. What I was taught was to hide my feelings, to care about others first and then if there was time and energy left, which was rarely so, fight for myself. I was told that I have a voice but I was always reminded to keep quiet and to shut up. I was told that I was being impolite when I would talk back to an older person just because his/her words were inappropriate and hurtful. I was also told that I can choose whatever I want, but then they would narrow the “whatever I want” to only one thing that they wanted me to do.
I certainly did not see my life like this when I was younger. I thought that there is a treat at the end for always being good and obedient. What I got rewarded with though is an overthinking brain which questions my sanity, thoughts and actions every second.