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Empowerment: Staying True to Yourself in an Antagonistic Social world

Scenario-1: It’s about a conservative, closed society and the first feelings: innocent, intense and pure. A university going girl falls in love with someone. She might not have considered social and personal complications which this relationship may cause in future, as anyone hardly considers them at this age. The relationship brings its share of pleasures and the two feel really happy with each other. It lasts for 3 years till the boy gets married to someone else –it may be, to say, because of the family pressures or due to his own changing social reality, priorities etc.- and the girl is left to readjust her choices in a bitter, antagonistic harsh social world.

Scenario-2: It’s about a conservative, closed society and the first feelings: innocent, intense and pure. A university going boy falls in love with someone with a well made up face, pretty skin, or from a family with abundant or at least rich resources – though, for a romantic, he mightn’t have considered her financial status for falling in love with her (I always wonder why girls, most of the time, fall in love with men who are financially stable and well off, whereas boys/men with girls who either come from well off families or have pretty superior looks when it is claimed all the times that love is blind, pure etc.) - and the relationship works well for the two. They feel happy and fulfilled with each other until she opens her eyes to the demanding social realities and finds him inadequate to spend her whole life with. The boy/man is left to readjust his choices in a bitter, antagonistic harsh social world.

The question is how the aforementioned boy/man or girl/woman can stay true to themselves in face off their social world which is deeply conservative, closed minded, harsh and wouldn’t bother to give a thought to the circumstances in which they fall in and out of their relationships. The individuals certainly feel emotional complications which, however painful and bitter, ultimately give in to life which doesn’t end at being left alone!

One way, in vogue, is that you wipe off -or at least pretend so- your personal slate inside, wear a new face, tell anyone nothing and start a new life with someone who gets interested, chosen by the family or by him/her again. The life starts at half- truth, half-lie point. If they haven’t told the truth, they haven’t either lied; it’s just that they have hidden the truth. Does hiding the truth make anyone ‘One with himself/herself?’ The sensitivity of being true to oneself gives in to fear of losing respectable and decent life, of isolation and notoriety in social circles.

The other is that he/she owns the life they lived and the choices they made. Life is not a stagnant fishpond. Beauty of life is that it moves on despite all pleasures or pains, however comforting or hurting, but it moves on and evolves into something new, and it evolves our being in all its shades and colors. The choices one made in a given time or space were, perhaps, the best possible choices, which unfortunately didn’t work in a changed social reality. Does that mean the individual has lost his/her right to making a choice? Does that mean end of life itself?

The answer lies with no one but the individual. In conservative societies like ours, men have their way to things and they live a socially acceptable life despite all the wrong choices they may have made in the past. But a woman, if confessed to her parents, family, husband or relatives, the choice she had made -I would prefer the verb ‘accepted’ to ‘confessed’- is isolated socially and could be deprived of a socially acceptable union; for she is labeled as a pervert, corrupt creature. Men of so called honor, prestige and standing refuse to marry her and she becomes a social blob of mud for the family and the relatives which may even result in honor killing.

What is the way out, then? Should she, in face off a harsh, antagonistic social world, lie to herself and be untrue to the only being which has never been untrue to her or should she be true to herself and let the hell fall on her? The pragmatic answer is, indeed, that she lives a half-truth, half-lie life, i.e., she chooses to be silent and neither tells a lie or the truth. Or should someone come and stand by her to help her win her right to an equal social status as that of a man? We know Godots don’t come to help us win our rights; it is us and only us who can stand up and claim our right to be ourselves.
A woman needs to reconsider her priorities. She should know, as an Eve, what is important for her; the looming social gains or ‘being herself’.

The society judges her through its standards- with which she, as an individual, may not identify herself with just because she was born in that society- bringing her to the individual vs. society. She should understand that she, as an individual, either chooses to be untrue to herself by giving in to societal norms and mores or stands against these tyrannical norms which she doesn’t share and remains true to her ‘self’. Either way she, like all humans, pays a price but the right to make the choice is hers and only hers. If it is ‘being herself’ that matters and she has this courage of conviction, no matter what may come, she should let the hell fall. Empowerment is never handed over to a marginalized section; it is always won and grabbed which demands courage of conviction and sacrifice. No society, masculinity or tyranny take away a woman’s right to be true to herself until she let it be so for petty social gains. But she should always remember that giving in to social gains may give her a comfortable material life, but it would also make her hollow inside, so much so, that the whole successful material life may turn into meaninglessness! Empowerment is not living a ‘successful’ life; it is, instead, living a ‘fulfilled’ life being true to oneself: owning every last bit of your ‘self’ however painful it may look in a changed social reality!

Comments

I won't say that you have redefined empowerment, as power from within is the basic requirement of empowerment, and it stems from self and within. But then, not everyone, especially the ones who are already vulnerable because of unequal power relations, can stand true to themselves in the face of the kinds of adversaries one comes across. Yes, for some being killed, while in struggle for truth, is the gain of the lifetime, but not all can be this much strong.

So, all I want to say is that empowerment is as much about the outer world as it is the inner. And I also want to say that real empowerment of the impoverished is not possible until it is the both ways and that means from within and from without.

Yes, it starts from within, but without must follow for real and long-term change, a change which everyone can enjoy.

Keep writing, and there are few men who can understand that how this world is a different planet when it comes to women, and I am glad that you are one of them.

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