The Good Girl

“Don’t raise your voice.”

“Don’t laugh loudly.”

“Don’t go out and play, you’ll tan your skin.”

“Don’t sit like this. Don’t stand like that.”

“Talk properly to your elders.”

“Don’t dress in skirts or jeans. Wear salwars. Wear a purdah. Maybe not a purdah – too extreme. We are liberal. But cover up.”

“Don’t eat ice-cream in public.”

“Don’t leave your hair open.”

“Don’t go out alone. Go with your brother or cousin or non-significant male relative.”

“Walk like a girl. Act shy.”

“Don’t be arrogant.”

“Don’t be out late.”

“Don’t travel outside. What is the need? What if something happens? Stay at home.”

“Don’t stay around after school with friends.”

“Don’t study so much. You won’t be able to find a suitable husband.”

“Don’t have all these fancy dreams. Learn how to cook and clean and raise kids. Your degree will not help.”

“Don’t argue. Don’t raise your voice.”

“Don’t ask questions. Just follow.”

“Don’t cry like a girl.”

“Don’t think. We know what is best. Do as we say.”

“How can you even think about it? This is not part of our culture. What will society say? What will the relatives think?”

“Don’t roam around like this. You will not get good husbands.”

“Don’t be friends with boys.”

“Don’t go out in the sun. You’ll tan your skin. They want fair brides not dark ones.”

“Why go to the big city for studying? Local college will do. You’ll get ruined in the big city.”

“Big city girls have boyfriends. They drink. They smoke. They bring shame to their families. Girls who go to big cities are ruined. We will not let you go.”

“You can continue studying after marriage. Get married now before it is too late.”

“All those books will not help you find a good husband.”

“Don’t take that job. If you work alone in a big city, people will think you are characterless and you will not be able to find a good husband.”

“Don’t take that job. If you earn more, how can you find a decent husband from our community?”

“Don’t go out at night.”

“Don’t go for a job where you have to go for many meetings.”

“That type of job is not for girls.”

“Don’t go for a night-shift.”

“Don’t eat so much.”

“Why work after marriage? Your husband will take care of you.”

“Why are you working? Who will take care of the kids and the in-laws?”

“You are getting old.”

“Look how worried your parents are.”

“Who will marry you now? You are such a disappointment!”

“You gave birth to a girl? Don’t worry. Next time it will be a boy.”

“Don’t dream big.”

I guess they might have as well said ‘Don’t Live’ the minute I was born.

– Words can crush and create a lot of things. All I did today was put together the words I have heard from different people over the years. We live in a world where woman still have no right or entitlement to their own bodies. We live in a world where the first response to anything is to curb the freedom of women – from banning mobile phones to preventing them from terminating a pregnancy to holding them to impossible moral and beauty standards. So, I say let’s start living, for woman are human beings too. 

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