Sunday, May 19, 2019 | ePaper

Letter to a five-year-old girl

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Mili Saha :
Hi Girl,
I cannot remember your birth or your first birthday, but I watch the day you are going to school, your first world to step out. So far, you have been a child; a daughter of your parents, or a sister of your siblings. Right at the moment, you are coming out of the cocoon like a butterfly! You are stepping out in a space called the society that is an abode of segregating classes, ethnicities, races, etc. and a sanctuary of violence and inequity.   
You are in a new stage of developmental milestone, you still talk in an empty room, behave over the top. You still play roles of 'mommy-daddy,' but when your brother is 'Superman,' you have no role of 'Superwoman.' Your daddy is your hero, but nobody told you mommy is the 'superhero' who took the unbearable pain to bring you to life. Now you are ready to learn the language, math, and science; they will teach you everything there is, but won't let you know what is not there! You have only known 'who you might be,' but from now on you will recognize 'who you are.' But you cannot be 'self-identified'; your community will decide who you are. You know you are a child, now you will know you are a girl, not a boy! You will grow to be 'a woman' one day, but always 'a man' will be the 'head' of your family. Being 'girl' will let you grow as a cute, beautiful, and lovely counterpart to a handsome, intelligent, and quick 'boy'! If you are more intelligent than boys, people around you will be surprised. They will be amazed if you outperform your friends coming from a wealthy family and will criticize if you outsmart a friend coming from the dominant group.
Someday you will be in the 'teen' ages; you will have your puberty. Those stressed days of 'identity crises'! Along with the unexpected body change, family and friends will change too. Elderly relatives will impose restrictions on meeting and dating people. Obligations for staying indoors will confuse you, 'why is that for me and not for my brother?' From the very moment, your 'body' will be 'at risk,' male friends and relatives will cast an alluring look at you, for the first time. They will behave like an 'owner,' or your brother will take extra care of you when you are close to the outsiders. You will start being more 'shy' than earlier, whereas your female relatives will keep criticizing anything you do like a 'boy' or be close to them!    
Still, your school will not explain 'what is sexuality?' that you are yet to discover or help to come out with all these riddles. However, they will start preaching you to be quiet and submissive while teaching literature and social science since a girl should be so! You will never know about the mystery until you fall into prey of sexual assaults or forced sexes that you will always hide! You cannot share your agony since your community will 'stigmatize' you and 'ostracize' your family. Maybe you will experience these several times until you learn what 'chastity' is! And, you have already lost virginity before knowing what that is.  Remember, this is our conservative society which denies free-sex for girls, but accepts a rapist boy! You will be victimized by both known and unknown people at home and outside until you learn how to protect yourself.   
When you go to college or university, you will be in numerous collective and individual traps waiting for you, no matter if you are glamorous or not. They will tease or touch you, in fact, your body as a 'sex object' while you will be walking in a crowd. Your mental health or physical safety will be endangered at every moment you speak to a stranger, you sit in the class, you fail, or you succeed in protecting yourself. That is because you are a woman; because you have a particular body appearance enough for sexual amusement, only because your bone structure is smaller than the men, because you are vulnerable to 'masculinity', and because you will have menstrual and pregnancy! You will be an 'object' to play with and pursue the pleasure of trial rape! You will be a guinea pig for all sorts of sexual violence. No boy will be accused of doing that while you will be in close inspection, 'what's happening to your body?' Of course, nobody asks you what is going in your mind or what hurts you.  No one will come with help to protect you.  Even the families, relatives, and friends will be critical to your openness to love, sex, and boyfriends because you dare to act like a boy!                                                                                                     
'Becoming women' will change your identity to a 'liability,' although you earn money and honor for your family. You will be special recruitment as a 'woman' at your workplace, even if you are more talented and devoted than your male coworkers. Also, you will be the 'second priority' as a member of society. You have to wait for a man's consent to get a life partner, and if you cannot submit yourself to a man, you will be a 'faulty goods'! You will never know why you are a minority although there are many women (52%) around you! Though not statistically, you are 'othered' socially and unfairly. You will certainly have less 'power' and fewer 'privileges' than your male partner, although you are more intelligent, capable, and worthy! You are born to be inferior to a man only because you need a partner. If you wish to be equal, you will be alone.
You have had a beautiful and protected kind of life; you love your father, brother, and your sister. But you never know some other brothers or some fathers might not to be good enough to some one's sisters. You will be a woman who is an extended part of 'man.' Even if you do not like, you have to live with a man. Gradually, you will sacrifice your dignity, ego, and sensitivity to maintain a family. You will be more tolerant of 'rudeness' and 'harassment' to stay married only!  People will appreciate your maturity, though you will regret your defeat. You will sacrifice your youth, dreams, and joy to be the mother of a child that will be only yours. The community will ask the child its father's name first, instead of the mother's although the child is part of 'your' body.  Not that you will always enjoy honor and pride as a 'wife.' Being a wife is just a step up of being someone's kept, especially in a society where you are growing up! You may be a cuddly girl, a graceful lady, and a well established professional, but nothing goes higher than your identity as 'female' that is an indelible disgrace attached to your birth.                  
However, never feel down for all that goes around you. You are honest, responsible, determined, reliable, and independent. Your quality must take you far. Confidence is what usually coincides with an independent woman. Trust me; you are always 'enough' for your support. Sometimes you'll fall, of course. It hurts, but it teaches! Your heart will break, not once, many times. But, do not neglect yourself. Your journey will be thorny, but do not forget your potential. I promise, you will endure, and you will win. You will always be sensitive to your 'wound,' but I know you will turn all your sorrows to your strength! Because you are a girl, who is born unwelcome, brought up in a hostile neighboring, live in a hell of sexuality and dishonor, and die with painful memories.    
You are five years old only.  Keep your confidence up.  Keep your love unmatched.  Keep your relationships healthy.  Keep your smile beautiful. Learn for your happiness. Meet the world and deal with people. The world will display you everything I write here.  But never give up.  Stay true to your desires. You do not need to fear anything because you are not wrong. It is the society that is flawed. Just remember, "Even in the dark moments, there will be dark moments, but the wonderful wins. It always does."

Happy 5th birthday!!

(Mili Saha is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Jagannath University, currently studying at the University of Toronto, Canada).            

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