Woman – a word that evokes far too many emotions in every person. All it should do is tell you a person’s gender but what this word actually does to people is complicated, to say the least. You probably felt some sort of emotion too when you saw the word here, didn’t you? It could be for a flash of a second, but it happened.

A lot of us equate this word with the relationships in our lives, we think of it as a synonym of superhuman (oh, the irony) strength, some of us hear ‘weakness’ when someone identifies as a woman, and then there are some who feel anger. Anger because a woman, at some point, told them to shove their opinions where they belong or anger because they can’t seem to control a group of people who are supposed to be inferior to those with sensitive organs dangling outside their bodies. So much for evolution, amirite?

Anyway, getting back to THAT word, a woman is thought of as many things, except as a simple human being with the same rights, opinions, and expectations as men. Yes, I said expectations, and I know some of you are going to have a kneejerk reaction to the tune of, “Oh really? Then why don’t people expect women to earn for the whole household for the rest of their lives?” As much as you may not want to hear it, women would much rather earn their own money than be called gold-diggers who have to clean, cook, and nurse for free for the rest of their lives.

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As if the varied definitions, both well-meaning and evil, weren’t enough, women also have to deal with being called a bunch of other names, the likes of which are freely used on WhatsApp forwards but will most likely get flagged when you’re showing a patriarchal society the mirror. If you’re a woman, you’ve probably been called some of these names–by family, so-called friends, lovers, colleagues, mentors, doctors, cops, and others around you. We know them, we’ve started to own them and joke about them among ourselves, but have you wondered what are those terrible acts that a woman does in order to be so vilified?

One would think it’s the big things in life that would make such a lasting, definitive mark on a person’s character. But the situations that are small for cis-het men are huge for a woman because they are made huge by everyone around her.

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, let me simplify it for you. Here are a few things for which women are labelled “bad”, “disgraceful”, “unworthy of respect”, “slut”, “bitch”, “whore”, and every terrible word you can think of.


Are you extra smiley today? Is something making you really happy, like a normal person? Hmm, trying to get a man’s attention, are we?

Not smiling

Are you not smiling all the time like a maniac today? Hurting a man’s ego by not laughing at his jokes? PMS-ing, are we?

Loving someone

No South Asian woman needs to be told how wrong it is for her to love who she chooses, when she chooses. If you’re 18 and have a boyfriend, apocalyptic drama will unfold at home. If you’re 25 and unmarried, same. If you’re 35 and still unattached, it’s pretty much the end of the road for you. And if you’re trying to marry outside of your caste or religion or your parents’ wishes, may the heavens save you.

Not loving enough

Not falling in love with the husband that was forced into your life? Not enjoying the precious company of your in-laws every waking hour? Not enthusiastic about hetero marriage after being told to stay away from boys your whole life? Not being the perfect daughter to the parents who made a big deal about “letting” their daughter study and work outside the house? Well, you’re a terrible woman.

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Having sex

Enjoying one of the most basic human desires without a social contract? Do I even need to remind you what a woman is called when she dares to enjoy sex, especially without being married?

Not interested in sex

If the aforementioned social contract is not igniting carnal-but-not-too-carnal desires in you, are you even a proper woman? It’s literally impossible for a good wife to not want to have sex with The Man.

Being angry

Oh, so you have feelings about being treated poorly? Keep them to yourself. Because an angry woman is a bad woman. Go back to your default benevolent goddess mode.

Not being angry enough

Are you not raging about every bad thing that happens to women in the world? Are you prioritising your mental health and ignoring some political affairs because they’re too overwhelming? You’re a bad feminist. You’re just not angry enough to be a good woman in the 21st century.

Eating too much

If you enjoy your samosas and don’t mind a few extra inches around your waist, watch out. Rejections and reproductive diseases are waiting for you at the next corner. And if a woman doesn’t think of her baby-producing organs and waistline every time she enjoys a meal, the world will most definitely end the next day.

Eating too little

Look, if you’re a woman, you’re either too thin or too fat. You’re only perfect if you’ve been surgically modified or photoshopped. So, if you think you’re going to eat less to avoid health problems and get away with it, hell to the no, girl! You will just be “accused” of being on a diet and perhaps trying to look thin for a man. Please refer to point 1 to know what will happen if a man is involved.

Having a period

One of the worst things you can do as a woman is failing to reprimand your uterus for shedding its lining every month, no matter where you are. It’s your own personal failure for being at work, in school, in the kitchen, in the temple when your period starts. And letting the world know that you’re having a period by not hiding your sanitary pad or tampon? Is there anything worse a woman can do?

Not having a period

Just as having a period is terrible, not having one is even worse. Because if you’ve hit puberty and you’re not having your period, you must be pregnant. There can be no other explanation. Not having a period means you’ve enjoyed sex. With a sperm-producing person.

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Working hard for her career

Spending hours in the office, day or night, to hustle your way to the next big promotion? Or are you considering a job that is a huge step up for your career but in a different city from your family? Normal for a man, sacrilege for a woman, my dear. Because if you’re spending extra hours at the office, you’re probably sleeping with the boss. And if you get that promotion after all this work, you’re definitely sleeping with the boss. Also, you’re ignoring your one main goal in life – looking after other people.

Not working enough

Oh, so you gave in to societal pressures and quit your job to take up the role of primary caregiver? You little gold-digger, living like a queen off your husband’s money. What kind of a 21st-century woman are you that you could not find superhuman strength to make a career despite in-laws who need you to be their nurse and a husband who needs you to look after the household all by yourself? Then you gold-diggers want alimony in case of a divorce. So unfair!

Being comfortable around strange men

Ho alert! If you’re comfortable being around strange men, you’re offending all the insecure little penis-holders in your family. Those are the only men you’re allowed to interact with, okay? That is, of course, until it’s time for marriage and you’re literally expected to be happy in a strange man’s bed. And if you’re joking around with men other than the ones in your family, once again, you are providing undeniable proof that you have enjoyed the forbidden sex.

Not being comfortable around strange men

If all the years of being told to stay far, far away from strange men because of how dangerous they are have made you hyper-aware of men in any setting, it’s your fault for making men feel bad. When you look at them warily and avoid a lane because you can see two men there and no women, they feel hurt, girls. #NotAllMen. Who cares if the fear of being raped or killed at any point has been so deeply ingrained in you that you keep the sharp end of your keys stuck between your fingers every day, ready to attack the man walking in front or behind you?

Going out in public with very little on

Ask any woman in this country and she will tell you that wearing shorts in public is pretty much an act of rebellion. In a country where women are literally attacked for wearing shorts in their own homes, this comes as no surprise. If you’re showing more skin than what is deemed acceptable by the people looking at you, in public or by violating your privacy, you’re a slut, my love.

Going out in public with too much on

Bikinis are not okay, but neither are hijabs and burqas. Now, you’re covering far too much of yourself and trying to practise your own religion. Wear a suit or saree and have your lajja vastra handy at all times, but don’t cover your face with it or you’ll land up being an anti-national. A good woman must ensure the men can see what they want to see. No more, no less.

Speaking up

When you speak up against injustices done to you, a man loses his career and that is tragic. When we don’t stay quiet after being harassed by our boss or assaulted by a friend, the “impact” on the man’s life should make a woman, the wronged person, feel guilty. And let’s not even forget how a woman is treated or the names she’s called after she tries to make a man accountable for his actions.

Not speaking up

If a woman doesn’t speak up and lets the man get away with what he did, it’s also her fault for putting other women at risk. If she doesn’t speak up “on time”, it’s her fault for trying to manipulate the situation in her favour. If she doesn’t have the strength to stand up for other women, she’s a bad feminist. I’m forgetting, what do we call a man who doesn’t stand up for other men or reports a crime after a few days, weeks, or months? Ah yes, nothing.

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Makes you think that the burden of the world is on women, doesn’t it? Well, it’s what we’ve been made to believe. Why else would we tell girls that the honour of their whole family depends on what they do outside the house? Why else would we hold no such expectation from the male gender and dismiss everything they do as “boyish behaviour”? We’re so conditioned to put it all on women that even the worst things that you can say to a man involve his mother and sister.

This Women’s Day, I ask one simple favour. Stop labelling women. Stop expecting us to be perfect goddesses who can do no wrong, stop amplifying every little “bad” thing we do, and don’t put the world’s burden on us. Let us keep both earphones in when we’re out for a walk. Let us use our keys as just keys. Let us leave our homes without scrutinising the amount of skin we’re showing. Let us be human instead of expecting us to be superhuman. Just let us live, you know, like men.

Related: It’s Time To Restrict Men, Not Women

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