Celebrating women’s achievements. Are we missing the point?
By the time this magazine reaches your hands, celebrations around silver and bronze wins and discussions around ‘how to win gold’ would be over. Also, most of those opinion pieces, editorials, statements by celebrities and politicians – that underlined that a woman needed to achieve something extraordinary to justify her existence – would have been read, thought about, and left behind for good.
The mindset that inspired those save-the-girl-child and empower-the-women type of campaigns is somewhere responsible. So, instead of celebrating the accomplishments of Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu as world-class athletes or professional sportspersons, their wins become a sort of victory for the fairer sex, and the girls end up being hailed as ambassadors of gender parity. Makes me wonder: if winning medals is what it takes for women athletes to be acknowledged as India’s daughters, then what were they seen as earlier?
When I read Virender Sehwag’s Tweet # SakshiMalik is a reminder
of what can happen if u don't kill a girl child, I cringed at first. Then I realised it was probably needed. He has some point to make in his own way. It was a grim reminder of the fact that these Olympics winners were women who stood up and stood out in an oppressive society. They are achievers in spite of a convoluted political system that does not produce athletes. They have won because of their mad dedication as well as crazy support from those who believed in them. Being girls, they had to run a few extra miles against the winds.
And when it comes to celebrating and acknowledging their achievements, an ignorant yet famous news anchor calls Sakshi a ‘kid’, as if she has won a house-level competition in her school. Next, our prime minister associates her achievement with Rakhi, a festival that says women need protectors. Shouldn’t the auspicious occasion be her success alone?
In my opinion, every time a sports star or a successful woman from any profession or field is referred to as India’s daughter or India’s sister, it becomes a patronising discourse that harms the gains made by path-breaking women. Let them be Indian women. Treat them like you treat men. ( Who’s India’s son or India’s brother?) The achievers are worthy of respect as women who are exceptionally good at what they do. And even when they fail to win, they remain worthy of our respect and time.
Yes, Sakshi’s win has a strong answer to the authoritarian diktats that once originated from Haryana’s grassroots. Likewise, Sindhu’s medal and Deepa’s achievement were achieved after contradicting a society that expected its women to be docile. However, the purpose of their win was to win for the sport and for their country, and be celebrated as sportspersons. They certainly did not want to ‘prove’ anything and be patronised for the same.
We do not win often. So, when we win, we must be responsible in the aftermath when it’s easy enough to get carried away. Celebrate medals the way the women in sports will like them to be celebrated. Learn from them how the path to success can be made a little easier for other girls who will follow suit. Padma Editor