“Boys and girls, as you all are aware, your Principal has asked me to speak to you about poetry. I thought an interesting topic would be reciting the poem I have written entitled, `I am a Single Woman’.” Suddenly, an adolescent boy got down on one knee and grinning like a clown, exclaimed, “Since you are single, will you marry me?” while shoving a diamond ring at me.
The whole class burst into laughter. I could feel tears in my eyes for being made fun of. “Control yourself”, I told myself. It just wouldn’t do for the teacher to cry. Steeling myself with determination, I decided to rise from the ashes like a phoenix. I composed myself. I cleared my throat and began reciting my poem in a low, emotional and powerful voice.
I recited how single women are discriminated against at every step and at every stage of their lives. I spoke of how single women are given the short end of the stick and are treated as second class citizens since society automatically and only recognizes married women, as husbands are deemed as god incarnates and the raison d’etre of their existence.
I spoke of the single woman who finds it arduous and almost impossible to get accommodation, as landlords are dubious and sceptical of single women.
I spoke of how single women, being women, are deemed the weaker sex or as Simone de Beauvoir put it, the `second sex’. I spoke about how if one single woman remained unmarried, she sacrificed her marriage become she had to take care of aged parents, particularly her mother, who had diabetes and therefore needed timely insulin shots and a special diet.
I spoke of single woman nurses who have to control their bladders when attending to dying patients for whom every second count. I spoke of the single women who valiantly stood up, proud and strong, for refusing proposals from men who asked for exorbitant dowries, fiercely stating, “I am a woman and I am not for sale”. I spoke of the single woman who didn’t marry because after her parents passed away in an accident, there was no one but her to take care of her three younger siblings.
I spoke of the single woman who immediately rushed to give place to pregnant women or to women holding small babies in public transport because the able-bodied men were all seated and were looking elsewhere as they had no intention of getting up. I spoke of the single woman in the office who always gets second shift timings because the boss says matter-of-factly, “Anyhow, she is single, and therefore has no social life”. I spoke of the single woman who finds it arduous and almost impossible to get accommodation, as landlords are dubious and sceptical of single women.
I spoke of how single women struggle for long hours at monotonous, mechanical and laborious work that requires no creativity or ingenuity, and yet they are paid peanuts and half of what the men get paid. I spoke of the single women who are exploited and harassed and discriminated against for no fault of theirs, yet they suffer in ignominious silence, their pain speaking louder than words. I spoke of how single women are considered easily ‘available’ to men and how they are sexually harassed and assaulted with impunity.
Society automatically and only recognizes married women, as husbands are deemed as god incarnates and the raison d’etre of their existence.
Without a husband, the single woman is considered a ‘burden’, with no support, weak and powerless. Yet, a single woman is the truth that the world needs most. They are the one who held their head high, tall and proud, sensitive and strong. They are the beautiful souls that make the world an awesome place.
I finished reading my rather long poem. There was not one dry eye in the audience. They started clapping. One started, then slowly everyone joined in, rising to a crescendo. One of the dynamic girls who was obviously the leader got up and said, “Ma’am, thank you very much. We are very grateful to you for your poem and for opening our eyes. Ma’am, we will never forget you. You are our diamond.”
The bell rang. Soon everyone stood up and filed past. All the girls smiled at me. The boys looked kind of lost and avoided eye contact. Finally, the boy who made fun of me was the last to leave. He looked at me and said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry.”
“It’s OK,” I whispered, and through my tears, I smiled.
Featured image used for representative purpose only. Image source: Warrior