Have You ever had to choose between Independence and Being Alone? #EverydaySexism

My day isn’t done unless I read the Humans of New York (HONY) page: it reminds me of life’s lessons and our essential humanity without being trite or soppy. If you’re on Facebook, I would suggest following it– it’s probably the only page worth reading everyday. If you aren’t on Facebook, consider bookmarking it: all posts are public.

Have you ever had to make a choice between being independent and having friends, family and the society in general stand by you? Have you experienced discrimination at your workplace based on gender? If you're a parent, do you see different challenges ahead of your children based on their gender? How are you equipping them to face these challenges? Have your experiences in family, society or workplace ever made you wish you were the other gender? Any words of advice for the girl in this picture?
A Woman’s life: Choice between Independence and Loneliness?

The HONY page essentially contains pictures of common people, with snippets of what they have to say. Each snippet is special in its own way, and shows us a different perspective. Who we are, who we want to be, who we wish we had been, who we’re thankful we’re not: universal emotions in the particular, with no judgment, and mostly, no commentary.

This post in particular held my attention recently:

“I want to have my own career. I don’t want to depend on anyone else. But there’s a view in our society that an independent woman doesn’t belong here. She is not ‘one of us.’ So if you want to do some things on your own, they expect you to do everything on your own. And that’s difficult. Because wanting to be independent doesn’t mean I want to be alone.”

(Karachi, Pakistan)

This girl is from Pakistan, where Brandon, the man behind Humans of New York is currently on a tour. This line in particular, made me think: wanting to be independent doesn’t mean I want to be alone.

I’m from India, a country in many ways similar to Pakistan, and I understand what this young woman is talking about. In Asia (and I hear it is the same for women the world over, to varying extents), a woman has to make a choice: to be independent, or to be shunned by her society– too educated, too ambitious, too career-driven.

In certain societies, these terms become epithets for women, whereas, for men, these are words of praise.

Click to Tweet An ambitious woman, even in Western movies and shows, seems to have certain negative connotations. I wonder why.

My question to you, irrespective of whether you’re a man or woman, or identifying as any other gender:

Have you ever had to make a choice between being independent and having friends, family and the society in general stand by you? Have you experienced discrimination at your workplace based on gender?

If you’re a parent, do you see different challenges ahead of your children based on their gender? How are you equipping them to face these challenges?

Have your experiences in family, society or workplace ever made you wish you were a different gender? Any words of advice for the girl in this picture?

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Add Yours
  1. dreamingthroughliterature

    First of all, I love the HONY page. I love to see the stories come across my Facebook newsfeed. I have definitely experienced this type of blatant sexism, but as a middle class white women I admit that I have not experienced anything compared to some women (especially trans women) around the world. I am disgusted of the misogynistic, patriarchal society women are typically subjected to. I am a very independent person and have absolutely, and unfortunately, intimidated people enough to the point where they were afraid to be around me. I don’t mean this in the sense of I’m scary and I might hurt them or something like that. I am scary because I am intensely independently and will work towards the goals that make me happy and choose the path that makes me most eager for my future.
    Living in a society that has the underlying message of men being the main “bread winners” of the family makes it hard to be successful in a world where people, even many women, will choose a decently qualified man over a expertly qualified female. There is also the double standard of when men are bossy and mean in the business setting, they are asserting themselves. When a women does it, she’s being a bitch and loses her respectability.
    I have never, myself, wished to be a different gender – I’m quite confident and happy in the little feminist, patriarchy-fighter that I have become – but I can completely understand why many people would wish to be a different gender, in hopes of being able to choose independence, or assert themselves, or get that career they’ve always wanted.
    This women’s quote really does make you wonder about the price of independence, and why so many women are forced to pay that price to make it in the world.

  2. Ankur Mithal

    A tough place to be in. Unfortunately attitudes cannot be legislated away. We have to, individually, keep chipping away at the bulwark of patriarchal patronisation of women, if that is what we believe, so that tomorrow is better than today and the day after even more so. Highlighting it and opening it up for debate, like you are doing, is, perhaps, one way.

  3. hilarycustancegreen

    These questions have been part of my life as a woman, but being UK born, I haven’t had to make stark choices or face too much discrimination. Here education plays a big part. My parents were both highly educated and expected their daughter to achieve the same as their sons. Yet, when I was in my twenties, they became more anxious about me ‘settling down (getting married)’ and having children, than in my career. Whereas for the boys it was the career that mattered. As a small woman often working in a more male environment, I was frequently patronised, always paid less and taken less seriously… but these are comparatively small problems and I have noticed that they have diminished in my lifetime.

  4. ramexa8ramexa

    I truly believe that women should never be oppressed. We should be able to do whatever we want to do. In India especially, the mindset is a woman should marry before the age of 25, have kids at 27, take care of the house, the husband, the in-laws. But STILL, she on’t be considered as a homemaker, she’ll be considered as a ‘house wife’. I’ve nominated you for The Blogger Recognition Award! Please do join in!

  5. The Boss Book Club

    Thanks for this thought provoking post! I’m working whilst my partner cares for our home. It’s an arrangement that suits us perfectly, but I’ve been surprised at the level of criticism and judgement we’ve received from family, but also our friends. I can’t help think it wouldn’t be an issue if the gender roles were reversed.

  6. rationalraj2000

    A thought provoking post! Relevant all the more for people living in this part of the world…

  7. malak94abouras

    In our country, it is an everyday challenge, everything is dominated by gender discrimination, I would easily call it “thought control”, you can never think, act, or do anything that implicates you in an act of independence, it is so frustrating, I go by two personalities, one i show to My friends and family, and of which I keep to myself and express in short writings, there is nothing I can do but work through it until your strong enough to face everyone with what your made of.

  8. PaulaMedical

    In the USA-I do think we are progressing in the right direction. Though there are still stigmas attached. In my line of work, Nursing, there are more and more male nurses coming into the field. Though, even in the last few years the stereotypes of a male nurse has lessen as well. I think a lot were viewed as gay, weak, not caring, there for the money, etc. I know a lot of male nurses that are not any of those. I also know gay male nurses. It’s really…whatever. But I’m from the mindset of not being judgmental, or view stereotypes as real.

    When it comes to female independence. In my world, there would or could be no difference. My mother worked 2 jobs. She was married and divorced 3 times. She had to be independent. I think I follow that lead but to a greater degree and yes I realize it can hinder me. I’ve learned to do things on my own. I can hold my own. I make a decent living. That, I think intimidates men.

    In San Diego, I went on a speed dating event. You spend 5-8 minutes with a “date” and rotate. Well, we all know “what do you like to do for fun?”, “where do you like to go?”, “Where are you from?” but it’s usually followed up “what do you do for a living?” Heck, sometimes that question is even before the hobbies, fun questions. I had this gentleman say to me “oh, you’re a nurse-you must do well for yourself”. It put me off because I saw that as a “gold digging” response. I know I shouldn’t but it put me off. Because I think, if I said that to him, that’s probably exactly what he would be thinking.

    I also think, because so many generations before us-I think that they are not sure what to do with an independent female. I mean, they (female) make a living. They can pay monthly bills. If something is broke, they can probably fix it. They can fix a house. They can mow the lawn. And the list goes on.

    I am single. I am independent. I do not necessarily want to be alone but if I’m alone, I’m not going to die either. I’m going to enjoy the time that I have on this Earth regardless.

  9. Crystal Collier

    It’s only in recent years that I’ve warmed into a mommy heart. (I know. How unwomanly of me.) Anyhow, I think it takes all types to make the world function, and if every man or woman filled the same role, humanity would crash.

  10. Shannon

    It occurred to me in reading this that I haven’t been following HONY, even though I’ve always liked what goes by when friends post it. This is rectified now, so now I’ll be able to see more! With that out of the way, I have to say that I don’t think I’ve ever been directly discriminated against based on my gender. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I was faced with the first male chauvinist I’d ever met. I feel this probably due to a combination of a bit of privilege mixed with rosy glasses that I tend to view the world in. It’s not always a great habit to have, to assume that everything going on is fine, but it seems to be built into my personality and I think I’m glad for it. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for women like the one featured here. I was blessed to have a father that continuously told me I could do anything I wanted, be anything I wanted, and to hell with anyone else that tried to tell me different. I suppose if I had any advice, it would be to just keep pushing. Where I am at, and from where I stand, family is always family and you can always love them, but you don’t always have to choose them. Sometimes, you have to choose new family (friends, etc.), those that are more like-minded and supportive. That’s one of those easier-said-than-done bits of advice, I guess. Wishing her a happy life and thanks for sharing!

  11. ianscyberspace

    I was fortunate enough to be brought up in a family that valued each member and encouraged each to reach their potential. However I’ve seen discrimination at many levels as I’ve travelled the world and have experienced discrimination not on the basis of my gender but because as a Caucasian I was not of their society. Discrimination exists in every society I’ve lived or worked in. It exists within societies that are majority black or majority white within their colour and it’s wrong. They say education takes away discrimination but it doesn’t. I don’t know what the solution is but at least we can determine as individuals to value each other and support that individuals quest for a happy and peaceful life.

  12. Li @ Flash Fiction

    When I first got married, I quit my job and was a “stay-at-home” Mom for 2 years. I can remember getting together with some couples that my husband knew from Washington DC. The men went off to drink and talk, and the women remained at the dinner table. One woman asked me where I worked, and I said that I wasn’t working, I was a stay-at-home Mom. The table went silent and I was pretty much invisible the rest of the evening. Even in the US, in certain circles a woman without a career is at best an anomaly and at worst an object of derision or pity.

    • eeyorn the space donkey

      Western society as a whole seems to be forcing married women into the workplace and paying them less than a man would get for the same job.

      And yet, the same society often shuns those who choose not to join the rat-race. The recent and ongoing ‘controversy’ about breast-feeding in public seems to be another case point. 50 years ago, when I was a youngster, no-one batted an eyelid when mothers did this, and most mothers, mine included CHOSE to stay at home, and families were well provided for on a single income.

      This is not to say that women SHOULD be tied to the home. My mother worked as a bank-clerk for many years before my parents started having a family, and once we kids were of a certain age, my mother started to take on part-time voluntary work and eventually became a teaching assistant in her later years.

      it seems that the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater in these modern times.

  13. macjam47

    Here in the US I see a lot of progress since I was young. Women now hold just about any job they want to, many even break through that proverbial glass ceiling. The problem I see is that they may hold any position at any company, but often do not reap the same financial benefits a man in that position would. Things have improved for women here by leaps and bounds, but there is room for improvement. Is this country ready for a woman president? Probably not. Politics are still male dominated.

  14. Epi B

    Coming from the Netherlands, being a female is relatively care free, all though I have wished I was a boy as I was not allowed to do certain things my older brothers did because of my gender. Also, hearing my dad say he did not understand “us” made me feel frustrated as I did not feel I should be seen as just another incomprehensible woman.
    Gender issues still get to me as I believe so much is based on bad communication and could be solved relatively easily. Thanks for posting this!

  15. Lori Straus

    I’m actually concerned that “gender equality” is going in the wrong direction in the Western world. When I was young, a sexy, topless photo of Patrick Swayze would make me weak in the knees. And I’m certain most women in North America went through a period where they found men with perfect bodies incredibly attractive, go see Chippendale, have magazine cutouts plastered everywhere, etc. Yet I’ve never once heard it said that we’re objectifying men. I vehemently disagree with the 14-year-old models sporting lingerie in the stores in the mall here. But I’d like to make sure we stop objectifying humans, not just women.

  16. Nihaad

    A thought provoking post indeed! With women these days I find it’s either one or the other. And it’s extremely hard (as a woman) to balance the two. I feel that one part of your life will bare the brunt of the sacrifice and this is extremely unfair. I think it is slowly changing though, because women are speaking up about this more and more. Why can’t we have it both ways? I refuse to believe it’s wishful thinking.


  17. lexacain

    I’ve been repeatedly making the decision to be alone since my dad left my mother when I was 12, and never regretting it. The things I do regret are the times I choose not to be alone because of a streak of ridiculous optimism. I am always disappointed. Such self-centered takers men are, with none of the honor, generosity, or consideration my female friends have. I’m married now since I’m a foreigner living in Egypt, but I yearn to be alone. Of course, I yearn to live in a non-corrupt, non-patriarchal, non-ignorant society too, but it is what it is. Great topic!

    • eeyorn the space donkey

      I understand that many men are self-centred takers, and there are times when I cringe at being of the same sub-species. There are a few genuinely nice men out there, and I hope you’ve found one for yourself. But I wonder at your comment that you appear to have got married just to legitimise your own status while living in a decidedly male-centric society such as Egypt.

  18. musingsbymegha

    As an ‘independent’ woman in India, I too, have had an uphill climb at work. Being a part of a purely man-dominated industry is definitely frustrating. I think you have to work doubly hard to prove yourself.
    Oh yes, I have been subjected to the classic -“What is this young chit going to teach us?!” “It’s all bookish knowledge, let’s see if she can compete with our decades worth of shop-floor experience” etc. But, being persistent and inescapably good at what you do does help! You simply have to become ‘too good to ignore’.

    Believe in yourself, your talent and your goal. Gender should never be an impediment to success. I understand this is easier said than done – as there are so countless women struggling for even basic human rights the world over. This lovely girl from Pakistan is just the beginning.

    I hope her family doesn’t force her to choose between a lonely career and a stifled existence; I hope they realize that the two concepts needn’t be mutually exclusive.

  19. Nima Das

    I have a daughter, i too pray for her safety. women have to make choices and that is the reality,we have to face it.But being economically independent makes things easier i feel.

    • Damyanti

      We have to keep working Nima, to ensure that our daughters don’t have to make those choices, so that they get to choose what they want, and not what they’re forced to. One of the answers is, I think, the mothers of boys raising empathetic, supportive, sensitive individuals.

      • eeyorn the space donkey

        Very good blog Damyanti. However, I would take issue with your statement above about mothers being responsible for raising empathic, supportive, sensitive individuals. I blame my father as well as my mother for how I and my 2 sisters turned out. I would say all 3 of us turned out well, according to your criteria.

        I’ve lived in 4 differing societies during my lifetime, each had their good points and bad.

        In terms of the societal treatment of women, I would say the UK in the 60s treated women well, but its been going downhill steadily since then.

        Ireland, despite being a very patriarchal society treats women well these days, but has a historical legacy of kowtowing to the Roman Catholic church whose appalling treatment of women and mysogynism is still pervasive worldwide.

        Bahrain, under the old Sheikh (Sheik Isa), was very supportive of Bahraini women. However, it has an appalling history on its treatment of Filopinos in particular, who were treated as slaves, and it seemed like there were 5 distinct classes living there, with Filopinos and other poor immigrants (mainly Indians, Pakistanis and Afghanis) occupying the bottom 2 stratas of society. And Sheikh Isa’s son, the current ruler is a real nasty piece of work who has rolled back most of the modernist reforms that his father had initiated, and is heavily influenced by his Saudi neighbors, who are in a class of their own in their despicable treatment of women..

        I also lived in the USA for 4 years where I found the society very oppressive towards women, people of colour, and pretty much anyone who wasnt earning a good living or had more than a few brain cells.

  20. Ngobesing Romanus

    Very nice post indeed. I find it very edifying. As a parent I give my children equal opportunities; and my girls are doing very well. By God’s grace they will be outstanding.

  21. Peter Nena

    It is a society rife with discriminations. Our differences become our worst nightmare. But they will be overcome. Increasingly I see more free women. My country has even begun to worry about the boy child, who was abandoned in pursuit of female liberation. Some day all these things will be overcome.

  22. Denise Covey

    Thank you for bringing this fb page to my attention Damyanti. I will certainly follow it. Very thought provoking. No matter what society you live in, there are always issues with women’s independence. Like, we are so fragile we couldn’t possibly live alone and make huge decisions by ourselves, could we? Well, not even teeny weeny ones sometimes, lol!

    And I’d say to the girl you quoted: Do what you believe and down the line you will find acceptance, even admiration, for daring to be different.

    Thank you again for letting us take over your blog last week. It was such fun interacting with your commenters and ours who’d followed us over. Not long now until we see the fruits of our labour thus far.

    Denise 🙂

  23. A Humble Shadow

    All my money is sunk into trying to be independent so I can’t spend any on the social activities that would make independence worth it!
    And the means by which I earn the money to be independent make it difficult to earn more

    Life is a sick joke, I don’t find it easy to smile at that thought, black humour can’t even soften the blow
    But it can make my eulogy so much more than the norm!
    Humour as dark and night is what keeps me at least barely sane

  24. sfarnell

    I think that there are many ways that people are told they can’t do something based in gender, wealth and education for example. It’s an extension of the power hold and the value of tthose that hold per I think as it changes depending on societies. I wish I had advice to give, but I’m not sure what to say.

  25. Sammy D.

    Well I just went to read HONY ; thank you for that reference. What is happening in other countries is atrocious – for families, women and children.

    I don’t regret my earlier remarks becayse the US is in such a different environment, but my heart breaks for every country where poverty, lack of health and education services and repressive societal or gov’t norms make life so miserable for so many. I have never understood this kind of inhumanity or why we are so complacent about its contunued perpetuation. These hirrible actions go far beyond what I would call discrimination. I’m so sorry, Damyanti, for the plight of so many.

    What do YOU see as vital keys to change? I’d really like to kniw what educated citizens of these countries think will lead to better human conditions because clearly aud from the UN and various entities has not made a sustained dufference?

    • Damyanti

      “poverty, lack of health and education services and repressive societal or gov’t norms make life so miserable for so many.”

      This is the truth of many countries, and I try my best to do my bit by raising my voice for women and kids, and working/ donating where and how I can.

      The United States might be much better off in money terms, but women/ children often suffer there, too:

      In the United States, 83 per cent of girls in grades 8 through 11 (aged 12 to 16)have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools. – See more at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures#sthash.LKv9jypT.dpuf

      Aid from the UN and various other countries often comes in with political motives, so that’s not likely to help in the long run.

      The problems facing women are many– there are no easy solutions.

      In India, for instance, we need more education, less population growth, a curb on corruption, an able, strong leadership, better implementation of laws protecting women. But even more than that we need to protest the atrocities, not stay silent. We need to contribute, however we can, in terms of money and effort. Much is being done, but of course, there’s much, much more to be done still.

      Two excellent instances of such work that I support:

      1. https://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/have-you-heard-of-the-economy-of-trash/ (Works to educate and equip women with sanitary protection, among other things)

      2. https://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/project-why-new-delhi-india/ (Works to educate underprivileged kids and women)

      • Sammy D.

        Damyanti – your examples here, like local projects I support, are my only solace in a world where our leaders and institutions seem so corrupt and wasteful with their bureaucratic billions. It is overwhelming to think of all who suffer and what is necessary to alleviate that.

        But working at a local level and being able to account for resorces spent and measureable benefits to recipients is a very real and lasting way to make a difference.

      • eeyorn the space donkey

        I agree very much with the above. There needs to be the will to support all people in society with better education, access to food, water, housing and healthcare. But investment in education is key, to my mind. And its not only scholarly education that needs to be radically improved; society as a whole needs to be educated and the inherent mysogynism in most societies has to be rooted out.

  26. Yolanda Renee

    Even though I’ve experienced discrimination based on my gender, I can’t imagine the pressure of the young women in India, Pakistan or Asia. I do know it’s important to follow your heart, set your goals, and press ahead, only then will change happen. Slowly, very, very slowly, which is the shame of it.
    I have two sons, and I did my damn best to try and mold them differently. I failed. It’s got to be ingrained in their genes – I mean seriously!! 🙂
    I love being a woman, but I’d prefer to be King, not the Queen. I want to be first not second! Might have something to do with being the second born???

    • Damyanti

      Yolanda, I believe an ideal world would be where we were all humans first, everything else second, including gender.

      I think kids learn more by observing, than from what they’re taught. If they had a strong, independent mother, chances are that would be the norm for them. If they saw respect for women as kids, they would respect women. I’m sure your sons are good people 🙂

      I’ve wanted to be a man many times in my life, but particularly at those times when I wanted to step out of the house and could not, because it was unsafe. Boys and men roaming free while women stay cooped up in homes is my personal idea of a nightmare– one that I’ve had to live several times.

  27. New Journey

    I couldn’t be with someone who doesn’t let me be an individual….its important to sometimes do things, make decisions and carry them out independently…..never loose who you are….and never let anyone tell you who you are….better to be alone….just my opinion

  28. Sammy D.

    Damyanti – such a poignant photo and quote, and you pose such provocative questions.

    If I had a chance, I’d tell this young woman that if she gives up her dreams of independence and settles for a lesser life, she will still be alone even if she’s married and surrounded by people. We can compromise, and even capitulate, on a lot of things, but a desire to make independent choices and achieve self-sufficiency isn’t one of them. I, too, expected I’d be alone because of my fierce independence, but I met a man who loved me BECAUSE of that trait. I realize it’s far more unacceptable for her in Pakistan, but I hold out hope that societal norms in repressive countries will eventually loosen.

    As for discrimination, I know it exists, but I also think we’ve become far too obsessed about about gender discrimination (at least in the US), and there are other kinds of discrimination that are as pervasive as male/female. Frankly my male bosses were far more supportive in advancing my career than any of the women I worked for, and I spent my career at two ‘good old boy’ firms that could easily have been sterotyped as White Men Win; Everyone Else Loses. The reality was far different than the stereotype. Weak men might fear and sabotage careers of strong women, but I’ve seen just as many weak women do the same thing to stronger women (or men) working for them. And again, I point out that we white women in the US have male Fathers, husbands, brothers, sons in the workforce. When we accuse generic white men in stereotypical ways, we’re talking about men I am 100% positive are not stifling female careers; they are working to advance them. Personally I think it’s time to focus on more meaningful ways to provide women AND men with the tools needed to become productive members of a rapidly changing workforce.

    I guess you struck a nerve 😀. White people are blamed for so much these days – even for stuff that happened generations before we were born – that I’ve begun to strike back at stereotypes that don’t fit me or the white people I know. Stereotypes hurt individually and culturally no matter who is the group being stereotyped.

    • Damyanti

      I hear you on stereotypes– all my bosses have been supportive, whether men or women.

      But unfortunately, stereotypes have their basis in truth: it is a fact that women get paid less than men for the same job, that their job is in peril when they get pregnant, that they have to work twice as hard to prove themselves– read some of the posts in this thread alone. I’ve seen very polite, capable women suffer at the hand of men bosses who asked them to be ‘calmer, softer’ in their performance reviews. I’ve heard of workplace sexual harassment from friends. So I can’t agree that all men are supportive of women in the workplace, because it simply is not true. Not all men are un-supportive– but there do exist some male bosses/ colleagues from hell, who are particularly nasty to females in the workforce.

      I agree that we must “focus on more meaningful ways to provide women AND men with the tools needed to become productive members of a rapidly changing workforce” but I hear too many voices from women who are not privileged enough to have supportive bosses.

      I have a lot of white friends online and off, and I don’t believe in generalizing. (Not sure how the discussion became one of colour, and good on you for fighting stereotypes that don’t fit you and others you know.)

      Based on my experience however, I’ve met white men and women who are perfectly nice and polite, and others who are rude, loud, and entitled– especially while traveling in Asia. I’ve been patronized and condescended to based on my skin colour, not talent, both online and off. As have been my friends and acquaintances. So while it may not be true of the majority of whites, it is true that there are some who feel entitled to a certain kind of privilege (and are blind to this feeling of entitlement).

      I stand firm with my white friends, but at the same time, I cannot deny that this particular stereotype emerges from real experiences of people.

      As an individual, I look beyond color, race, and gender, into the heart and spirit of a person. While I wish for the same in return, I’ve grown to understand it is not always possible.

      • Sammy D.

        You are so right about everything you say, and thank you for responding with additional ‘meat’. Stereotypes do become a necessary element in facilitating awareness because change certainly won’t happen without awareness. When conditions such as you describe exist, they are absolutely wrong, destructive and must not be tolerated. It’s been my experience, that a certain percentage of any population – regardless of class, level of education or income – will treat others with disdain, discourtesy and downright bigotry. They simply don’t have the capacity to care about their fellow humans.

        Thanks again – i learn (and adapt my thinking) every time I read your provocative posts and the comments from your global community of readers. It’s such a valuable way for learning how my circumstances differ and why I must continue to question my views in light of what I learn from others’ experiences.

  29. KDKH

    Find a partner, someone who also wants to be Independent. You’ll be gloriously happy together by choice, not need.

  30. jessmbaum

    I guess I’m lucky, I don’t associate with people who are jerks. There’s a world of supportive people out there if you can distance yourself from the negative jerks who seem to rip on everyone else because they’re too insecure to enjoy life.

  31. mothermi6

    This is a subject which, I’m sure, rings loud bells in many women’s hearts. Every Day Sexism is more visible – and more substantial – outside the US/UK I know, but it is also big, nasty – even if less visible – in western societies too. You can think it is not there, in work places, and in marriages/relationships, but it is usually operating not far from the surface of how things appear to be. As a middle-aged woman (living alone) – and probably only attractive to men in their seventies(!) – I am aware of it both occupationally (I am a gardener) and personally. Many men seem to find it virtually impossible to conceive of a woman as an equal, whole, human being with a separate purpose of her own to fulfil. Dreadful. Sad. And True.

  32. Rosa Elena

    I love Humans of New York. Big fan. That post struck a cord with me too. Gender hits my work area all the time. I am a DJ and have an associate’s degree in sound engineering. Its a male dominated field and I get judged way too often for having followed my music passion. My family still thinks I am crazy to have gone for it. I got my bachelor’s in Multimedia Journalism and still did gigs. It all depends on the people you meet and the passion you have for your dreams. Had I listened to the comments of my family and their “society rules”, I would not be where I am today. I am HAPPY. Being independent does not mean you have to be alone at all. My friends support me and I have an amazing boyfriend who supports all my dreams.

    • Damyanti

      Kudos to you for following your dreams– few of us, men or women, have the courage of conviction to follow our dreams. I’m thrilled that you have support in your family and friends.

      A big wave and hello from a fellow HONY fan.

  33. Dan Antion

    I have a daughter in the workforce who was raised to be independent and I worry that she has to make these choices and evaluations where a man might not have to. I wish we could all just accept people based on their ability but so many employers set the stage to make that impossible. The recent article in the Sunday NY Times about Amazon’s practices is a great example of the kind of behavior that dehumanizes men and women (but, I’m guessing, particularly women). We can’t fix this individually, but we can try to help women like this feel welcome in the workforce, creative community and world in general.

  34. Dana

    I’m Indian as well and quite familiar with the discrimination that you’ve mentioned. I see and live it every day. I’m only a student and I get the feeling that it gets worse as you grow older. Personally, I’m lucky because both my parents accept and support that I want a career and life for myself and not a family. But all around me, I see my friends being forced to marry and conform to certain standards that boys seem exempt from. It’s sad and frustrating. As for the choice mentioned here, the one between independence and being alone, it’s not one that anyone should have to make. But I suppose circumstances does force that choice on us.

    • Damyanti

      As for the choice mentioned here, the one between independence and being alone, it’s not one that anyone should have to make. But I suppose circumstances does force that choice on us.

      We should not accept circumstances ( though I know we do, all the time) — if we stay with the status quo, it will not change. We have to be the catalysts. Good on you for following your dreams and kudos to your parents for being who they should be, supportive of you in your aspirations.

    • Damyanti

      Alex, loads of Indian couples are successful, both in India and outside it. It might be interesting to look inside those marriages though– in some cases (not all, I must point out) the woman gets her degree and job while taking care of the kids and the family, whereas the man plays only the most biological role in his kids’ lives. While I hear this from Western women too, (how if they want a career and family, they’re literally left taking care of it all by themselves) it is a much more common situation in India.

      Women in the west don’t seem to have it very easy either: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeline-wahl/im-a-woman-and-i-love-being-catcalled_b_7941774.html

  35. luckyjc007

    I suggest you do what you think is best for you and your way of life….what do you want? If others …and I’m sure there are more than hundreds, acted in their best interest and what they desired to do…things would eventually change and women would be able to have their independence and support of it. It won’t be easy, or happen quickly, but having a support group of like minds will help change things for the better.

    • Damyanti

      “having a support group of like minds will help change things for the better.”

      this is so true. Having support counts when the chips are down.

  36. Janeen Ippolito

    “Wanting to be independent doesn’t mean I want to be alone.” I love this quote. Beautiful. It sums up a lot of the tension of ambitious, go-getter people in general.

    • Damyanti

      I agree. But somehow, ambitious and go-getter is considered a positive trait in men, and a negative one in women. Women are supposed to be likable at all times,


    I have always felt that the ultimate goal is to live by your own standards. To feel like you can have one and not the other is intriguing to me, and challenges the belief that there is someone made for everyone (in the feeling alone sense). I mean how long is one supposed to wait. I dont know the culture of these far places but my advice is to go in the way of your passion. You might be surprised on what it attracts and who comes along for the ride. At some point we all make sacrifices to balance what is most important to us. I think that goes for both genders, while it’s quite obvious that the road has a bit more obstacles for women. Having a daughter does give me a different perspective and while its easier said than done there I would never want anyone to hold her back, and at the same time I wouldn’t want her to feel alone. Through my own experience its a hard feeling to overcome

    • Damyanti

      “You might be surprised on what it attracts and who comes along for the ride.”

      So true, our energy attracts like energy– or at least that’s what I’ve seen in my life.

      I think the best way to remove the obstacles from the paths of our daughters is to make them, and our sons, aware of the bias and the need to fight it.


        So true we must find a way to remove these obstacles. The hard part is when its personal, and we develop these feelings based on our experiences, we will need a plethora of other experiences to recollect and combat that old age ideal to fully remove. Until then I am afraid that the band-aid approach is what we are left with causing us to run around in that perpetual circle instead of a straight line.

  38. ccyager

    I think humanity is in a period of transition regarding the socialization of men and women, and who’s running the show. Right now in most countries, men still wield the most social power, and attitudes and beliefs hang on from earlier times when the patriarchy was in power. It will take a long time for these attitudes and beliefs to change, along with active work to change them. But the people must want them to change first, and not everyone does. There are men who still believe that women were created to serve them in every way and not to have lives of their own. I would say to the young woman in the picture: “Be true to yourself, your soul’s desire.”

    As for being alone, this depends on what being alone entails. If it is just about having a mate, then it’s not such a terrible thing (in my opinion). A woman can also be along with a mate. I think it’s important to cultivate a network of friends and associates who share one’s values and beliefs. They will accept one for who one is, alone or not.

    • Damyanti

      I agree with you, Cinda, about the transitional phase. I hope we evolve into a species that does not discriminate on the basis of gender. Differences and diversity is to be embraced, but our rights should not vary according to gender ( or any other criterion, really.)

  39. M.E. Garber

    I have “lost” jobs because I am a woman. I get disapproval from society at large, and my husband’s family–and some of my own!–because I expect/demand to be treated like “a person” not “a lesser person,” i.e., a woman. It’s hard to face it down, again and again, and to not get mad or to just give up and give in. Instead, I try to find like-minded people to create my own society, and to (gently) educate when possible. And not to let the a$$hats slip by, but to tell them I find their comments rude when I’m confronted with them directly. It’s just hard. My path isn’t for everyone. And it’s far easier than for the woman pictured, I’m sure. Advice? Find the path you must tread, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you stumble.

    • Damyanti

      Find the path you must tread, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you stumble.

      Golden words for anyone at all.

      I’m sorry you had face all the disapproval and discrimination, and admire you for standing up to it. This is how societal norms change, one person, one protest at a time.

  40. HumaAq

    Thought provoking questions there. I hate to admit but having a boy and a girl, I do see different paths for them. I have always debated with my father on certain restrictions on me and relaxation for my brother. I agree at so many levels for you, but luckily I always had my family support so I can’t relate how dreadful others go through. It’s definitely an eye opener and I love HONY too. So much inspiration from his work

    • Damyanti

      I think it is perfectly fine for boys and girls to have different paths, as long as they choose it themselves. Too often the paths of women the world over are chosen for them.

      • HumaAq

        Often I discuss the same in my blog.. We are expected not to make a single mistake as it can ruin our life. Annoying societal traits

  41. ANooP

    I just read this last week on HONY. It was really thoughtful.

    My only suggestion to the girl in the picture is have a goal and work towards it. Rest everything is secondary. One of the biggest regret in my life.