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What Women Don't Want - A General Handbook

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A lot has been said and written about what women want, but what about what they don’t want? Interestingly, when searching for references, most results focus on relationships: what women don’t want in a partner, in a man, or what they don’t want men to know. It’s curious, isn’t it? The internet seems to suggest that a woman's desires or aversions are primarily tied to their relationships with men. How about we prove it wrong?

A couple of years ago, when my partner and I were vacationing in Singapore, we visited a Chinese temple there. The men in the group visited the prayer hall first to seek blessing of a certain baba, while the women had to wait outside until this was done. Well, it was not without entertainment. A group of women, of all ages, were there to impart knowledge to the women assembled there. We were given chairs to sit down and while they all stood in a make-believe stage. After having the assembled group to guess the ages of the women on stage (I still don't know what that was for), each one came forward to talk about the difficulties they've had as a woman. Married off while young, sexual and physical abuse, domesticity, childbirth and the pressures of being a care giver. Now, this is not something one would expect at a temple. As an agnostic, even I knew that. While we were all looking at each other as to what's the point of all this, the ladies themselves came up with the answer.

This is what they said - "When you go inside to pray, kneel down in front of the baba, fold your hands and request him to make you a man in your next birth. You don't want to be born as a woman again". I just rolled my eyes and went into the prayer hall, thanked the superpower for the wonderful life that I've been given and walked out. I hadn't thought of this incident until I sat down to write this post. Looks like what most Asian women (I'm not a racist and only talking about the context here) don't want is to be a woman. What's most appalling is that they could have chosen to be anything else, a dog or a bird or a tree. Instead, they chose to be a man.

I have nothing against men, trust me. Thankfully, as many chauvinistic pigs I've met in the name of men, I've also met men who are wonderful, gracious and believe in equality of the sexes. A.K.A Feminists. Some men obviously take offense to the word and call themselves believers of equal opportunities to both men and women instead. Well, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

I've been wanting to write this post since Women's Day but never really got around to it. I of course did not want to write it on that day as one thing I'm sure that women don't want is to be acknowledged or celebrated just for one day. We've heard about women wanting equal pay, equal opportunities, respect, the freedom of choice and many more things. I, for once, want to talk about the things I do not want as a woman.

To be the minority at the leadership table.

It's been more than a year since I've been seated at the leadership table and yet I find myself to be the lone woman there. It is in times like this that self-doubt creeps in and you think that you might only be there for the sake of diversity. A decade and a half's worth of experience is what you come with and yet you leave with self-doubt. Now that I'm on the other side, I ask a lot of women I work with on why aren't they aiming for the next step. No surprises there. Children, family and being a care giver takes precedence over their own ambitions. They don't even flinch when they answer this. They think that this is what they were meant to do.

To be offered "help".

I'm an emotional person, but not necessarily a crier. The only time I want to cry out loud is when I get back home after a tiring day at work to find an empty kitchen. All I want to do is to eat something and get some rest, but instead I have to prep and cook, by the end of which my appetite is long gone. I've seen enough of this while growing up with my parents and my aunts and uncles. No matter where the woman goes (to work or a social gathering), she must be back at home in time to cook meals for the family.

There was an article in the paper recently, about a woman being the lone female toddy collector in Kerala. She climbs the trees up and down multiple times a day, collecting fresh toddy. The article was to celebrate her obviously, but not without mentioning that before she heads to work she ensures that her household chores are complete and her family is well fed. 

Men offer to "help" around the house, but this continues to suggest that the primary onus of the household chores lies on the woman. The people living in a house need to contribute to whole chores, instead of just "help".

Unrealistic beauty standards.

It is about time we address this. Women do not dress up to impress men. Women do not dress up to intimidate other women. Women dress up solely for themselves and this more often than not has to do with their mood and their waxing schedule. I'm quite foppish and obsess over the clothes I wear. That's because I want to look good for myself. I do not want to be asked about why I'm wearing something and I definitely do not want to be told about what to wear and what not to. 

A young girl who was the topper in the country was subject to a lot of scrutiny for her looks. So much that she had to come out and say that she wishes she hadn't topped so that the limelight would have been away from her. Why should anyone else decide how one should look like? Let's not even get started on the obsession with fair skin.

To be blamed for the upbringing of the children.

This irks me the most. Parenting is a two person job while for most men it qualifies as baby-sitting. If a fully grown girl or a boy falls in love with a person, their mother is blamed for not bringing them up the right way. While falling in love is not wrong, anything else the child does that is apart from the norm, the mother is blamed. I've actually heard women say "I didn't raise him/her properly that's why he/she is doing this". There is never a "we". Do women get the same credit when the child does well for themselves? Nope. Then they have taken after their father or are following in his footsteps. A step wrong and it definitely has to do with the mother.

To have a day dedicated to them.

Nothing screams the joy of women's day than having cleaning and household products on sale for that day! Right? Ugh.

At work, we always have an event for women's day. A group of women come together to plan this, arrange refreshments for everyone on the floor, sing songs and dance, wear what the company asks us to (more often than not, an uncomfortable saree) and leave for home to manage the chores. If this isn't a happy women's day, then I don't know what is.


A woman can't drive. A woman can't think. A woman is frivolous with money. A woman can't invest. A woman shouldn't drink. A woman nags. A woman doesn't let her man be. A woman complains. A woman has umpteen mood swings. A woman is weak. A woman shouldn't laugh out loud. A woman should be a mother. A woman should be married at the right age. A woman shouldn't step out late at night. 

Enough with this, please.

To consider our pay as pocket money.

Oh this is my favorite. Whenever hikes/promotions are discussed at work, obviously everyone complains. I've actually had men ask me why I'm worried about my salary. According to them, my husband earns well and whatever I work for is pocket money at the end of the day. Either way, it doesn't hurt to have more of it, does it?

Judgement on giving birth, or not.

This purely is for the other women out there. Do NOT ask any other woman about her plans to have children or not have them. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Some women genuinely do not want to have children. They also do not have to give you an explanation. Some women who genuinely want to have children, might be dealing with fertility and other hormonal issues. They do not have to discuss that with you. You can be their grandmother, mother, sister, best friend or anyone else. There are some boundaries one must never cross and this is the primary one when it comes to being a woman.


In the book Invisible Women, Caroline Criado-Perez talks about how women are ignored in every aspect of day to day creations. Any service or product is mainly intended to be catered to a man. Right from the dummy in a crash test for a car to the medicines used to treat simple to serious diseases, everything is designed for a man. We're half the population of the world and responsible for populating the rest and yet we're clearly ignored right from inception. Just an afterthought, after all.

The burden of perfection.

Push yourself, get going, no excuse is good enough. You want it, you fight for it. I'm tired of hearing these. What if I don't want it? What if I like things at my own pace? Consistency is not a woman's thing. There, I said it. At least it is not my thing. I have a million things to do in a day and just 24 hours to do it. Excuse me for not being consistent. Honestly, I don't think women are designed to be consistent. We're ruled by our hormone cycle that pretty much changes 24x7. And by this, I just don't mean PMS or a period. That is just one aspect of the female hormones. Our hormones fluctuate on a daily, hourly, minutely basis and we still get everything done. It might not be in an order, it might not be on time, it might not be perfect, but we still get it done. We do what we can. None of us want to do it all. Given a choice, none of us want to do it at all. 

To be called super women.

Argh! Even writing about it angers me. A woman who manages a career, her children, her family and that of her partner's is the epitome of being a women. This so called super woman is super burned-out. She's more of a robot who does things on auto-pilot without having room for emotions of her own. We need to focus on being happy women instead of super women. Recently, an A list Bollywood actor wished his wife a happy birthday by calling her his caretaker. Not partner, not lover, not better half. A caretaker. With a baby on the way, he sure is setting the right example.

It is 2024 and we still have more than enough material to write posts like this. Unfortunately we need to say these things out loud to be understood.

About the title, yes, this is a just a general handbook. I have a handbook coming along for a certain Mr. Vanga after having watched Animal.


  1. I feel like the best thing about growing old is you don't care about people's perception anymore. The restrictive societal norms that I tried so hard to confirm to now no longer affects me. It is so liberating when you stop caring. Like that feeling of freedom is something else.
    Also I don't know how in this day and age anyone could think that women's salary is pocket money. It is a source of livelihood. People will do anything to diminish women achievements.


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