When my aunt and uncle drive down from New Jersey to visit us on weekends, my mom stays in the kitchen the entire time. She cleans for hours before they come, and cooks special Indian meals, sometimes along with my grandma, so that our family can enjoy the time that they spend at our house. My aunt usually offers to help with the cooking as soon as she arrives, no matter how tired she is from the drive. But my uncle and my father just position themselves down on the couch in our family room, away from all the women slaving away in the kitchen. Sometimes, my mom asks my sister and I to help serve “our guests”, who are waiting for their dinner. “Our guests”, meaning the men. The men, who don’t bother to ask if the rest of us need help serving, or cooking, or cleaning. The men, who laugh and talk and reconnect on the couch.
This is traditional Indian culture. My mom has always told me stories of how she and her sister were expected to help her mother, while the men and boys sat separately and waited for their food. My grandma once recalled how girls in her household growing up could not even speak to the boys during dinnertime until they were finished helping in the kitchen. This is a real issue, both in India and in American culture.
We see it all the time online. Percentages and numbers are supposed to prove it. We teach our women that it is anticipated for them to devote themselves to men, both physically and emotionally. 33% of them end up in relationships with domestic violence. We tell women that it is normal for them to have children for their husbands or boyfriends, even when they do not want to, because 62.4% of all women are mothers. We instill the idea that women have to shave their legs, wax their eyebrows, and look completely flawless, to attract men, and then 75% endorse unhealthy thoughts and behaviors related to their bodies.
I chose the t-shirt “more than a percentage” because I want to spread the message that women don’t always have to do what they are expected to do. The large percentages of women who currently have eating disorders, abusive relationships, or struggle with self harm and still manage to get through it should show the rest of us what we’re meant to be. All of us are more than the percentage of women who are forced into their traditional roles. My mom doesn’t have to work so hard in the kitchen to attend to the men of our family. And women across the country, across the world, definitely don’t have to do anything that women are conventionally expected to do if they don’t feel that it’s right for them either.
Henderson High School