Class, Caste, Religion, Sex, and Gender: All have been used as the basis of discrimination. And now, adding to the list is our geographical profile. Small-town girls face a number of stereotypes, unsolicited comments, and frankly ignorant questions. Here is a list of the few most cliched stereotypes:
- Not being comfortable with English.
- Always having to wear traditional clothing.
- Having to follow conservative rules.
- Marriage is her main goal for the future.
- Equating her intellect to her sexuality.
India, with all its glorious diversity, has some prominent industrial hubs where all dreams come true (or shall we say that it’s been believed so). Big cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad have raised a different race of young women. While girls that come from comparatively underdeveloped, developing, or conservative areas are called small-town girls. Being devoid of the same opportunities, facilities and upbringing does make a difference but it’s not like every girl of Delhi is the same either, right?
And what’s so wrong with being different? I prefer using the word “unique” because that’s how you create a safe space for everyone to grow. Being different from the majority and unique in no way makes someone inferior. Small-town girls are just as worthy and talented, beautiful on the inside and out, driven and career-oriented, and, dare I say, just a tad more empathic in some cases due to their grounded upbringing. Try removing the filters and tags you put on them to feel superior and better about your privilege, and their truth will be visible.
Here are the top 5 overused and restricting stereotypes that are extremely annoying but relatable to every small-town girl out there:
1. “Do You Speak English?”
Yes, I do come from an area where everybody is not as fluent in English, maybe I am not that fluent myself but I thought we were past the “Your fluency in English determines your intelligence” trope at this point! Besides that, not everyone from a small-town has bad pronunciations. I am actually quite fluent and confident in English. Not just English, but I am fluent in coding too, and I’ve been thinking about developing a web page to educate ignorant big-town brats! Shall we get back to work if you’re done with your uninvited questions now?
2. “Are You Allowed To Wear That?”
The infamous and borderline overused saying, “Nudity empowers some, modesty empowers others,” stands irrespective of which geographical area one comes from. While someone from Ranchi would love to wear a tiny black dress and look magnificent in it, I can be more comfortable in my athleisure even though I grew up in South Bombay. My townsmen don’t choose my daily outfits for me; my mood and comfort do. Though, I’m actually good at giving fashion tips to my friends. Why don’t you try on the very trending “to each his own” ideology this evening, my love?
3. “Do I need your permission?”
I wouldn’t have been this surprised if this was coming from one of my uncles because they have been raised and living with a narrow-minded perspective where men are entitled to choose for women. But I suppose you big city folks educated at the top universities too need a lesson on autonomy! I do not have to take someone’s permission to do what I want, to wear what I like and to act as I please. Yes, it’s a lot harder for us because first, we’ve to unlearn years of patriarchy taught to us, then fight our own friends and family to choose for ourselves, later we fight the guilt we’re made to feel for being “selfish” and looking out for ourselves. We fight the odds and spread our wings just so we get the same respect and opportunities as all big-town kids!
4. “So, When Are You Getting Married?”
I will get married if and when I think it is the right time. Most of the small-townies spend all the resources and years of our lives and sometimes even borrow loans to get that degree and that challenging job to live that extraordinary life. It might come off as a surprise but not all women in Jaipur wish to have a grand royal wedding at 21, not all families in Surat give diamonds in dowry. Stop looking at us through the tainted lens of Bollywood, for god’s sake!
5. “She Clearly Slept Her Way to the Top. There’s No Way a Girl From a Home Like That Can Be of That Caliber.”
Oh, looks like someone’s scared of my talent or insecure of their own. I can imagine how much it hurts your ego when you see someone from a slightly lesser-known university or a middle-class family achieving greater heights and that too faster than you. It takes a direct hit at all the privilege you grew up with, but that in no way undermines my struggles, my hustle, and my hard work. I didn’t sleep my way to the top. I climbed, I walked, and sadly, on some days when others let my background get in the way of my growth, I crawled, but I made it. I made it to the top because I deserved it, and I truly hope that you make it here too. The view is quite the dream.
Yes, yes, I am a small-town girl, and I am okay with it. It is a part of me, a part of my journey, and I am very proud of where I come from, of the ashes I have risen from. I am a small-town girl, but I have the courage to dream big. No amount of hate, stereotyping, or judgment can take that away from me.
Small town girls have humble beginnings, but that does not diminish their ambitions–in fact just adds to them. It’s about time society stops labeling them and putting them in boxes, for clearly, that thought process is outdated. Let’s start afresh, together.