The Bad Girl.

have shorts will smoke


The following was submitted by SMIW contributor Subha Nivedha to our campaign #HaveShortsWillSmoke.

“Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”

The implications are endless.

Girls who go everywhere are bad. Everywhere except home is a bad place. But only for girls. Because All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. So boys should go out and play and not be dull like Jack. Or like girls.

When I was in 8th grade, one of my very close friends said that I was the ‘bad influence’ that every parent is afraid of.

I’m actually pretty happy being the bad one as long as it works out for me. There used to be a time when I would question myself but then, I realized that society is going to judge me no matter what and as a woman, it is impossible to please everyone.

Two years ago, I told my parents that I wanted to go to Russia for an internship and I listed out all the reasons why it was an amazing plan. From then, heated arguments became a common thing at our place.

Actually, looking back I understand that my parents only had the best intentions at heart, but there was this one particular comment which stayed with me. Something my father said:

“You want to go to Russia so you can wear shorts and dresses.”

And, to think about it, it is kind of true. As Indian women, some of us need to literally cross borders to experience the simple joys of something as small as dressing up the way we want!

Speaking of benevolent sexism, a friend of mine once casually said to me:

“You are not marriage material. You are the type of girl guys would like to have fun with.”

There are so many things wrong with that statement! Just because I am fun loving, friendly and outgoing doesn’t mean I am not good in a relationship or that I’m ‘available’ to guys for having fun. Yes, if me having an opinion, dreams and the audacity to choose whom I want to be with translates to being ‘bad’, then hell yeah – I am the dreaded bad girl!

By the way, I am not endorsing anything that is scientifically or medically bad for a person, irrespective of gender. But, while it is acceptable to say “smoking is bad”, I am not okay with you saying, “Only bad girls smoke.”


So, as the certified ‘bad girl’ in the house, here are a few things every woman and girl who’s even been labelled should remember:

  • It is okay to be ambitious
  • It is okay to be confident and ask for what you want
  • It is okay to stand up to ANYONE for what you believe in
  • It is okay if you don’t want to do the ‘right’ things
  • It is okay to be the decision maker of what’s ‘right’
  • It’s okay to decline ‘well meaning’ suggestions – inputs are welcome, impositions are not
  • It is okay if you choose to travel instead of studying for IITs and IIMs
  • It is okay to have male friends
  • It is okay to go out with male friends
  • It is okay to be what they call a ‘tom boy’
  • It is okay to love make up and dressing up.
  • It is okay to love sports.
  • It is okay to want to be the next Bruce lee
  • It is okay to ask questions
  • It is okay to be different.
  • It is okay to want different things in life
  • It is okay to study, aspire and dream on
  • Most importantly, it is okay to make mistakes.


At the same time, here are quick tips for the society and the men out there:

  • A outgoing woman is not ‘easy’.
  • A happy, smiling woman is not a ‘tease’
  • An emotional woman is not weak.
  • An assertive woman is not a ‘bitch’
  • An ambitious woman is not a bad girlfriend / wife / daughter-in-law
  • A woman who doesn’t excel at housework isn’t incompetent
  • A woman who isn’t afraid to say NO is not arrogant.
  • A woman who knows what she wants is not ‘bad’
  • But, if things above are on basis of which you assign that moniker, then she is one proudly.


Girls and women who are typecast as bad are for doing what they want are those who chase their dreams. They can reach for the stars. They can succeed and, they can fail. But, they do it on their terms. They can accumulate personal assets. They can achieve financial independence. Most importantly, they can collect life experiences. They can embody independence.

“Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.”

The implications are endless.

Have shorts. Will smoke.


About the Author:

Subha is a law student working on an initiative called My Story as a Wo(man). She supports feminism and animal rights. People can contact her at
  • It is very interesting to read an article like this from the outside perspective of being a European-African woman looking into the world of an Indian woman as she experiences it.. It makes me grateful for the freedom and rights we experience now and more and more as a female every day. It was not long ago at all, where our own society norms also frowned upon some things you label yourself as “bad girl”. Today we see it as one of many essential freedoms, such as freedom of choice, equality and speech, which we fought and died for, to have. Life as a modern woman is still full of many challenges, but voices full of purpose are now heard and a growing voice that bring awareness of the realities of truth, to empower change, are now heard all over the world.

  • Super read. Though i consider myself a very open minded non judgemental woman, debunking myths and stereotypes, I must confess to having a couple of mindsets myself about the way women should behave. Your article has made me rethink those…thanks for that! Having said that, i also believe that there is a difference between believing in feminism and being brash and rude and i see many a girls of today’s generation guilty of that. Brashness is not sexist and remains brashness even if indulged in by a boy. We just want it to be accepted under the garb of feminism. I feel this possibly could be a result of parents today overdoing the concept of equality between both gender kids. Would love to have your thoughts on this Nivedha. And congratulations once again for such a thought provoking article.

    • So, first of all thank you for your feedback. It is humbling! 🙂
      Well, when you think about it, there are a lot of ways the word ‘feminism’ is misused. Being rude or brash is not right of anyone irrespective of their gender. I don’t know whether parents are overdoing the concept of equality, but they sure do give a longer rope, in general. Freedom without responsibility and accountability is the problem. So, if parenting is done without checks and balances, then yeah, it could result in things worse than just rudeness and brashness. Simple example is this. If the son is out late and he is let off the hook and the girl is reprimanded for doing the same, it is not fair. Whereas if both the kids are given the same curfew, rules or whatever, they will understand that the freedom and responsibility is the same for both. Then it won’t result in misuse of the freedom given and they understand the essence of feminism without a tag for it.

  • Very nice article Subha. This is my first time on this website and I enjoyed reading here.
    I understand that the discrimination does not come from the gender only, it comes from the environment you were raised in. I was raised in a joint family and we had only one sister among 7 kinds in the family. She was always put first, be in education, freedom, and everything else.
    When I got married, I never even thought of imposing my views on my wife. She does not like to work, and stays home, but still I love to help her in the kitchen and clean the house. It is our house, not just her’s. People even say that if your wife is not working, then she should do all the housework. They sometimes even tease me by saying “Joru ka gulam”, but I don’t really care.
    Its all about your social values and family atmosphere, not at all about higher education or city you were born in. I belong to a very remote village in Rajasthan.

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