The status of women in the educated Indian society has improved considerably in the recent times, but there is a dichotomy in the way women are leading their lives at their workplaces and within the walls of their homes.
Typically, on the social front, liberalized India does today what the west did probably 20-25 years ago. Today, a large percentage of urban educated women are working in corporate offices, or are entrepreneurs. In several circles, living in has become silently acceptable. Kids no longer whisper about children whose parents have chosen to separate. Choice of what a woman wears when she steps out of her home is, in the upper sections of society, pretty much her own. (cont’d after the Note)
Note to my readers: I have not posted in a long while, and this post is a complete breakaway from the other posts on this blog. You will find a shift in perspective. While I will continue writing on writing and being creative; I also realised I need to have something more to talk about. Something more to share. I have spent the last few days thinking and have decided that I shall blog on topics that are close to my heart: relationships, connecting with people, and personal development. Focus on writing and creativity are part of personal development for me. In other words, if you have been kind enough to read my articles in the past, you will find a slightly different set of articles popping up around here. I would love to hear what you feel about this shift in the blog content. In the meanwhile, do read my first experiment in this area and connect back. I look forward to hearing from you!
The struggle comes when this liberalized young woman decides to implement and live by her liberal thoughts within her family. You see, this does not go down too well with the husband. While he definitely likes the idea of having a working wife who eases his financial burden, and he loves for her to be good looking and well-groomed; he would at home still like her to be docile, obedient and extremely homely and nurturing within the walls of their home. While there is nothing wrong with the expectation, and it is wonderful when a woman is able to strike this balance, the fact is most of the women are finding it tough to do the balancing act.
The thing is, when you educate a girl and encourage her to go out and have her own opinions, she realizes she is a complete person in her own right. And she does not need a man to complete her: not as a daughter, a wife or a mother. A lot of women today are choosing to stay single, not have babies, sometimes just because they prefer a life without liabilities and the stress that these relationships bring.
Mind you, that is not to say that I am encouraging this social pattern. No, I am pretty conservative in my thoughts when it comes to gender equality. While I am a working woman, and I intensely encourage all young girls in my circle to study, learn and grow into independent individuals, I have also discovered that this approach of my space, my way, I want it like this… does not work in the family space.
Look at the traditional families, they have lasted because everyone had their roles cut out for them. While we can choose not to die unaware and uneducated, just rearing children and cooking for our families day in and day out; it is also important to understand that a marriage is team work.
Like, if you play doubles in tennis, both the partners don’t stand at the outer line. They take different positions and play their best in those positions. At times, when one partner slips, the other one is ready to step in and take over, but essentially they play from positions that they have decided on previously.
In my opinion, the traditional format of marriage in its simplest form aimed to just bifurcate the roles and enable people to train for tasks they would do later in life. Sure, over time the roles may have come to feel as if they were written in stone, and as the male half of the society took on the role of providing for the family, they also ended up dictating some absurd terms. Yes, those parts of our social definition and gender roles have been misused across continents, not just in India.
But I believe, the starting point of task division was correct. Bringing up a family requires a million different skills, and as parents – the father and mother between them must bring all of these to their children. With such a tall order, it is foolish to expect that either the father or the mother would be capable of doing it all to perfection. Hence the different roles, and the gender differentiation.
I feel the place where this equation went wrong is where men began to imply that their role was more important than that of the women. It served the purpose of men for centuries, and has been long accepted as the norm.
Education and exposure to the outside world, discovery of her own capabilities has revealed to the woman that intellectually, she can compete equally with the men. And her resistance to continue in the traditional role is her defiance of the lies that have been told to her grandmother and their grandmothers for hundreds of years.
So should she refuse to fit the traditional role completely? Well, that is what the new young woman wants to do. She believes she has the right to live her life just as she wishes, just like a man. Which is completely correct. But when you are part of a team you need to make adjustments, accept differences of opinion, discuss your issues and find a common ground that works for both of you.
As I see more and more relationships last for shorter and shorter times, I realize that couples today are no longer willing to make adjustments. There is little effort to look at things from the other person’s perspective and both players on the team want to be ‘The star’. This leads to constant friction in relationships, where either one person steps back and lets the other take the lead; else the relationship falls through.
I see relationships go through this cycle on a regular basis. Is there someone to blame? Men? Women? New thinking? May be all of it. But I also believe it is going to take a couple of generations for people to realize by agreeing to work together, you are not a lesser being. As young boys watch their mothers work, play important roles in the workspaces, they seem to be developing a respect for women that their fathers probably did not have.
This, I am hoping, will enable them to see their future girlfriends and wives in a different light – with greater respect for her as an individual and for her as an integral part of his life and family.
~ Bharti Athray
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