A few days back, I met up with an old friend. She got married young, when we were still completing our graduation. Let me clarify upfront that she is happy. Happy in a way a housewife is, not career girls (the way we’re tagged these days) are. So, she told me her daily schedule and I found myself wondering how different we are and why her life turned out to be the way it is now. I also remember she was one of the two people from our batch to score above 90 percentile in the CAT, but she couldn’t pursue it because she got married. Whatever she says, or the society claims, I see this as a sheer waste of talent.
It led me to think of other ways in which a woman is just expected to give up everything without her consent or choice. Here, we take a look at few everyday things and occurrences where the Indian woman’s spirit is broken and crushed below the feet of our patriarchal society.
1. Giving up career
If the girl gets married at an early age, she has to give up her studies to adjust to the new family. If she gets married after her education, she has to stay at home to take care of the family. If the girl gets married after she starts working, she has to give up her job because work and family cannot be balanced. If the girl gets pregnant, she has to quit to take care of the baby. Why is it that in most cases, the girl is expected or told to give up her career, without blinking an eye?
2. Not allowed to have a say
Major decisions in the house like investments, properties, moving to a new place, etc are discussed between the men in the family. If a woman tries to give her opinion or input, she is shushed by saying that she doesn’t understand these things so she should not speak up. Even worse, she is told to handle matters of her concern, like the kitchen and groceries. So much for feminism, right? No wonder women are opting to stay single and alone.
3. Has to ask for permission
If a boy wants to go out late, he just informs his family; when a girl has to do the same, she needs to ask permission. That too, most times, is denied. Same goes for many other things like whom to talk to, how to talk, how to behave and in some cases even where to go and not to go. Even in the matters of money, be it before or after marriage, a woman is always put on a leash with the expenses, be it for own requirements or to buy something which everyone requires.
4. Can’t wear what she likes
Agreed that times have changed now. Most girls can wear what they like. But the thinking hasn’t changed much. People will look at you twice if you show too much skin. It is still to be decided what is too short or too revealing, so even if you wear a knee-length skirt or a mini skirt, people will stare at you and judge you irrespective of how much of your legs are being revealed.
5. Career growth is equivalent to loss of family life
It almost falls upon a woman’s shoulders to take care of the household stuff and the family, even if she opts to have a career too. If you want to go out and work, that’s okay, but you have to cook and take care of the family too. This balancing act doesn’t work out well in the long run and results in a woman having to choose between her career and family. The higher she rises in her career, the lesser time she gets to spend with her family. Because spending time with family equals to household chores and taking care of the parents and family, which a working woman finds difficult to do. So, what does she do? She quits the job. Why? Because the man has to earn the bread for the family so how can he quit? Or how can he lend a helping hand at home?
6. If she is successful, it’s because she is beautiful and not because she is smart
It is believed that a woman’s career growth is directly proportional to her looks and her character; it has nothing to do with her intelligence and her quality of work. If she got the much deserved promotion, it’s because she flirts with the boss. Really? Can our chauvinist society just not accept that she is equally or more intelligent than the male workers?
7. If she is friendly, she is easy
A guy having many female friends is considered cool, but if a female is seen hanging out around with only boys, she is an easy lay. Huh? How does that make sense? And if we consider it the other way too, like if a guy falls in love, it’s acceptable, but if a girl falls in love, she is putting the family name and reputation at stake. Really? How biased can you be?
8. A woman who drinks (and smokes) is characterless
For many generations now, we have considered alcohol consumption a male driven activity. If a man wants to chill out or relax, he will have a drink, or go out for drinks with his friends. But if a woman does the same, she is stepping out of line. Why? Is there any rule which says only men can consume alcohol? Same goes with smoking. Why is it considered okay for a guy to be a smoker but people raise eyebrows and voices if a woman does the same? It’s bad per se, irrespective of the gender, so tell both of them off.
9. Short clothes = slut
A woman’s character is judged by the size of her clothes. Short skirts and dresses means she is characterless whereas a fully clothed girl is sanskari and will make a good wife or daughter-in-law. Things have improved a bit here, but some parents and older people would still insist that their daughters not wear revealing clothes, just because people will judge.
10. A woman who stays away from family has no family values
This one is the worst of them all. An independent woman, who stays away from her hometown or family to earn her bread or even to study, is almost always considered a girl who does not love her family, or even a person who would be easy to flirt with. Why? Can a woman not love her family despite being away from them? Does she have to stay with her parents all her life till she gets married, just so she can prove that she loves them?
11. A woman’s virginity is a badge of honor
Pre-marital sex is still a taboo in our nation. If you so much as kiss a guy before marriage, it raises eyebrows. It is funny though that the people raising questions about a girl’s virginity are the same ones who encourage their sons to have fun with the ladies before getting married, or more shockingly the same guy who flirts with a thousand girls but will not want to marry a girl who has had even one boyfriend.
These are just some points where the biases come out glaringly, there are many other instances too, like a guy in the family would be allowed to opt for a love marriage, but a girl can’t or the guy is allowed to have a choice in his career but a girl’s career choices are limited (teacher, interior decorator, in short jobs which do not require a full day commitment).
Science and technology have progressed to scaling heights but society’s thinking has not changed in some aspects. Here’s hoping that with better technology and easier lifestyles, we shape our minds to be better and bring about a much required change in our thinking too. Worry not though ladies, because together we can. All hope is not lost till we stand strong and fight these injustices together.