Why this Reverse Stereotyping di?

My friend’s daughter had married a couple of years ago and quit her job immediately after. It turns out that she wanted to get to know her in-laws better, which entailed frequent trips to Jammu where they lived. Repeated and well-meaning advice to get back to work lest the hiatus hamper her career prospects fell on deaf ears as she had her priorities cut out. No, she was not being coerced by the patriarchal system to play the dutiful bahu nor was/is her husband abusing her physically, mentally or emotionally to look after his parents. An intelligent and affectionate person, she wants to bond with them as much as she does with her mother, having lost her father when she was a teenager. She is an only child. And she is still not working.

Then there is this highly qualified software professional who quit her job when she became pregnant and didn’t take up a job once the baby was born despite both her mother and MIL offering to babysit her child by turns if she wanted to go back to work. She wasn’t an instinctive or even a willing homemaker but she did it excellently when she decided to do it. Even her MIL advised her to do something besides raising the child, to remain self-confident and financially independent. She listened politely but continued doing what she wanted to do. On the way, she learnt gardening, organizing parties, creatively engaging and raising the child and baking, among other things. She hasn’t felt compelled to justify being a SAHM (Stay-at-home-mom). She might or might not go back to work but she will not fall prey to the new stereotype of a modern young woman as media and activists are portraying her.

Overheard in a market in south Delhi: ‘Arrey, what is this on your forehead?’ — one PYT to another.

‘I went to the temple this morning. It is the tilak I got there.’ — her friend.

‘You are so old-fashioned! I am an atheist!’ — the last flung at her friend contemptuously with a toss of her hair.

The other one smiled but didn’t try to defend her action.

These are the girls/women who are breaking the reverse stereotype that is being created today in an effort to break the old ones. Junking tradition and cocking a snook at social institutions are some of the  requisites to conform to the reverse stereotype. Woe to the one who professes her belief in any of them – joint family, marriage, religion — as it is guaranteed to make her a laughing stock if not a social outcast.  So we find a lot of young people bending over backwards to conform and being defensive when they don’t or can’t. But does it guarantee long term solution to problems besetting society in general and women in particular? We don’t know and when we do know, it might be too late.

Maybe that is why women are already fighting out of this reverse stereotyping. Look at the number of them who are being defensive about their status of a ‘homemaker’, for instance. It does not take a genius to figure out that this would not have been necessary had they not unconsciously fallen into the trap and finding it restrictive!

So while the earlier generation stayed at home without giving it a thought and often did more in terms of contributing to their family and enriching themselves, these women have to indignantly list the things they do through the day and affirm it as ‘their choice’. I frankly wonder if it matters whether you are willingly doing all the work or are doing it because there is no choice. Women did feel more empowered back then when the reverse stereotyping had not gained ground. Of course the grass did look greener on the other side at times, but that was natural.

We have a very large population of rural and small town women who are neither as well educated or have had exposure to the western influences nor even have the material resources to junk traditional support systems. Come to think of it, is the demolishing of an institution wise in the absence of an alternate support structure? I remember that at the height of the Anna movement many people were making out a case for not undermining the sacred institution of Parliament because ‘things would descend into anarchy.’ If an institution that is hardly seven decades old can assume so much importance how can age old institutions like family or marriage be dispensed with without long term repercussions?

We have already restricted the basic unit of society, viz. the family, to the smallest unit possible. Marriage is out because it is believed to be a patriarchal creation designed to suppress women by making them fall into the roles of daughter, wife and mother. (Mothers-in-law don’t count as women.)

Disclaimer: This post by no means condones abuse of women or advocates women to stay in abusive marriages or even tolerate any form of violence in the name of marriage or otherwise,  It only attempts to point out that the demolition of the institution per se will not solve the problem even while creating more in the bargain.

Let us take the institution of marriage to begin with. It is argued that it is losing its relevance and arranged marriages are the main villains of the piece. If being unmarried or choosing one’s own partner were the panacea for all the social ills plaguing women, and if walking out were the solution for all marital problems, the condition of women should be better in the developed countries, surely? The so-called progressive societies like the US (where there are no arranged marriages and no patriarchy) should be a utopia for women, right?

A casual Google search on domestic violence will throw up results to put that illusion effectively to rest and make your stomach churn for good measure. One of the most important facts that jumped at me was that it need not be the husband who is perpetrating the violence; boyfriends, live-in partners and even dates can be the culprits. Take a look at some of the stats: (Link)

  • One woman is beaten by her husband or partner every 15 seconds in the United States. (Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1991).
  • Battering occurs among people of all races, ages, socio-economic classes, religious affiliations, occupations, and educational backgrounds.
  • Domestic violence does not end immediately with separation. Over 70% of the women injured in domestic violence cases are injured after separation.

The link provides even more gruesome facts. Do read the page on the myths of domestic violence to clear some fallacies we seem to suffer from.

If this is the condition of women who have always had the freedom to choose their life partners or remain unmarried, one can imagine the consequences in the absence of an institutional union in a country like India where illiteracy and ignorance are rampant. At least when there is a marriage, there is some kind of accountability on the part of the perpetrators of any form of violence and legal recourse is an option in case of a dispute. I can say this with some measure of authority having seen hundreds of cases where marital problems have been sorted out with intervention of family and friends – even serious ones. I have one very close friend in this last category.

Traditions, customs, institutions and even faith are the grounding factors in a person’s life. Bereft of them, a person can flounder, especially in times of crises. We are happily throwing away the support system of family (and joint family) and embracing the chimera of social networking and virtual friends. It might be argued that these are support groups too. Though unfriending someone is as easy as a click away, we hesitate doing it for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or coming out in the open with how we feel. While taking so much care about virtual relationships do we spare even an iota of consideration for our real time family? With single child homes becoming the norm, just imagine the chaos that will be created when this generation grows up and finds an entire set of old people bereft of any support, physical or emotional, thanks to the new stereotypes being created now.

Any structure by virtue of its composition and character is bound to gather moss and debris. But do we demolish a house when it gets dirty? We clean it, redo it or restructure in some cases when the damage is extensive. Demolishing is the last resort. Likewise, demolishing institutions is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. The ills plaguing our society are not just due to the social institutions but due to myriad factors of which they are just a part. Reverse stereotypes would have us believe otherwise, however.

That is why I admire the young women we met at the outset, who not only are breaking the new stereotypes but also are affirming their faith in age old institutions directly or indirectly.

 

Image courtesy: voidphase.com

 

101 comments

  1. Personally, I feel its a question of balance. People are raised with certain beliefs and ideas – do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that. That defines a complete life idea for a person. It is now upto that person to pick and choose what is correct or not.

    I may have stated this example before (am certainly sure I have – given that I mentioned it in my comment less than an hour ago) about my sister.

    I was the only one against her engagement to a guy through the arranged marriage route. I was not against the route – but my intuition was ringing warning bells about this particular guy. Two abusive years of marriage later, she was back home. Why two years and not two months? Because my mother tried to help her salvage the relationship. I pointed out at the end that there is no hope in recovering something that has sunk before sailing. It was only later that both realised the truth I had been pointing out from the beginning. Why did the two years happen? Lucidly elucidated in the posts and the post-lets that the preceding comments are.

    When her second husband got a chance to shift abroad for a period of upto 3 years, she quit her job here – they were anyways not offering her a promotion that was due to her – and started doing some courses while waiting for her own work visa there. The project was prematurely closed and they came back within a year, after which she got a posting in a different college that she wanted. Again, at her pace, in her time. Her choice.

    Simply put – its an individual’s choice. An example springs to mind. Henry Ford gave only one design and one colour for cars – Black Model T. Today, you’ll go mad in selecting models, colours, features, accessories, you name it. Why can’t that apply to life too?

    Regards,
    Grond

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    1. You have partly answered the question you have raised, yourself. The incident involving your sister has been related by you in a comment on another post, but this was even more lucid. I am sorry that your instincts were not heeded by anyone and the two years of torture happened. It is sad that sometimes loved ones are not able to see the writing on the wall, but it is not necessarily due to the pressures of society, but sometimes even out of the feeling that things will get better and when it does, what will be the fate of my daughter/sister/myself. Maybe all it needs is some patience….Sad, but true. Abusive relationships should be terminated forthwith and no questions.

      Choices are only made by those who are bold enough to take the consequences if they are not desirable. The rest are content to go along with the flow and be safe in following. Your sister has stood up and is feeling empowered because she did. I admire her for what she is today.

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  2. Zephyr, I enjoyed reading all the comments and your replies on them as much as I enjoyed reading the post. I agree with Deepathy, this was a 2 post post 🙂

    About working women, that is entirely a personal choice. Sterotyping or asking for reasons for your choices, or you having to defend your choice doesn’t make sense. If you are defending your choices, then you yourself don’t belive in it.

    About marriages arranged or love, in either case, family support is important. I cannot think of taking a decision without the consent of the elders in the house. And about the success of any of the 2, will can’t generalise there as well. A lot of arranged marriages have been successful, but a few have failed too, and the same applies to love marriage. The eternal ‘adjust’ is prevalent in both the cases.

    At the end of the day, its all about personal choices.

    Wonderful read as always 🙂

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  3. “But do we demolish a house when it gets dirty?”

    No. But if/ when they are crumbling and are a danger to the people living inside, they ARE demolished and new ones built in its place. It is happening ALL around me. 🙂 And I do mean the houses though it can be applied to institutions too. Let’s even take the case of an old tree. If its roots are dead, it is time to cut it away rather than wait for it to fall on unsuspecting people and kill them. And humans ARE doing that too save themselves. But when it comes to institutions I wonder why we tend to hug them close and never want to let go.

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    1. What you say is true Shail, but you are also talking of individual trees and houses that are rotting or have rotten, not an entire colony or grove or forest, right? The post talks of the same thing 🙂

      Institutions that have outlived their usefulness die out by themselves. We can’t say for instance, ‘Marriage is no more an institution.’ Can you even begin imagining the chaos that such a step can create? Do we have an alternative set-up to replace it? Or for that matter do you honestly believe that by doing away with it will solve all the problems facing people — single and couples?

      And why do we only consider the urban class of educated people when we talk of these things? Obviously they can afford to break institutions and go for reverse stereotyping with a vengeance. How about the vast majority of rural and less educated and poorer classes? They are the real considerations here.

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  4. Very nice post… I second you on everything… But one thing I got to say… Parents spent too much money to make their daughters graduate or post graduate… After that if the daughter chooses to stay at home, the parents find it a waste… But the same parents also tell that a gal should study cz less educated gal gets the less educated guy, thus less salary guy… So again two opinions…

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    1. There are more than two opinions to this topic, Priti. It stands to reason that after spening time and money on getting a professional degree one has to pout it to use, but when forced to do it against one;s aptitude or will, it is bad. We need to break stereotypes for evolution, not just for the sake of it and create new ones, right?

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  5. What a post, Zephyr. A timely post too. I know this post was published some time back but a recent incident that I was part of makes this post very pertinent.

    I was discussing religion and religious rituals with a friend when he casually and very matter-of-factly said that he does “Sandhyavandanam” every day. To say I was shocked is one thing, as I do not know anyone among my contemporaries who does this. But what caught me unawares was my almost sneering response that bubbled up, “Oh Yeah !”. I was and still am deeply ashamed of my reaction to something which is a personal choice of someone and something that also does not affect me.

    I have always thought of myself as someone who is non-interfereing and someone avoids stereotyping and giving in to prejudices. But this incident showed me that it is not really so. An important lesson learnt.

    I believe in our quest to be modern, contemporary or unique, we are giving up on simple values, rituals, and beliefs that offered a sense of belonging, rootedness and identity. To avoid being labelled as old-fashioned, we are turning into reverse stereotyping.

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    1. That was such a fresh perspective on reverse stereotyping! We associate being ‘modern’ with giving up anything traditional and religion tops the list. At least Hindu religious rituals top it. I find this very disconcerting at times because we are more tolerant otherwise with other rituals. And yes, with this, we are giving up ‘on simple values, rituals, and beliefs that offered a sense of belonging, rootedness and identity.’ And yes, we are all guilty of it, though in varying degrees.

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  6. You raise an interesting discussion. Sometimes old institutions stand in the way of people and sometimes they support them and their lives. Sometimes it’s easy to say (for most people at least) that some institutions should be abandoned, such as slavery or child labour. When it comes to marriage, it’s not that simple I believe. I have live both in a marriage as well as in a partnership, and for me it didn’t make much difference, and thus there is no point to getting married. For me. I think abuse within partnership has nothing to do with being married or not, at least in my country – it comes down to individual moral and education. For me marriage is a personal choice that each and everyone should have the freedom to decide for him- or herself.

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    1. Precisely the point I have tried to make in the post, Otto. Abuse is not the result of an institution since it can occur in any relationship, even in same sex ones from what one reads. It is about misusing power by the powerful over the weak, that’s all. I wouldn’t talk of slavery and child labour in the same breath as the institutions of family and marriage because there is no common ground. And by abolishing structures that form the bedrock of society, viz. family, which necessarily comes out of some relationship, one is inviting a dangerous breakdown of the very society. And yes, marriage should be out of choice, but for many it still is a very pertinent choice. By peddling the reverse stereotype, those who opt for it are made to feel like freaks. Thanks for this insightful comment. 🙂

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  7. You know Z , i sometimes wonder whether i will go back to work after my maternity leave is over and i love the fact that i have people opting to provide me the support, however my circumstances do allow me to take some time off if i so choose.

    The key factor is “choose”

    While i was writing this comment, it struck me – while the “modern” (for lack of a better word) woman is allowed choice, choice of a sit at home option for the father will receive a lot more criticism and be a choice very very few men will take

    (not sure i am making sense though)

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    1. choice is not everyone’s prerogative Nuts. Like R’s Mom’s post today, you are lucky if you can choose to work but luckier if you can quit. and yes, it men who are more compromised today in many ways. they are paying the price of the aggressive ways of their sex and the majority of men who are good and kind are facing flak simply because they belong to the despicable sex. There is something called nature. Nature has meant that the female is the nurturer in most species, except in some like the penguins. The gentleness of a woman’s hand is missing from most men’s hands. Of course there are some who can be super gentle like the surgeons. But the nurturing instinct is present in less degree in men and the aggressive instinct likewise in women. When we try to force these qualities, we create aberrations. There are women who can’t be homemakers for the life of them and men who can’t hold a job for the life of them either 🙂 The idea is to accept the differences and live around them by making adjustments with each other.

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  8. Defying our age old customs and traditions is not going to solve our problems. Today’s generation feels that adapting the western culture will prevent them from facing the evils of society. But it is not so. Every society has its problems… they are different but there are problems. If there are problems in joint families then there are problems in nuclear families as well..child care being the prominent one. You also cannot escape these issues by eluding marriage or any other tradition.

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    1. It is not just age old customs, it is institutions like family, which are the foundations of society. We would be happy to just have mothers and fathers and maybe brothers and sisters. But how can the next generation have them if there are no marriages, no men because they are part of patriarchy? Does Sweden with its most open society have no social problems? You are right about there being problems even in nuclear families. What we should aim for is the right for every individual to seek self fulfilment and financial security. Just satisfying one’s wishes is selfish if it is to the exclusion of everyone else. We need more altruism in life to be happy.

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  9. G.N. Balakrishnan · · Reply

    One of the most brilliant , and outspoken articles holding up the mirror of the present day marital status and the traditional family system. Almost every alternate sentence is a quotable quote. Belonging to the Gen X, the readers may think, I blindly support your views 100%. The institution of family is fast disintegrating, giving place to nuclear family, live-in companionship and others of despicable existence of the present day men and women. To a large extent, our society has been too much westernised, without fully understanding the implications. As rightly pointed out by you, the westerners, who are LIBERATED individuals are gradually not able to cope up with or stomach the inherent inconsistencies of their social life and seem to be looking up to India, where, we seem to run amuk with too much liberalisation . The real fault as I could see is the IT revolution, which feeds disproportionate garbage than relevant knowledge which is being imbibed by the present generation. Unfortunately, disillusionment, and desperation leading to suicidal tendencies are gaining ascendancy . It is no doubt true, we have advanced to a great extent in almost all fields, thanks to the IT revolution, but the price we seem to be paying is astonishingly exhorbitant. No wake up call seems to be coming from any quarter, except for such thoughtful articles like the present one. The big question is, “Are we winding up the inherently invaluable unit of family in favour of an upstart way of life, leading to all round misery, with the only compensation of heightened ego-centric existance, satisfying our materialistic wants , but totally bereft of peace of mind and happiness of all concerned”.

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    1. Uncontrolled materialism is the reason for a lot of ills in society today. The West peddled it as the ‘dream’ and we daydreamers signed on the dotted line in double quick time. But dreams go bust and don’t stand the scrutiny of reality. Which is why the American dream is increasingly being shown up as a shallow one and they are grappling with problems that we are soon going to find getting out of control in our own country. It is infinitely sad to know that anything said about traditions or custom is heckled and branded as being retrograde. It is also not being acknowledged that for every failure of the structure, there many successes of the same. By highlighting only the negative in any system, one can’t move forward. It might make good copy and get a lot of applause, but the reality is something entirely different. Like Alka says, this is a ‘dil mange more’ generation which doesn’t know how or where to stop.

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      1. G.N. Balakrishnan · · Reply

        The way we are going, I am afraid that we will beat them hollow and will be overtaking them very shortly.

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  10. Pratibha · · Reply

    While reading your post lot of comments came into my mind. More comments crept in while reading the comments to your post. Each comment brought in new insight. I left my job, when I conceived my son and did not think about taking another job for the next 9 years. Believe me, everyone including me, thought I will never go back to my job. At that time I did not want to go back to a job. I just wanted to see my children grow up. I was selfish. I wanted to be the first one to see my children take their first turn, first step and of course the first word. And I was fortunate enough. Later, when they grew up, I took up a job. I would like to add that I am a teacher by profession – the so called half day job and have always stayed with my parents-in-law. And yes! I have no regrets.

    Abusive marriage! Someone very close to me is going through one. The wife has mentally and emotionally torturing her husband. After bearing with it for 7 years, the husband, who happens to be the most docile person I have ever come across, has hit her. When I tried sorting things out. Both admitted to it. Ironically, both justify their stand and feel they are the wronged one. They would like to stay together. The wife says, what she does is not to be taken as torture (even if she is abusing her in laws) and that she will continue to do so. The husband says he has had enough and now no more. So if she abuses his parents he will again hit her. Sadly, they are heading for a divorce!

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    1. I am one of those incorrigible creatures who believes that things when they change, should change for the better not a 180 degrees, which will create problems in the reverse. So peddling the new stereotype of loud comments, explicit and sometimes crude language, radical views even if they don’t really believe in them, bashing of structures thinking that it will solve all social problems and so on — get my goat. Nothing can be achieved by empowering one gender by emasculating another and it is often counterproductive even if something is achieved. It is not about one gender holding the guns to another, but the powerful doing it to the weak and the rich browbeating the poor too.

      You are one of those gen X women who found her middle path and did what was right without worrying about genders and patriarchy, else you wouldn’t have cared for your in-laws. And the results are there to see 🙂

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  11. Meera · · Reply

    I saw a movie abt 8-9 years ago called Mona Lisa Smile. It deals with this exact same issue. A teacher in a Women’s college has 2 students. One is a flaky student and all she wants to do is get married and raise babies while the other is whip smart. The teacher, a feminist, has phenomenal expectations of the latter and is flabbergasted when the smart girl chooses to marry and start a family instead of going out to work. The flake on the other hand, is married to a cheating man, she takes the decision to leave her husband and become a single mom. In one unforgettable dialog, the smart girl questions her teacher’s philosophy. She says and I’m paraphrasing – Isn’t feminism all about a woman deciding what she wants? Then why can’t it include women choosing marriage and motherhood instead of a career? Why are women who opt for the latter treated as though they’ve failed all of womanhood and squandered their potential? A lot of times the stereotypes and the strictures that bind us are of our own making? 😦

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    1. Exactly! Instead of being happy that women are feeling empowered to do what they want to do and having the wherewithals to do it, thanks to the very same patriarchy that allows them to do it, the peddlers or the new stereotype are cribbing and crying foul. You are right. We allow stereotyping to get under our skin and today even men are not above being stereotyped. To tell you the truth, I used to feel this way too — remember the feminism series, where I had learnt all those lessons very early in life? Well, we have to think for ourselves and take decisions based on our conclusions. And if they are wrong, be strong enough to face the consequences. We can’t say that we will make the mistakes, you bear the consequences. I am thinking of splitting this post into two or maybe three — several friends have suggested that it has too many parallel threads running through it. So be prepared for another series 🙂

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    2. G.N. Balakrishnan · · Reply

      Very sensible way of approach. It is borne out of positive thinking and not day dreaming about on’s future.

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  12. Very well written post….

    In very simple words, “The Modern Stereotype”, that has been discussed in this article is that the educated (rather elite) class in India is of the opinion that our culture and our age old institutions like marriage, extended families, etc. etc. are in the root of all the social problems that our society is facing today and the western ideals might solve these problems.
    But believe me, Indians who have lived in those western countries (espesially in Scandinavian/Nordic countries) are familier with the reality. Those societies alo face problems, albiet, most of the times they are different in nature from those faced by Indians.

    So you can not escape your problems y relocating yourslef or by changing your blief-system.

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    1. You said it! The perception is that of elite class to overthrow the structures because it makes no difference to them in basic terms. This post is not meant for those except to censure then to think of the vast majority of the ‘other’ world who want changes in the system, not the demolition. And any demolition leaves a lot of debris, which is a bigger headache. Here the debris would be in human terms and emotional by products which will have huge repercussions in times to come. Like you say, no system is perfect — it only looks like that from the outside.

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  13. I have a cousin who’s an MBA, a fashion designer, an extremely beautiful woman who got married and never got back to pursuing a career. She is a brilliant home maker too and a mother of two lovely daughters.

    Another cousin who wasn’t as ambitious as this cousin but once married, threw herself on building a career for herself. So much so that her one year old adorable baby boy stays with her in-laws in a different town.

    It’s very mind boggling for me to think of these two situations – the one who was so out there and self motivated took to managing the family so effortlessly and the one who never took any decisions for herself put her career on pedestal despite all odds.

    I guess sometimes, one has this urge to just prove a point and make people sit up and take notice. While some of us get over all of that and look for fulfillment in things which are closer to our hearts, the others take some time to come around.

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    1. Meera has drawn our attention to this very same fact through the film Mona Lisa Smile. The very fact that we can make those choices empowers us and the same can’t be said for men in any system — patriarchy or matriarchy. If people only behaved as humans and not fight over gender issues things would be great. We have examples of great humans too even while we examples of the scum of the earth.

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  14. Absolutely agree!! I sometimes wonder what joy people get to run in a mad race, in blindly aping what others are doing and thereby finding a unique sense of pride and achievement -‘bhed-chaal’ as my grand father used to call it. Why not chart your own path, walk on it and be comfortable with it, whats wrong with that? Whatever the root cause of all this reverse stereotyping, its side effects are indeed alarming. Today, there is such a growing loss of mutual love and respect for one other, be it any relationship, inflated egos and people hardly have any time for real bonding and heart to heart talk with close members of the family.

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    1. A friend recently told me that the loss of love in relationships is the cause for all the heartaches and chaos. You have said it too in your assessment of relatonships where no one has the time to invest in bonding and discovering the joys of give and take. Bhed chal is the other name for low self esteem and fear of ostracism.

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  15. But CN, as a society we are evolving. We will embrace what is convenient and let circumstances shape our principles. My style of parenting is very different from my parent’s. As a woman my priorities will never be the same as the elders of my family.

    True, a family’s unconditional love, support system is imperative for our psychological well-being! But each new age has it’s demands and we need to adapt to that.

    And I think, most who claim to be atheists, say it because it sounds fashionable.

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    1. But of course. We keep evolving and shaping to meet the new needs. My point is, that it should be an evolution, not a demolition, because that means reconstructing a whole and that could take a lot of time and create chaos till it is done. And then, we don’t know if it will be a perfect thing either. So it is important to clean up existing structures and make it time-friendly. That is easier and that is how it has been over centuries. Haven’t we adapted to nuclear families, single child families and so much more?

      That making statements like they are atheists and such is the result of the new stereotypes being bandied about — where religion is equivalent to communal. Why fall prey to these and then justify the choices if one is not conforming to them?

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  16. Aha.. I reached the end at last!

    Lovely, Brilliant, thought provoking and provoking too..I cant add anything more to what’s already there..

    Enjoyed it very much.

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    1. Ha! best way to get out of commenting is to agree totally 😀 Glad you liked it though, Pattu.

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      1. Zephyr, it is also due to the fact that you think like me ,and put it across beautifully.(unlike me).:-)

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  17. That was very interesting, Zephyr.

    When I resigned from my job 4-5 years ago, I had people glorifying it, and people questioning it – both the result of stereotyping – by people of my generation. And as you say stereotyping and reverse stereotyping are both equally bad, and equally prevalent – in my experience across all generations – in one form or the other.

    People judge, stereotype based on their world view. Some view everything Western as bad, some view everything Indian as bad – the truth lies somewhere in between, doesn’t it? Learning positive things from other cultures, while acknowledging that our own might not be the perfect – don’t you think?

    Coming to institutions, rituals etc, each to their own, is what I believe in. People who follow ‘fashion’ blindly be it in clothing or thinking, isn’t doing much thinking for themselves, aren’t they? That said, in my opinion, there is no harm in questioning existing conditions, mindsets, and institutions, surely if things can be changed for the better- what’s wrong with it?

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    1. Anyone falling for stereotypes have poor self esteem, I agree with you on this. The south is progressing faster towards gender equality though only Kerala among the states is a matriarchal society. Today women call the shots in arranged marriages and I have heard boys and their families complain the same way the girls and their families did earlier about ‘demands’.

      It is good to see young people think so clearly, whether it is A-Kay or you, who feel that we have to pick and choose what is good from other cultures to follow or admire. There is this disease we suffer from — it is called WWPS (What will people say) which makes us conform or rebel.

      As for questioning and cleaning up a system, that is exactly what I had said too. Don’t hasten to demolish a structure but first try to rectify the faults and then if nothing works, demolish it.

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  18. Damned if you do, damned if you dont?!
    All part of cultural evolution.

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    1. But is it for the better? Time will tell and hopefully in the positive.

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  19. Thanks for getting me here, agree with your post totally!

    You know what are biggest problem is? We are answerable to anybody & everybody. We have to defend our choices to even our maids! The worst thing is our own parents might not have problem with our decision but if woh baaju waali aunty is not happy then you can be crucified!!!

    I wish we as citizens try to really solve the problems that we are facing and just quit playing the blame game.
    Your post reminds me of the statement that my MIL often makes “sab videsh ki nakal kar rahe hain”, “sab IT companies aane se yeh hua hai”. So easy to generalise and so difficult to go to the root of the issue!

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    1. You are so right. An accused in the court of law has recourse to counsel who can argue for her but in the court of society she has no such recourse and has to face the conviction and even hanging. I can understand the older generation being this way, but when the so called aware, intelligent and educated women continuing to stereotype albeit in the other extreme is even more dangerous because they carry some kind of sanction for being educated. And somehow we seem to think that the entire female population of India is just the urban educated women. Would abolishing marriage, family and other structures benefit this huge segment? Or is it all said for effect?

      PS” I had to remove the part of Talwars since it is sub-judice. Hope you understand. 🙂

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  20. Domestic voilence is everywhere, here in uk I have seen so much, and its not just women who are getting abused these days equal number of men are also getting abused.

    I think in india we have this FASHION , we pick up a point some time back evertyhing was the fault of a MAN.. Now its patriarchy.. I remember I wrote a comment at one place where man bashing was going on and I wrote GET RID OF THE MEN.. i got so many replies agaisnt that too because I said it in bold and to the point ..

    Trendy things happen these days and when it fails its back to point on OH it because of man 🙂

    earlier i use to get concerned , Now adays I laugh the best part is that people (sorry i have to say this he he he) the women who go on and on and on about all this go back to the same house and probably do exactly the opposite of what they have been preaching 🙂

    I write or comment what I think is right and what i feel , it does not bother me that much what others will think, My parents have brought me up like that its the same way my sister has been brought up too..

    I am sure the arranged marriages many many years back worked perfectly fine and PEOPLE were happy, very happy well at least so many girl child were not being murdered as they are now ..

    I jsut hope the mentality of people changes thats the best thing that can happen to India. till then things are not going to change , we see it day in and day out .. look at what happened to Anna ji’s movement , look at other movements .. the probem with us indians is that

    WHAT we do outside in front of others is Completely different that what we do once we close our house doors

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    1. Hey Bikram, you can disagree with me all you want here! I love some discussion. I am glad that you are able to laugh at it. Arranged marriages work as much as love marriage do or don’t. Like R’s Mom pointed out, adjustments are needed in both and for that matter in any relationship. And as long as we believe in the right thing and listen to our conscience, we will not do any wrong. Also social media has made hypocrites of us, because we try to put our best faces which sometimes are mere masks.

      DV stats are hidden by families even in case of women, so we can imagine about men hiding it.

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      1. Noooo I am not disagreeing with you at all .. I think my comment was a bit hap hazard 🙂

        I feel that every relation is like that arranged or not arranged.. As RM said its all fine till we start to pressurise the other person.. Why cant we be what we are all the time ..
        and as i keep saying treat the other as we want to be treated 🙂

        Stereotyping well I have been brainwashed on that because of the job I do, I cant afford to be a stereotype.. Things are not what they look like at the first instance .. every situation has Two faces One that we see and the one that we have not or cant..

        it is true media and everything has made us like that but then in the end if in your heart something is wrong then it is 100% wrong no doubts about it .. I follow a simple rule DO what my heart says , rest can all wait .. I have spent enough time thinking what others will think or do.

        Please dont mind anything that i wrote , I am sorry if i said naything wrong

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        1. Hey I didn’t say you disagreed, but you are welcome to, if you find anything to disagree about. See how many have expressed different views to those I have written. You should read the post link given by Jaish. It is a lovely post on arranged marriages.

          You must be seeing a lot undesirable cases and I am glad it has sensitised you instead of making you insensitive like many cops are wont to become. And your rule of following you heart and conscience is the best one. we can never go wrong if we listen to them. And once again, you have not said anything wrong and NO thumbs down for you on this blog. you are always welcome here. 😀

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  21. Isn’t Reverse Stereotype becoming a fad today! being non confirming is the norm today not really because you feel that way but just to be in the rage… I am not saying everyone is doing that for being trendy but many are….

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    1. You are right. it is only for conformity that this happens. Often there is no real conviction in their stance and the fear of being ostracised makes them toe the line.

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  22. I agree with you inasmuch as everyone should be free to make their choices without having to fear being judged. If a woman wants to take a break in her career people should refrain from bombarding her with unsolicited ‘well-meaning’ advice to the contrary. And it is downright obnoxious to pass judgement on anyone regarding matters of faith.

    I do feel that in general, being an SAHM is not really a great idea and may not work for everyone. At the end of the day, it leaves the woman financially dependent and that is seldom a desirable prospect. I certainly wouldn’t want my daughters to be SAHMs. But well, to each their own. Every woman should have the right to make a choice either ways.

    Likewise joint families may well have their advantages but they do tend to place unreasonable demands on the DILs. It’s not really a coincidence that far more women than men are against the joint family system. When young women express reservations against living in a joint family, they might not necessarily be following the latest fad or trying to conform to the reverse stereotype–maybe they genuinely feel that the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages. On the other hand, if a (young) woman happens to WANT to be part of a joint family, she shouldn’t have to face snide remarks either. Again, to each their own. Whatever floats their boat!

    About the violence stats, we cannot know how good or bad one-woman-every fifteen-seconds is without having something to compare it to. I wouldn’t be surprised if similar stats for India–even official stats–were much worse . Of course no amount of freedom and laws can completely eradicate violence against women because the average unarmed woman is and will always be considerably weaker than the average unarmed man.

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    1. the very fact that a choice is available for a woman to work or not is wonderful. There are so many women who are stressed out by a job and would so happily quit. But to make that a stereotypical requirement is what galls. But I agree about being financially independent or at least equipped to be.

      I beg to differ about joint family systems here. There an equal number of families where the older generation is compromised and even threatened with eviction if they didn’t slog and remain invisible. There are young women who have wonderful in-laws but are hesitant to come out with the truth on public forums for fear of being ridiculed as victims of the system. Such stereotyping has tarred all MILs with the same brush. That’s why I said, they are not considered women at all. 🙂

      Violence stats will definitely be higher in India for the sheer number of people here. And it is not just about women, but about anyone who is powerless or less powerful. Even in lesbian and gay relationships DV is found since there too, there is one dominant and one subdued partner. Any violence is created by a sick and/or criminal mind that needs psychiatric care or imprisonment.

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  23. AlkaGurha · · Reply

    Reading your blog should be mandatory for the Dil mange More generation. There is so much wisdom and practicality in every post.
    True, unlike our Parliament the institution of marriage is much older and has survived over the years…Those aping the west will come full circle to realize their folly.
    And SAHM has worked for me. So I say do what ever gives you happiness and whatever works best for you. Having extra grey cells is not a preserve of working women.
    One gets to understand many things with age…I guess.

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    1. Oh thanks for the wonderful endorsement of my blog. 🙂 And as for becoming wiser with age, I think our young ones are very wise already. Most commenters here are the Y generation and they all have such great things to contribute to the discussions here. Each one has some point — all positive. That is a good sign. They are breaking out of the straitjacketing and leaving their mark on the world. That makes me take heart. Btw, SAHM is a product of patriarchy, so beware!

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  24. I always feel that none of our institution or tradition is bad, but it is made that way by people abusing it.If western way of living for self was better then they would be happier than us and life should be better there, but as we all know it is not. I nevr condone the twice married thrice divorced couple with children having all different parents..I dont believe that life could be harmonious there..its most traumatic for children.

    We need to better our systems with more understanding and love, but still discipline is always required whether in personal or professional life..and this is what today’s youth dont like…

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    1. More than our condoning the twice married and thrice divorced couples, are they happy? When they can’t form one good relationship, they feel that trial and error will make it perfect 🙂 And as you say the kids suffer. Today it is instant gratification and everything coming easy. Like R’s Mom observed, adjustments are to be made in any relationship, whether arranged or love. And why marriage alone, any relationship has this issue to deal with.

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      1. adjustment or compromise has become a bad word today, specially in personal relationship, one would go to any length to rise in a job and sacrifice everything, but for personal relationships everything is too much.

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        1. Being too individualistic (read rigid) is one of the requisites of the reverse stereotypes, all in the name of being ‘principled’. That is why no sacrifice is great enough for career and too much for relationships — because then it is the doing of patriarchy 🙂

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  25. I think if we go deep into statistics, each of the case is unique. There are various reasons people do certain things. The collective effort comes out to be the same, but sometimes intend is different. An individual picks up an idea which suits him/her.
    I keep telling my wife that I want to be a house husband. I want to sit at home and indulge in all the activities. I want to pick up my hobbies which I have forgotten about. I want to cook more. Now ten years down the line, you might get a statistic that there are more men sitting at home but I will give too hoots about it.
    Just the thought of such a life brings tears to my eyes. 🙂

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    1. So why don’t you sit at home and let your wife work? (one has to work, surely?) We only quote stats for bad things. Do you ever hear the number of good marriages or marriages free of any abuse? For instance we all knew about female foeticide and the drop in male-female ratio. We have even heard about states with better than national average of this ratio. But did we know about the small town with 1000:1000 ratio? Why? Because only bad things make news and can be sensationalised.

      Btw, are they tears of joy or sorrow? 😀

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      1. Paapi pet ka sawal. Loan, responsibility, the web. Both of us work and both of us hate to work. 🙂
        There should be a seperate channel for successful stories. I was reading Meera Sanyal’s blog and the conditions are improving in a lot of villages but we do not hear such stories on news channels. Read here –
        http://meerasanyal.wordpress.com/

        Tears of joy, of course. 🙂

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        1. Glad to know that you can soon weep tears of joy 😀 Paapi pet ka sawal hi hota to thode mein bhi kaam chal jaata. But it is also a question of a lot of other things which makes us slog. When we realise less is more, the tears of joy will start flowing sooner.

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  26. Firstly I loved the title of the post…

    The incident involving the girls in the market reminded me of the movie Kuch kuch hota hai, where SRK tells Rani Mukherjee that he doesnt tell anyone he comes to the temple once a week because it affects his image…I thought that was the stupidest thing ever…I mean, since when in India did going to a temple become ‘uncool?’

    It is argued that it is losing its relevance and arranged marriages are the main villains of the piece – I dont think I would agree to it Zephyr (I know thats what you are trying to say in the post as well)…I have had a proper arranged marriage with horoscope seeing and what not…I think forcing young people to marry each other even if they are not compatible is what is the villain not arranged marriage as such…

    While a marriage is all about adjusting, that happens even in love marriages right?

    Traditions, customs, institutions and even faith are the grounding factors in a person’s life.- True…but they become an issue when they are forced on people who dont want to believe in them…like you cant force me to say ‘saranam aiyappa’ just because RD goes to Sabari malai every year…He knows, I dont agree to people not letting women enter the temple, but that doesnt stop me from stopping him from going or him forcing me to believe in that particular God

    Any structure by virtue of its composition and character is bound to gather moss and debris. But do we demolish a house when it gets dirty? We clean it, redo it or restructure in some cases when the damage is extensive – Totally agree on this one 🙂

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    1. Thanks for liking the title. I couldn’t come up with anything else 😀 I am glad I found someone who finds arranged marriages as good or bad as love marriage. Especially today, when girls have the choice to say no, it can be tried. Many young people are actually opting for these today. One of my young friends told me that her ‘pucca’ choice turned out to be a third rate fellow and fortunately she discovered it before she got married to him. Today she is happily married to a loving guy selected by her parents and has a seven year old boy 🙂 Much like RM and RD!

      Anything forced is bad. I remember refusing to do a lot of religious rituals even as a teenager and my parents learnt to tolerate me. Years later I went back to doing them and found immense peace doing all that my parents wanted me to do back then 🙂 I recommend you blog to young women who would find an echo in your experiences. I am sure many like you wouldn’t want to see institutions like family and marriage dismantled because it is believed to be the cause of all evils.

      In India, it is a laughing matter when you take a dip in the ‘polluted’ Ganga during Kumbh mela and going to temple too. Believe me, I have seen it, not once but over and over, especially among the so called elite and educated.

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  27. This is a complicated topic. Each person should make decision according to his or her unique circumstances. And the talented and accomplished women who have demanding jobs should also give their husbands the choice of being SAHD. It should not be looked down either,

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    1. Exactly! Why put women in a different straitjacket and make them feel pressured? Reverse conditioning, I call it. Also as Sangeeta says blaming patriarchy and extolling matriarchy is not the solution since each has its own set of problems. That’s why I have quoted the DV stats from the developed countries. Why force your stereotypes on women, or for that matter men, when you profess to be breaking them? SAHD will soon become a common phenomenon. It is just a matter of perception and understanding with each other.

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  28. Very well written, as always! Infact, one of my non-desi friends was telling me that it is easy for Indians, as if we do not (or are not able to) find a life partner, parents will find one for them and they actually like it 🙂 So, you know, the grass is indeed greener on the other side.

    I agree with you on thrashing institution – be it joint family or arranged marriages or just about anything – my view is that (most) institution by itself is not bad it is the people who sometimes make it bad and just like one swallow does not make a summer, few bad apples cannot make the entire institution wrong or invalid. I think as a society we need a certain level of maturity to come to that balance and I think, we will eventually get there. The pendulum has to shift to extremes before settling down on middle ground, after all 🙂

    That said, working (or not to), marrying (or not to) etc should individual choices and no one should force anyone one way or the other. Neither is good or bad, right or wrong and what works for one person in a given situation might not work for another in a different situation and I think, our bane is that we are trying to find “one size fits all” type of solution, which is not going to work.

    Western ideas are all not perfect and while we can definitely emulate/copy them, we need to pick and choose the ones that will work for us; surely milk and honey are not flowing in the Western Nations for us to blindly copy every single thought/idea/action. There are several problems/issues in a much higher level of magnitude and just like India, some are high-lighted and some are not. As you rightly said, if patriarchy is the problem, then there should be no violence (domestic or otherwise) against women in the West, which is most definitely not the case. This just goes to prove that every country/culture/tradition is riddled with its own set of problems and the solution should come from within and not without…

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    1. That was one balanced comment if I saw one 🙂 We definitely need to pick and choose what to emulate from any culture or society since one size doesn’t fit all after all. And I loved the pendulum analogy for things to find its own level. Forced marriages are reducing drastically and in most educated families the choice is even entirely left to the children. In my family at least it is so 🙂 And if tomorrow you bring a law that says marriages don’t exist anymore, can you even begin to imagine the chaos that would cause? What would happen to women, who are already beleaguered now? We are not talking about the miniscule percentage of educated and urban women, but a country full of women who are not so fortunate. I am glad I was able to make some sense. 😀

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      1. I am sure I am going to get thrashed for saying this aloud but what I feel is that we are all (including myself) doing armchair activism, sitting in the confines of our comfortable (and often A/C’ed) home talking about things from our perspective. Do you really think that abolishing the institution of marriage (or any other institution) is what someone who is struggling to feed her/his kids or trying to get them educated or providing a roof over their head is thinking about? As you rightly said, I think we need to get real and think about some real solutions instead of living in our fantasy world.

        I agree that forced marriages are reducing drastically – in fact, when I married (which was 10 years back) I was never forced although mine was an arranged marriage. My parents were very particular that my interests/demands – if I may call it that 🙂 – were met as well and I was never forced or asked to compromise. This , of course, is just my personal experience but hearing from RM and others who got married the arranged route, I don’t see much difference in the modus operandi. Things are definitely changing and forced marriages are slowly becoming a passe, for sure. Surely marriage is not the problem, if it were one then we wouldn’t be holding on to this institution (regardless of country/culture/tradition) for all these years.

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        1. You most certainly will get thrashed 🙂 But that is the truth A-Kay. It is about these women who have no food in their bellies and no roof over the heads that this post is mainly about, at least the second part which talks of institutions. An educated girl can go through several affairs or live-in relationships and survive, even thrive, but can our illiterate sisters go through it? If there is no marriage to sanctify a union, can you imagine how many more rapes and trafficking in women will happen? Don’t we see the same insecurity in the lower strata of society in countries like the US? where men walk out leaving the woman with babies or worse both abandon the children as they go their different ways? Do we want that kind of society?

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  29. The problem is there is a confused generation who wants to ‘flaunt’ being a rebel. So being an atheist is ‘cool’ even if they would not have their own answer to be an atheist. Its same as many who are ‘religious’ just because they are born with the faith but not made an attempt to understand ‘God’. Its just sticking by a norm / fad that suits the mass appeal and sporting that mask. Very few choose to (or have the enviroment around them to choose) follow what they want to be as per their inner call.

    Very thought provoking post.

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    1. And the funny thing about those who profess to be atheists most probably wouldn’t know the meaning of it. But such thing becoming the requisite for being considered progressive is simply undermining the intelligence of the people. How can faith be considered old fashioned? Half the problems today is because we are a society of cynics who have no faith in anything, not because those have lost relevance but because we think we know everything 🙂

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  30. Zephyr, there is no denying the fact that our society is still battling deep-rooted prejudices that keep springing upon us in myriad shapes and faces. It is not that there has be no resistance to the undesirable and uncalled for ideologies and practices before. New generations of men and women have made considerable impact by their thoughtful and measured resistance and left their marks on the social fabric.

    Unfortunately, we are witness to a reactionary movement of late that hold sinister portents for humanity. In their haste to bring instant deliverance from all woes, real and imagined, they are hell bent on ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’, as you say, and authoring another set of miseries, probably more fatal than the one they are seeking to remove. They are hell bent on upsetting the social equilibrium by madly chopping away at the boughs they are sitting on. Little are they aware that the injuries and destruction will be mutual. Many are joining these hyper-activists for the quick popularity it affords them. The tragedy is, many young, impressionable minds are being poisoned forever and their outlook of life being irrevocably ruined by these sirens.

    That was as searching a post as it was beautiful and I am sure, only a Zephyr could have written it.

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    1. When things turn 180 degrees, they can only bring in more problems. By just reversing anything you can’t solve a problem. The problem will be in reverse, that’s all. You are right, many great men and women have over generations cleaned up systems, institutions and even ideologies. That is how we evolve as a society and as a civilization. But we don’t have any such great people to bring about a revolution. However some grassroot level activists are doing great work in bringing about changes that will really have effect in the long run. Any other superficial efforts will only do more damage. I am glad you liked it and the stimulating discussion that is taking place here.

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  31. A very well written post as usual. It was like reading what’s on my mind, but with much much more clarity and examples. I chose to take care of my family too. But the choice was not an easy one to make. Later when the kids were in school , I went out to work. But then again my concentration was always at home. Till I finally gave up on a job and now I work from home on my own terms. It is not very lucrative financially , yet. But it keeps me occupied and interested. I try not to make the family the center of my world. Because that then becomes a sort of demand for appreciation later in life.

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    1. I know of so many women who feel constricted by the new stereotypes, which is what made me write this. Also, blaming everything on patriarchy is not correct. Rape, killing of babies, throwing acid on women and battering them are all works of a sick mind. They require institutionalization or imprisonment. Very sensible of you not to make the home the centre of your life. I had consciously done that too and made the family aware that I was sometimes pulling more weight than them just so that they knew and helped more. No martyrdom for me either. Because that is what makes for depression in middle age.

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  32. You write posts and you get new posts or post-lets as I call them as reactions to your post, making your posts in short a process of debating and thrashing out an idea. I would have honestly loved to see this as two posts, because there are multiple strong ideas/trends that you are referring to. Reverse stereotyping is in itself a dangerous trend that (you are right) is so prevalent! In fact, I think people misunderstand the abused concept of modernity…It is interesting that you link this to a perspective on abuse in relationships that appears to be more talked about right now ( it is not like it wasnt there in your generation, just that men and women no longer suffer silently) to justify choices

    I don’t think there is a right and wrong for the way people choose to live life. The only wrong thing about the whole scenario in fact is enforcing unsolicited advice. I think we, as a society need to be less intrusive – before a person gets married, the whole society and its uncle are worried about whether the age of marriage is rapidly passing by, reducing the saleability of the bride/groom. Once marriage – the hurdle is crossed, the social pressure turns to procreation as a way of extending the line and then the whole cycle of raising children and then worrying about their suitability to the marriage bazaar begins. At every point, people have to not only think about where their comfort zone is but also about where the others might make them uncomfortable and what they might have to brave to attain what they think is a balance in life. And heaven help you if you decide to chart your own course and you stumble. If the choices you make are not ones you can stick with through your life, then its like handing over a stick to your naysayers and critics and telling them to please beat the living daylights out of you!!

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    1. First of all, I acknowledge the validity of your point that this post should have been made into two. Thank you. I will do that soon and bombard you with more post-lets 😀

      And my dear girl, as I have pointed out in the post and Manju has in her comment, we are not talking about the very small percentage of urban middle class women and girls here. We are talking of a whole society comprising of rich and poor, educated and illiterate and aware and ignorant people. It is for these that one has to have a structured relationship or an institution like family. Can you even begin to imagine the mayhem there will be once it becomes a free for all, without the sanction of marriage. The ultimate sufferer will be the woman. So why peddle such a notion at all? Young women like you are capable of taking important life-altering decisions and able to bear the consequences. What about girls like the dhobi’s daughter or the cook’s sister? They will fall prey to undesirable elements in their effort to be ‘cool’ and have an affair or two or live in. Can they handle it? That is my question.

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  33. Very thoughtfully written post, Zephyr. I completely agree that reverse stereotyping is happening today. And women (particularly young women) find that they have to justify their actions if they choose to go against it.

    In my case, I quit my job after the birth of my first child. Even then (thirty years ago) I had to face snide remarks and insinuations about being too lazy/ old-fashiond to work- most of them from women relatives!

    Nowadays quite often we find people discussing nuclear families v/s joint families, whether women should work or not, and other issues. These discussions invariably consider urban, educated, couples with children of above-average intelligence.

    Not everyone is so lucky. What about, for example, when a child is physically/ mentally handicapped? Then even a modern couple would be glad to have the support of their extended family. And we find that they frequently do get this support.

    I’m not saying that living in a joint family is necessarily ‘better’ than living in a nuclear family. Just that there are many factors to take into account, and the answer is not a question of just choosing either option A or option B.

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    1. Isn’t it funny that the independent and intelligent woman is still falling prey to stereotyping of a different kind? And if patriarchy is blamed for everything then it is this same patriarchy that allows them the choice and luxury of choosing if they want to work or not. Men don’t have the choice, whether patriarchy or matriarchy. Maharashtra was ahead in terms of the concept of working women and all, so it must have started three decades ago 🙂

      You are perfectly right. A joint family or nuclear family are matters of choice and compulsions, and they are neither good or bad. But when one keeps hammering into the heads of women that it is out of fashion and that it is because parents consider their children as investment and such that even those who really want to be with the elders, whether theirs or their husbands, feel that they would be ridiculed or feel put upon. Everything has its advantages and disadvantages but since it is the age of individualism, there is not much to say here, is there?

      Like I have mentioned, MILs are not even considered as human beings or women though any number of girls would acknowledge in private that their MIL is very good. It would shatter the stereotype to accept something like this openly, see? 🙂

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  34. As always your prose is excellent and you assemble your ideas thoughtfully. I admire the balanced tone of your posts which is so effective in eliciting meaningful responses from your readers.

    my thoughts

    1. On “new vs old” – I don’t believe that anything is really new or old. Pretty much everything we do (marry, live-in, divorce, abuse, love, laugh etc etc) in life has been already done before. Things come and go in cycles. The “new” of today is merely what’s in vogue today. I think this perspective helps guide someone who is being rebellious for the sake of it and under the delusion that they’re doing “something new and radical”. All of us have gone through these phases when we’ve tested the boundaries to see what lies beyond. Some of us retreat. Some of us stay there. Some of us oscillate. My point is – when a young lady (or man for that matter) decides to stay single for the reason she’s cynical about the institution of marriage, that’s part of the life experimentation she’s entitled to – as an individual. To each her own. That’s how we learn and move forward. By making mistakes and stumbling onto answers.

    2. On ‘structures, institutions, ideas, concepts, etc – The power of an idea is that it propels you forward. The problem with being wedded to an idea or an institution or a concept – it leaves you stuck after moving you forward. My humble opinion is that we should constantly evaluate all of our preconceived notions as often as practically possible to examine if we are being held back or if we’re continuing to move forward. Marriage is one such concept. While it has its powers, it is merely an artificial construct at the end of the day.Ultimately it comes down to the power of the relationship. It really shouldn’t matter if the couple is married or living together. The result will likely be the same no matter which path is chosen. Guess what I’m saying is that success of a marriage should be defined by the joy it provides more than its tenure. I don’t think that divorce is a bad thing necessarily. We all fail at something or the other. It’s possible that we can fail at marriage because we don’t value it enough to try harder. Urging someone to marry or stay married is equivalent to insisting that a student join only an engineering college 🙂

    3. Being a mother is without doubt the hardest “job” in the world. If we agree with that statement, everything else is merely second order details. Whether a working mother or a stay at home mother – all mothers carry the same burden and expectations when it comes to what they want for their kids. One could argue that working mothers are trying to raise more resources so their children can be better off. Others may have the luxury of not having to do that. This is a tough one to call. And as you’ve pointed out, all mothers who’re constantly balancing between various priorities day in and day out deserve our admiration!

    Think I’ve rambled quite a bit this time. Hopefully I’ve made sense 🙂 cheerio!

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    1. I loved the way you first made me feel good and then brought your objections one by one 🙂 And the intellectual analysis of the post made me wonder at my own ability to elicit such studied responses 🙂

      Well, for one, I haven’t said that one should not experiment with being single, living-in or being a SAHM or walking out of relationships. I don’t deny that it is an individual choice either or one that has to be decided on the merits of the case. But one point no one seems to have looked at in the post is that such sweeping lifestyle changes being peddled as the best thing is dangerous, since we are not a nation of urban middle class people. And such a ‘cool’ stereotype would be embraced by everyone whether or not they are capable of carrying it off In such an event the woman would be the bigger sufferer as she would be exploited even more outside a structured relationship.

      While earlier stereotypes of women portrayed them as being all sacrificing and the epitomes of love and nurturing, the new stereotype puts them at the other extreme, exhorting them to be individualistic to the point of being selfish. In short, it is a complete reversal of the stereotype, which is making many women chaff too, as you can see in the comments by young women here.

      And I see Journomuse’ point here about not having made it into two posts so that the issues could have been dealt with more exhaustively. Thank you for the analytical comment 🙂

      Like

  35. Hi

    Love your writing skill…Very good language and at the same time no use of rare-to-find words that I need to refer to a dictionary in order to comprehend the post !

    I was not working for a couple of years immed after my son was born…One of the women I knew kept saying ‘You should not be wasting your time in the kitchen’…Well its my kitchen and my baby and I am in love with both…So whats the big deal? In fact this period was when I actuallystarted blogging actively.

    Mine is an arranged marriage and to know my views please take some time toview

    http://www.jaishwrites.blogspot.com/2012/02/arranged-marriages-introspection.html

    Some of the stereo-type women of todayI feel are not very sure of what they believe and just try to portray what they think is cool!

    And as you said abusive husbands or partners are not necessarily in arranged marriages…

    Like

    1. Glad you like my writing Jaish. Psst…the reason I don’t use big words is because I would need a dictionary to use them 😀

      More seriously, the same people who complain that someone is stereotyping women are creating new stereotypes to ‘break’ the old ones. Also one can’t solve any problem by going a 180 degrees and expect things magically to become perfect. It might be the easiest but also the most flawed one. So going from patriarchy to matriarchy is not going to solve anything till we learn to deal with sick minds which indulge in such things as female foeticide and rape and then victimise the victim. We do what we want to do and try to find ways to do them, not always by walking out of a situation or even demolishing the structure. By peddling something as the panacea is the height of naivete especially when the problem is so complex, don’t you think?

      Thanks for the link. I will read and comment. 🙂

      Like

  36. Excellently written. It’s easy to demolish old structures, but building new ones in their place takes considerable amount of efforts. Some people even think that they can live devoid of any structures without realizing the possible consequences.

    Destination Infinity

    Like

    1. That number is increasing DI. Actually it is possible if the people are all uniformly intelligent, resourceful and educated. But in the absence of that, we do need institutions but ones which need to be cleaned and kept clean and practical.

      Like

  37. I loved this post, Zephyr! You put so eloquently what I feel. I have time and again expressed this. I wholeheartedly support the view that it is a woman’s prerogative to decide when and if she wants to work or spend her time at home nurturing her family. Just today, my dad was saying that lucky are those men who can find a partner who can ably handle the home front.

    Why is there so much of discussion about what a homemaker does or doesn’t do :). And, like you pointed out, many homemakers do through great pain explaining how their work at home is “productive.” You wouldn’t believe how many comments I heard from people who wondered why I wasn’t “working” or being with my kids when they were really young or cooking when I had taken a break? As if those are godforsaken things not meant to be done by any self-respecting, educated woman! Most of the time, I chose not to answer. I did what and when I wanted to do, easing away from a job and even now easing into it and doing it on my own terms. I care a damn about what others think. I am happy being married, being a mother, working from home and not working full time.

    And, you make a very valid point about choice and mode of a life partner. I cherish my family on both sides. And, I really wish that my mil would come and stay with us. Though, I respect her choice of living by herself. After all, she deserves to have the same independence that I have in my choice of things. You have shared some really good statistics too. When I was younger, I used to look down upon the arranged marriage way of things. But, now I have the wisdom to understand the importance of a family’s role and also the upbringing that parents normally look for. And, I am not ashamed to say that I still rely on my elders in terms of their guidance and love.

    Just one thing I would like to say to stay-at-home moms. Always have something that you enjoy doing apart from family too. Don’t cling on to them. And, have a real hobby and real friends too.

    Like

    1. I am amazed sometimes how we seem to share so many thoughts though separated by a generation. 🙂 Cooking and cleaning are not god forsaken things but any self respecting young woman of today does not enjoy doing them according to the new stereotype. They are conditioned to think that they like them by the patriarchal system. Everyone feels overwhelmed at times by the things they need to do, whether at home or at work or at both places. But that has nothing to do with being forced to do those things, right? Arranged marriages that are forced are bad, but by and large both partners get to know each other before they marry. As for letting someone choose their partner, they should first have the kind of education and exposure to be able to make the choice, otherwise it can end in disaster. Why not work to first see that every girl gets a decent education first and then talk about abolishing institutions? I am so glad to hear your warm words for the family set up and its advantages to all the members. And I thought that the girls were only raised to get married and go into another home and the boys were raised to look after the parents. Thanks for reaffirming my faith in this generation. That is good advice to SAHMs. 🙂

      Like

  38. 😀 I am so happy and proud Mami. Not that I was happy earlier but it feels good to have one’s viewpoints reaffirmed.
    My neighbour whenever she meets me points out how have I wasted my education. Last time I bluntly told her that I am happy with my decision but is she with hers 😛 The point is I am happy with my family, interests etc . Maybe others can balance with lot of things in their hands like home, career etc; I can’t. So I do what I can to the best of my ability

    Like

    1. The idea is that you are convinced of what you are doing and don’t feel the need to justify or defend it. Like I said earlier, it does not matter whether you are doing the work by choice or by compulsion. The work needs to be done and it is, that’s all.

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  39. Your post could make a wonderful episode of Satyamev Jayate Aunty! 🙂

    Agree with each and every word you’ve written here. Spending time with family and sharing special moments with your dear ones are priceless gifts that one can have, and sadly people do not care as much for them now. Men (and even women at times) feel that by financially supporting their family they’re doing their job well and nothing more should be expected from them.

    I’ve seen many so-called modern women mocking the not-so-modern women as behenjis. I’ve faced women who looked down at me for being someone who left her job for something as trivial as ‘looking after my son’. I get it from both sides. My MIL dislikes me for not being the typical bahu and my peers think I lack motive in life. 😦

    I can quote the example of one of my very dear friend here. He and his wife are not on talking terms since last 2-3 yrs. Any kind of ‘relation’ is out of question. Both of them want to break free, but are still together for fear of what the society will say. They’re both unhappy, and no intervention is working. What can this case be called? The institution of marriage has become a joke here and many such cases.

    A very enlightening and wonderful post Aunty! 🙂

    Like

    1. They should go for professional therapy if nothing works and they don’t want to split either. Tell me What would this couple have done if they were just living in? Would they would have split then? To my mind the excuse of society is flimsy and the reason is their fear of the break up itself. Sometimes it is difficult to face one’s own deepest fears and weaknesses.

      I am glad you have not fallen prey to the reverse stereotype and so are not defensive about your decision. To my mind you are like the girls I have listed in the post. The second one is my DIL 🙂

      Like

      1. The guy’s a very good friend Aunty, and from what I’ve understood from my interaction with him, he’s trying a lot. This girl is on excellent terms with his family, but it is him she doesn’t want to be close to. He’s had a terrible break-up before and doesn’t want to end up alone again, may be that’s why he’s letting all this happen. Wonder what will happen with them. She’s not ready to acknowledge that there’s a problem, so professional help is doubtful I think…

        The only person I need to convince I didn’t make a mistake is myself…I don’t care about the rest. There are times when my confidence drops very low (asking money from husband, seeing my colleagues reaching new highs in their career etc) and I have to prove myself that I still have it in me, and then comes something like the getting-a-new-degree part. This is not falling prey to reverse stereotypes, right?

        Like

        1. That is sad. I don’t know if this is an arranged marriage, but I know of a case like this which was a love match, where both had known each other for a few years before they got married.

          You will never fall prey to reverse stereotyping if you don’t defend your actions and choices to prove you are ‘worth it’ or whatever else that you are supposed to be 🙂 As for taking money from your husband, as long as he is not patronising, it should not bother you. Career heights, is different. I used to feel that way for a long time too, but then realised that I would never have fit into those roles well enough and still remain what I am today. And that put it in perspective.

          Like

  40. debajyoti · · Reply

    I have advised many of my colleagues (both male and female) to stay at home spend time with family, watch movies etc. (if resources permit) and have successfully pushed people to unemployment and eventually, even I opted for it, happily :D.

    Now coming back to marriage and all the things that you have mentioned here, it should be an individual choice however if someone is going through a troubled relationship then that person can put an end to it. Looking at everything rationally without any preconceived notion should be the right thing to do, I guess.

    The stat could be incorrect to an extent because many cases of domestic violence are not reported here in India but that stat at least indicate certain realities about those developed countries where women are financially independent and choose their life partners.

    Don’t know what feminism is and wouldn’t bother to know.

    You write so well. Good that I am copying you 😀

    Like

    1. Trust you to advise your friends to stay at home and watch movies. I think you’d have told them to watch Jeetendra movies? 😀

      You are right. the numbers could be higher since abuse is not always reported and like Sangeeta says men are the victims in many cases. If we stopped being dazzled by western lifestyles we can see the sordid side of that society. Unfortunately we are taken in by hype and hoopla and want to ape everything they do. Marriage is an individual choice, and families are becoming sensitive to it. We do have cases of honour killing but they are not the norm all over the country. today in many families there are inter regional marriages and everyone is happy.

      Like

  41. Absolutely agree with the last para.

    While I was laughing loud at the MIL not being a woman, the later parts of the post got me with goosebumps. People think it’s only in India that sexual crimes occur and the other countries have white washed men, yes someone argues with me regarding this that Indian men are the creepiest and sexual crimes against women happen only in India. The numbers should be compared with the population too.

    Regarding marriages, I differ from you slightly, the decision to remain single should not be taken as an action against the institution, it’s a personal choice and one should marry only when one finds a partner. I would also disagree that most marital problems are sorted out by family members, as we have seen many families creating problems for the couple and I have myself counselled a couple to stay together where the problems were caused by the families (interestingly, both the families concerned) and no family members were doing any positive thing to bring the couple together. So the problems of people are unique and their solutions too are not generalised. Families don’t always help and on your blog I would admit that my family never ever came forward to support us when our daughter was critically ill and we needed some emotional support.(i can never ever say this on my own blog as I don’t blog anonymously). The reason for an unsupportive family in my case was that they felt tormented themselves and incapable of helping out. So all families are not supportive, whatever the reasons.

    And i agree absolutely with the reverse stereotyping concept…any stereotyping is bad. Even the stereotype that mothers are always great, families are always supportive and arranged marriages are always good for you. Same way, extreme individualism in the name of feminism, trying to reverse the patriarchy to establish matriarchy is as lopsided a concept. Much as the men are suffering too with patriarchy, women will keep suffering with matriarchy as well…our suffering only depends on our own capability to take any abuse. A woman, however conditioned to be submissive, can always decide for herself when the limits are crossed and we see many examples.

    All rapists and male abusers are not powered by patriarchy and all abused/raped women are not suppressed by patriarchy. Every crime has a different reason and should be solved differently.

    The marital abuse issue is not at all a gender issue i suppose. More of a power game.
    Many women keep abusing the husband emotionally, and physically too and the man cannot speak a word because it will be a matter of extreme shame for him. It’s a matter of pride going for a toss for the woman when she keeps on taking the abuse. I strongly believe in such cases one should not make it a gender issue, the abuser (in the marriage) is mostly sick (mentally) and needs a caring attitude most of the times, though it may sound very impractical but an abuser is mostly an insecure personality which can be healed by the partner if there is mutual love and respect at some level. And Yes, I believe one should not take abuse when the partner is irrational and there is no love and respect to each other and if the abuse is of violent type. I am speaking out of experience of counselling a few couples out of abuse.

    Families staying together is great as all members, old or young contribute to each other’s growth and play as cushioning support too. Extreme individualism is a byproduct of extreme materialistic thinking I guess and should not be glorified.

    Apologies for such a long comment. Could not hold myself 🙂

    Like

    1. Whoa! that was an exhaustive comment and can be a post by itself 🙂 We always tend to be blinded by the western lifestyle and don’t see the underside which is as bad as any third world country. Like you said, we think that Indian men are the creepiest and rapes are rampant due to patriarchy. Whereas crimes against women are mostly due to perverted and sick minds. I have not generalised about families solving problems. Just as there are families creating problems there are also families solving problems. One thing is that in a marriage, especially an arranged one, there is some accountability from the members of the family and the society too. As for marrying when you find a partner, Sangeeta, there are any number of men and women who are too shy to go and find someone by themselves and could do with some help. Do they never get to marry? also here the issue is not restricted to the urban woman, well aware and educated but to an entire country with women who are not so fortunate. One good thing is that even in the poorest of families, girls have begun exercising their right to reject a match if they don’t like him. Just think of the girl who rejects a boy with whom she is going around and suddenly finds that he is not what he said he was. She could end up with acid on her face. The risks are too many for girls who are not equipped with awareness about things around them. Just by watching movies and serials one can’t become adept at making judgements about people and take the risk of making one’s life with them.

      So agree with marital abuse being two sided and men unable to come out openly with their story. I had written a post about this at https://cybernag.in/2010/08/can-two-wrongs-make-a-right/ We can’t go 180 degrees and feel the problem has been solved when we would have only created a bigger problem of a different kind. The same thing might be the outcome of this reverse stereotyping too. A generation hence we will see the repercussions when it is too late. As you say too much individualism in the name of feminism is bad and reducing everything to a gender issue is also not healthy.

      But what you say about being sympathetic to the abuser is not easy or even practical to follow. That is where a family can support, if they are the supporting kind, that is. But a violent relationship has to be ended one way or the other. Thanks for the insights.

      And yes, MILs are not considered women, even if they don’t abort female foetuses and are loving. 😀 😀

      Like

      1. Oh yes. Shy people need help in finding a partner. I wanted to say that marriages out of choice should not be considered a threat to the culture. And yes, young girls need to be aware , not misguided by some foreign -ism. We all find our own -ism in life sooner or later and we should grow towards it, not be guided towards it.

        Regarding abuse, I wouldn’t say that a violent abuser deserves sympathy (or empathy for that matter) but if the abuse is of a silent type, restricting the partner from a free life, it can be helped out. Read this article on how someone who cannot control his/herself starts controlling others around.
        http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201204/willpower/people-who-cant-control-themselves

        MILs will always be an alien species. All others are just mothers 🙂

        Like

        1. What I meant to say is that one can’t just say, ‘off with marriage’ or ‘off with arranged marriage,’ since that would be disastrous in the extreme too. Today most parents take their daughters’ wishes into consideration before fixing a match — even in small towns. My maid’s daughter has refused several matches too and at 22 she is an old maid in their community 😀 So changes are happening and the insitution is undergoing changes. Like you say, patriarchy can’t be blamed for all ills. But it is the latest whipping boy and scapegoat and we all love scapegoats, don;t we?

          Thanks for the link. I will read it. And hey! I am an MIL too and from which angle do i look alien? 😀

          Like

          1. Finding a scapegoat is easier always. And who wants to take responsibility ? 🙂

            Are you motherly in reality and ‘in law’ only on paper or a lawful abuser in reality and mother only as a prefix? ha haha …
            I know my humor sucks 😦

            Like

          2. I would think that I am the first category. Maybe you should ask The Addendum to the family, as she calls herself 😀

            Like

  42. A very thoughtful post! Dumping age old institutions like marriage for live in relationships are only a temporal phenomena which is fraught with dangers as cited by you / statistics! Even I do not support an abusive relationship! Anyway in the world of instant gratification sometimes the overriding factors are many which younger generation understands better:)

    Like

    1. No one will support an abusive relationship, Rahul. But to say that a live in relationship is desirable and will solve the problems of women is naive in the extreme, given the reality in other societies. Instant gratification is fine up to a point, but after that it begins to pall and then gall.

      Like

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