Marilyn French, the feminist writer says that half the women are a contented lot not because they are happy but because they don’t know that better things exist. I am not quoting verbatim, but this is more or less the gist of what she has said. Well, what about the other half of the women then? By inference they should be aware of what they can have in life and so can make the right choices, shouldn’t they?
Let’s first take the young women who come from educated and well-to-do backgrounds, who have the freedom to shape their future, in terms of a profession, or pursuit of their interests. And they form a sizeable number today. And yet, how many of these girls actually exercise their choice in these matters? More pertinently, how many of them are serious and committed about achieving something in life?
The media depiction of a glamorous married life, with the latest cars, foreign holidays and a handsome hunk in tow no doubt puts stars into the eyes of a lot of girls, often influencing their decisions. Here I am reminded of one of Purba’s early posts where she talks about real and reel women. They enter marriage – whether arranged or selected by themselves – only to find that reality is not what they thought it would be. Sometimes dreams do come true too and the women settle down to a life of comfort and luxury with little motivation for personal advancement.
If that is the case with girls who have nothing stopping them from reaching for the sky except their own limited ambitions, what can one say about the average girls from lower economic strata who are so often denied any kind of choice, strapped as they are by traditions and financial constraints?
This is the typical scenario for a young, average Indian woman: she has her life and role cut out for her. She gets a mandatory school/college education as the case may be before getting married to the boy chosen by her elders, or in some cases to someone she has herself chosen. The latter option often doesn’t change anything for her; if anything it only makes her life more difficult since the couple has broken the rules and gone against the family, probably on both sides. And after marriage, she conforms to the stereotypes of a daughter-in-law, wife, mother and grandmother over her lifetime.
Come to think of it, acceptance is easy; by toeing the line, you don’t have to be responsible for your actions; it doesn’t involve struggle; it gets you the approval of family and society for being so compliant. It is only when you break the mould that the struggle starts. Why go to all that trouble when you can lie back and take what destiny (or family and society) has in store for you? Then at least you have someone else to blame for your misfortunes and get sympathy in the bargain! This acceptance also gives them the stoicism to take everything that they are dealt by the society as karma.
I have nothing against girls making marriage their life’s goal. But is it the only choice available for a woman in today’s world? Why can’t they aspire for something more? Many of these girls are talented and academically brilliant, but the urge to do something is simply missing. Standing up for themselves is either something that has not crossed their minds or if it has, is too much of an effort and too intimidating a prospect.
Interestingly, more and more parents, especially the mothers, are encouraging their daughters to break free of the shackles of tradition and are willing to support them in their efforts. Their numbers might be small, but is growing. These are the ones who never had a chance to do what they had dreamt of doing and therefore want to give their daughters that chance. All they want is for the girls to take the initiative to stand up for themselves. But do these girls do that?
Many of them don’t even want to think! Their stock reply to any question about what they want in life is, “I will complete my ‘education’ (degree) and get married. I would like to have a career, but my parents want me to get married.”
My ears perk up at the word ‘career’ and I say, “Great! What career would you like to have?”
It doesn’t take long for me to realise that they have not given it any thought at all! For them the word ‘career’, is synonymous with a job and so it is just another routine as cooking and cleaning. But I wouldn’t knock even a mundane job as it at least gives their personalities another dimension than just the one they have within the four walls of their home.
I am not saying that it is easy in repressive societies and even in normal traditional ones like the ones most girls and women live in; nor am I suggesting that they take any radical route to break free. All I am saying is that they learn to think for themselves; get out of the complacency that gives them a false sense of security and begin believing in themselves. This is not the preserve of women who have had a liberal upbringing or those who only come from well-to-do and educated backgrounds.
Let us for a moment talk of women from the lower economic strata of society – mostly the unlettered ones. While we lived in Jabalpur, I had this young maid whose husband and his family wanted them to relocate to the village and help in their farm. Not only she, but her sisters, who were also married to men from the same village refused to go. I asked her why, when farming was an equally important and lucrative profession. ‘There are no schools for Krishna, Di!’ she remonstrated immediately.
The girls told their husbands in no uncertain terms that the latter could go back to the village and farming if they wanted to, but they themselves would stay on in the city and educated their children! The men had to stay back. They could get their way not just because they were firm, but also because they were earning members! Incidentally, they belong to a community that doesn’t ‘allow’ them to work in others’ homes and except my maid who has passed her 10th Boards, the others are illiterate.
Economic independence makes all the difference to a woman’s life. Even when they are forced to part with all their earning, they still know their own worth in monetary terms. It is as simple as that!
Now, if these girls can put forth their demands and get their way, it makes it doubly depressing when I hear girls from better financial and social backgrounds dither about their future or wail that they are confused about what they want to do in life. Freedom is not going to be offered on a platter. The woman has to chart her own course and take the freedoms she needs for her personal growth. It might sometimes come at a price, but don’t all valuable things in the world come at a price? As long as it contributes to positive growth and doesn’t descend to settling scores, it is perfectly fine.
Let us look at an unlikely example of a state that purportedly is one with the worst gender ratios and discrimination in the country. The state harvested more than one third of the medals the country won in the CWG held in 2010, many of them by women in such unconventional sports like wrestling. Think for a moment: If these girls had not got the encouragement of their families, how could they have done it?
More recently, there was this story about a Rajasthan athlete Sneha Jain, who was encouraged and supported to return to the tracks and garner laurels by her – hold your breath – her mother-in-law! Read her story here. Rajasthan incidentally is another state with a poor record in gender equality.
To add my own story here: A generation ago, my mother-in-law, bless her soul, had supported me financially to study journalism, which had been my dream and which I couldn’t realise before I had got married.
And if girls from the villages of Haryana can achieve so much, why can’t their urban counterparts in the towns and metros do the same, given the support they are getting from their families?
What I would like the young women to do is think for themselves. A thinking person has a choice in life. She doesn’t necessarily have to become a professional or a career woman. Or as Roshni has pointed out in her comment, need to even hold a job. It actually puts all homemakers on the same level, which is unfair to so many of them who have taken conscious decisions not to work. It is just that she does what she wants and on her terms. This requires a sense of self worth, more than anything else It is just that she does what she wants and on her terms. This requires a sense of self worth, not cockiness born of an unfair sense of entitlement as Dagny has pointed out in her comment.
Come to think of it, how many of our professional women today are willingly taking breaks from their lucrative and satisfying career to raise their children? Working flexi-hours, working from home, doing something on one’s own – they are making choices. Others opt out of the rat-race altogether.
What is important is that they have control over their own lives because they are willing to think and take decisions affecting their lives themselves. Blanket blame on patriarchy for all ills besetting women doesn’t wash anymore.
I exhort all young women on the threshold of life to remember this:
When there is a spark inside you, it will burst forth into a flame one day, no matter your social standing or circumstances. The idea is to light that spark, stoke it and not let it get extinguished.
Conversely, there is also this story about the bird swamped by shit?
It goes like this: A bird on its migratory trail became so weak with cold that it fell on a field unable to fly any further. A cow ambling along dropped its dung on the hapless bird. Too weak to move, the bird lay under the heap, finding it surprisingly warm and cozy. Yes, it was a pile of shit, but what the hell! It was a warm pile of shit, wasn’t it?
Need I say anymore?
I finally got around to reading it, Zephyr. What a fabulous post! I am so grateful to my parents, father especially, who always made us aspire to be as well educated as we could be and then both my parents who encouraged us in our work. I think I naturally gravitated to finding a partner who was supportive of my professional work. In fact, my heart had swelled with happiness, when he had specifically mentioned how he loved my work. And that paid off when I had to take breaks or try out other options for work. Today, I feel so fulfilled and happy that I can do what I enjoy doing at my flexibility. I get respected and recognized for it and also that I make my money. Like you pointed out, outside work adds another dimension to your personality. A working mother also adds another dimension to their children’s lives. And like you, I was lucky to have a mother-in-law who was herself working who wholeheartedly supported me in my choices. I completely get your point and sometimes I feel despair at this entitlement which some women display. Even my mother who never wanted to work was a postgraduate in those days. One good thing about my family is the emphasis of education for all. I can never thank my education enough for broadening my mind, for boosting my self esteem, for shaping me as a person and for giving me the gumption to experiment and carve my own path and mindset. Thank you for this lovely post!
You know Rachna, no matter how liberated or empowered a woman, she needs to be encouraged and supported by her family. The lucky ones get it but the unfortunate among those lucky ones fail to utilise it thus wasting opportunities. I would call these women more unfortunate because they have it in their grasp, yet don’t take it for reasons ranging from sloth and indifference to a false sense of entitlement. We are the lucky ones and we don’t count the small sacrifices and adjustments in our lives to achieve what we want, right?
A woman still needs a lot of support at home to handle a career and home front. Many of us have worked hard for that support building and nurturing relationships and putting in little sacrifices as you mentioned. Some women just don’t put in enough effort due to inertia or perhaps upsetting the status quo which could be contentious. If you are determined you can move mountains. If it really matters to you, you can do it despite constraints. But some of us just give up so easily, sadly. Today there are so many avenues, so many things we could try if not a full-time job. Often it’s only you who is holding you back.
One of the first things my mother dinned into my head was this– You ALWAYS need your own money! Period.
Only financial autonomy can create a way for true independence and freedom. I’ve always hated the concept of one human being compelling another to do something they don’t want to do. There are times when the ‘choices’ of another make things difficult for you. As when for years my ex chose not to support financially. Yet, I did not go the legal way and compel him. I don’t believe in any compulsions. I did, however, warn him that there would be consequences to what he was doing. Though I never ever spoke against him to the kids, they saw him being unconcerned with their future. As a result he has very limited influence over them. That was a natural consequence of what he did. Despite my warning though, he chose not to change his decision.
Legally, I had the right to demand that he pay for child support. I did not insist upon that right. To me, they are as much my kids as his. As much my responsibility as his. And so I did what I could. And there is a VAST difference between how the kids regard him and me.
As you said here. many girls today have no intention of exerting themselves. Frankly, I find that pretty dismaying. The brand of feminism floating around nowadays has given them an unfair sense of entitlement. Their fall back plan is to play victim and call upon that sense of entitlement whenever something goes wrong… and even when it doesn’t.
It is sad to see people put their (alleged) limitations in a handsome frame and hang it on the wall- creating a perpetual alibi for their lack of gumption. I don’t know who they think they are fooling.
Totally loved this. As you knew I would. ❤
First of all, a big hug to your for sharing your story here. It is one of the most positive reactions to an insufferable action and then being the pillar of support for the kids! They are very perceptive and can see right through any indifference even if not direct hostility. My respect for you deepened when I read that you haven’t spoken against your ex to the kids despite his behaviour. I can think of any number of spouses who try to influnece the children. But you being you, did what you have done with dignity and deep affection.
I have added your point about entitlement to the post and tagged you too! And totally loved the imagery of women putting their limitations in a frame to hang on the wall. I was grinning while reading it. And yes, I knew you’d love it 🙂
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I’m honored Zephyr! Thank you for making me a part of this very thought provoking post.
Oh, you are most welcome dear! After all you have talked about a very important point and it had to become part of the post. And since I always believe in crediting the one who has said something and linking back, I did. No big deal, really 🙂
I didn’t know you had a degree in Journalism…..you never told me???
Not a degree, just a diploma 🙂 And did you ever ask me, eh???
True. A conscious choice is so very different from the choices which many girls make, just because they never bothered to explore their true potential. As you said, blaming it on patriarchy is passe for most urban women of today, so the fact that somebody did not even exert to explore their true potential, simply because it’s too much bother, is quite unfortunate. I am aware of so many girls, as you said, for whom, marriage and having kids is the end all. When one sees it as a goal, rather that a turn of events in their life, is when it starts becoming a problem. That’s precisely one reason, why “homemakers” themselves come in all shades and hues and it’s only when one probes further, does one manage to see the real individual within. So, I would say that it’s unfortunate that many “homemakers” get colored with the same brush of these women who dont take the effort to make something of their lives.
Whew! I am glad you agree that patriarchy bashing is turning irrelevant at least in the urban scenario! I hate it when the socially better off women complain of this — which usually has to do with lifestyle changes which they are getting anyway if they are firm enough. You know you have filled in some gaps in my post beautifully, as when you say that even the thinking and assertive homemakers get bunched with those who just pull along in life without much thought or effort towards unmasking their potential in not just the job market, but as an individual of worth. Thanks for the insight, Asha.
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I understand where you’re coming from but many of the women in my family have not worked, not earned a paisa, yet, command respect in their family and their outer circle simply via their personalities. On the other hand, I know women who earn and yet play second fiddle in their household. I’m not sure why stay-at-home moms should not be valued – after all, doesn’t she have a very important role in the family?
I hope I’m not talking at cross purposes with you as I usually agree with your views!
You are not talking at cross purposes at all. But I think you missed two paras where I have talked about being in control of their lives working or not. I don’t think I have undervalued a homemaker at all. I have merely said that when a woman is so repressed at home, working outside can give her another dimension to her personality even if she has to give up all her earnings!
I had also wanted to say that most women prefer taking the easy way out because striking a path of their own, or standing up for themselves might invite social censure and they want to avoid it. Tulika has said it better than me in her comment!
These are the two paras I told you about:
“What I would like the young women to do is think for themselves. A thinking person has a choice in life. She doesn’t necessarily have to become a professional or a career woman. It is just that she does what she wants and on her terms. How many of our professional women today are willingly taking breaks from their lucrative and satisfying career to raise their children? Working flexi-hours, working from home, doing something on one’s own – they are making choices. Others opt out of the rat-race altogether.
What is important is that they have control over their own lives because they are willing to think and take decisions affecting their lives themselves. Blanket blame on patriarchy for all ills besetting women doesn’t wash anymore.”
Could I please request you to give the post a once over, Roshni?
And Roshni! Cyber Nag is not a blog where you have to agree with me all the time. I love another perspective, a sort of filling in the gaps, so to speak. So feel free to voice your views 🙂
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I know that! 🙂 Which is why I commented. Yes, I’ll definitely read your post again more carefully!
You know, I was presumptuous and I am so sorry. You have highlighted a point which I had only implied and instead of thanking you, I told you to read the post properly 😦 I am updating the post to include your point. After all, that is what my comment section is all about, for my readers to point out things left out or not presented properly. Thanks once again dear!
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I want to clarify that I don’t think you’re presumptuous at all! I’m sure you did convey the point in your original post but I was guilty of skimming! 😀 But, I’m glad to help out!! 🙂
Thanks for helping out, Roshni 😀 I always look for help from my readers to speak their minds and tell me if I have indeed missed something!
You said it Zephyr. I find I think a lot like you. Each time you made an argument and I had a counter thought I found it addressed in the next bit that you wrote. That said, the fact remains that many girls do not want to exercise either their brains or their rights. It’s just easier to go with the flow, to do what they’re expected to do, to be lazy and/or scared and yet earn the label of a ‘good girl’. Oh they’ll be reasonably happy too but until they exercise their will they will have no idea that greater happiness awaits them.
You are so right and have said what I haven’t said : follow the rules and conform and get that good girl tag as bonus 🙂 I am glad to know that we think alike. Actually if we remove the lens of patriarchy, things will become a lot clearer. There indeed is a lot of social conditioning and repressive customs, but nothing that can’t be surmounted if one is determined and focused. And it is not always about holding a job either, though it is an important consideration for a woman’s confidence. Not to say that homemakers don’t have confidence or are not worth it, but the thinking ones, the ones who know their minds know how to hold their own and get their due from society without letting it devalue them. Thanks for your perceptive comment, Tulika.
Well said. We’ve been taught from school that the first and foremost thing we must worry about is to make ourselves self relient and independent (with special emphasis for the girls). And we’ve grown up with the same thought. However, when it comes to choosing a career, I find guys and girls equally confused about it. But yes, more girls do need to think for themselves rather than following a foreign mind.
It is wonderful that you have been taught that it is important to plan for one’s future and you are doing it too! As for confusion, that is bound to be there for people of both sexes, especially with so many new avenues having opened up on the career front. It is better to be confused after considering the options than being confounded by the prospect itself! It is important to think, whether it is a man or a woman — about one’s life, choices and path to choose. Thanks for the feedback, Dashy!
What else is left to say, indeed 🙂
You’ve, quite literally, said it all.
I can only wish and hope that every girl and woman reads this, and remembers to keep that spark alive. And of course, I also hope that every man reads it too – so they know how important it is for them to be supportive too.
Great post, as usual, Zephyr. One that makes us think beyond what society makes us think is the norm.
You know, I have this habit of thinking from so many angles that my husband complains that I don’t take a stand!! When I write a point, I think of the possible reactions to it and come up with a response to that via another point and so on. I am not sure it is a good way to write, but if there are gaps, my discerning readers fill them up. I am so happy to hear you say that it makes one think beyond the accepted norms. That is the sole intention. And the more the girls think, they will come up with hundred ways to achieve what they want. I have great faith in their resourcefulness.
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Very beautifully you have written this post, time has changed now boys and girls both are concerned about their education and career, parents also support them.
In every field girls are doing well, but after marriage girl needs family support, and if they don’t get support from in law’s and husband, their life becomes miserably, Swati is very lucky, you and Vineet always encourage her.
Thank you, Suman. Yes, by and large boys and girls are concerned about their education and career, but most are confused, their only aim being able to earn a lot of money. That is why our children are different 🙂 As for lucky, I am lucky to have two highly accomplished daughters who know their mind and are also thinking individuals. I wouldn’t have written this post if I were not doing what I am preaching 😀
The winds of change are blowing, albeit slowly! I look forward to the day when women empowerment is a reality in true sense! Beautiful writing,Zephyr.
Even when things are changing, we are still harping on all the negative things and completely ignoring the good and positive changes happening around us especially with regards to women. Which is why I love sharing posts from Better India! Thanks for the appreciation, Rahul!
A wonderfully balanced post, Zephyr, with examples from many backgrounds and contexts. And the way you end is superb!
You are so right in emphasising the value of economic independence. It is often the beginning point for many women in their continuous journey of self-liberation in many ways – outer and inner. Like your mother-in-law, my grandmother (paternal) also encouraged my mother to complete her graduation after marriage. And then fully supported and encouraged her when she wanted to start teaching. This was in early 1960s. (I consider my Dadi as my feminist teacher – not just for this one story but several others.)
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Thanks for the generous words of appreciation, Beloo. This post is vastly different from what I had written six years ago. But the last para still hold true 😦
More even than financial independence is the need for mobility. But that is in another post which will come up soon — another reworked old post 🙂 I am so tired of listening to excuses and the listing of scapegoats for the plight of women. Agreed that it is very bad overall, but even when it is not, there is not much effort on the part of girls and women to make a life for themselves. If anything they want to break out of family and relationships and take the radical route. What they don’t understand is that only those who have the courage can stand up and achieve something when they take this route. The rest would flounder there too, for want of commitment and conviction. Oh, am I complicating things too much? So sorry if I am.
We had the best feminists in earlier generations, women who quietly got their way, which often was the right way, with the much maligned patriarchs meekly falling in line 🙂
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True that women have been more circumscribed by social conditions, Zephry, but I do not see it much different with men, either. I mean, career for a man is also a lot to do with what he wants to possess and not what he wants to do – the latter being decided mainly on the basis of the former. Choices? WHO really even knows what he/she would choose to do?
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I am working on the men’s straitjacketing too, Suresh. They are even worse off than the women if you ask me. You are also right about no one knowing what one would choose to do in life. But the broad consensus today is on glamour AND money, whereas earlier it had been status AND money. Whatever gives these in the shortest possible time, with the least effort is the preferred choice, of course 🙂
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I think the mindsets need to be changed here which makes it very obvious for Male members to earn and struggle and accept the female members to sit at home doing nothing.
I feel bad when there is mismatch in the ratio- whether it was my Engineering or my job- which reflects the bad picture.
I know a Lady who complained about their low financial status throughout her life but never offered a helping hand to her husband who struggles very hard to make both ends meet.
I loved the ending Mam.
You know Upasna, there is nothing stopping women from taking any branch of engineering today or even earlier. But somehow very few women opted for branches like mechanical and chemical engineering. Then it came to electronics and computers and women took them up in large numbers. To my mind, there is something called aptitude and liking which is why some branches are not take up by women. There is nothing sexist about women not taking up engineering in larger numbers. It has become a fashion to blame everything on patriarchy and gender bias these days and this is one of them. Instead of looking for scapegoats and reasons why they are being kept down, girls should look for ways to assert themselves, if they truly want to do that. I keep speaking to girls and young women all the time. They seem to have only vague ideas about what they want to do in life leave alone plan to get there. To be fair, it is the same with boys and young men too, but they don’t blame anyone for that! It is a pity because women are resourceful, intelligent and smart. Why are they afraid to take the step to become someone, get an identity? If at all they want to agitate, it is about the right to pub and stay out late partying, or to wear clothes that are more suited for fashion shows than a crowded street.
The same women want patriarchy to be able to stay home and shop and splurge, as the woman you have written about. Sad, really and it makes me mad too at times! Thanks for reading and commenting, Upasna!
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I just wish every girl reads this. Sometimes I feel like shaking them up out of their self-induced walls. If only they will aim for the stars and make themselves heard, we will have a much better world.
We have become too used to blaming patriarchy for all ills and to my mind, even that has contributed to girls taking the easy way out of things. If they can’t do something, why, it is all due patriarchy, never mind that they come from an educated and liberal background that doesn’t stop them from doing what they want to in life. As I said, it is hard to go against the tide because it involves a lot of hard work and social stigma too at times. And yet we have so many less educated and even socially repressed women taking the hard path to glory and emancipation.
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One of your better posts I would say. And that too a one that got me thinking.
“I have known some women who were in the most abusive of relationships and yet who managed to retain their creativity, sense of humour and self worth.”
I think these qualities never die out. They are just suppressed and emerge out in bits whenever there is an opportunity.
About the village girls achieving, I would say the mentality of such parents who have opened up, would be much more open than those in urban geographies who have exposure and yet prefer to be in their shells. Its the mindset and openness to learning than geography IMHO.
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Hey Sneha, I thought this was your first visit here and I see that you have read my earlier posts too! 🙂
You are so right about the villagers who have started encouraging their daughters are more open than their urban and more aware counterparts who choose to remain reticent for the sake of the society. What the girls, even those who are repressed should understand is that their thoughts, their spirit and their souls are their own and no one can take it away from them.
btw, I confess to ignorance, but what is IMHO” 😛
I believe what you have pointed out is human nature. When you have an easy way out, why take the difficult uncertain path. It has got nothing to do with men or women. You change the deal for men and say that there is no need for them to support their families, even they will do the same. Women who have the so called spark, get out of the mould and do it anyway, whether that have to or not.
I have three cousin sisters and they represent what you have mentioned very well. One of them is married and academically very brilliant. She doesn’t care about household chores and stuff. She already has 2 Masters and is now pursuing her Phd. The other one is not that good academically but she has the spark and she has made a good life for herself by working hard and slogging it out. The last one is exactly the type you mentioned here. She is not that brilliant academically and doesn’t have the spark either. She is just waiting for the days to go by and get married someday.
That’s it, three people who grew up in the same environment by turned up very differently.
Welcome here, Sid. Having the spark means what you have said — doing it because one wants to. I understand about each individual being different. But in the case you have mentioned it is because of differences in the personalities of the girls. But what I have written is about the general apathy of girls, mostly because they are not either able to think beyond the ordinary or because they are afraid to. Thankfully the older generation is goading them to do it.
We’re well advanced on the female career path over here, with stay-at-home Moms often derided. But there is a new phenomenon just appearing, which is making many think. There are over a million women here now in their 50s and feeling very alone, wondering whether it was worth it. We seem to go from one extreme to the other. Society has forgotten the importance of balance, I think.
What you have said is perfectly true. Society always believes that coming a full circle with things reversed is the solution to any problem. Working women were a relatively late phenomenon in India and therefore the young women of today have seen both sides of the issue and therefore are making intelligent choices. Hopefully we might not face the situation being faced in UK since as I pointed out, working women are not in the majority still.
Thank you for mentioning me in your post :))
Couldn’t agree with you more when you say “acceptance is easy; by toeing the line, you don’t have to be responsible for your actions; it doesn’t involve struggle”.
But girls have to realize that only when they are financially independent, they are truly empowered to walk out of unpleasant situations in life.
True, but to become financially independent, they have to equip themselves to earn, don’t they? Why just walk out, even to have their say in any situation, they need to be confident of themselves enough to stand up and be counted. By taking the easy way out, they are only playing into the hands of those who are exploiting them.
Now the girls and their parents are more liberal , parents are encouraging their daughters to excel in the field they like. If the recent medal tally in common wealth game is any indication, one can proudly say that yes, girls/women have arrived.
That was one optimistic comment. 🙂 Girls have indeed arrived but they are also intent on taking life easy and falling in line with age old traditions and constraints so that they don’t have to struggle. The change has to come from within.
I really liked the way this post was written!
In a way, I think the end goal is clear: to ensure women are empowered and aren’t “under-employed” due to social or cultural constraints. We also know that different families are at different levels of this progress, adding more to the confusion.
Finding a solution is a difficult problem. I’ve always believed that education is the key (so that you know what you’re missing, as you said!), but we can expect changes to occur in decades, not years. In today’s competitive world, we need to move fast!
Great blog here!
Welcome here Kartikay and many thanks for the comment. You have so rightly said that families are at different levels of evolution. Social changes always takes time, and this time the change is coming in the older generation to let their girls bloom to their full potential. And this is better than the other way round, since the transition is smooth. Though I hate competition, i agree with you here, that we have to move fast. 🙂
Perhaps the best example I cn give here is that of my sister. Disclaimer: This typically fits the Gujarati culture majorly. The example fitting other cultures from India and abroad is purely coincidental and unintentional.
Parents nowadays have the idea that having an educated daughter-in-law will elevate the family status but an educated+working one will bring it down. What male cow-crap.
I once took a phone call from a prospective mother-in-law (PMIL) for my sister, a lecturer in an engineering college. After the usual introductions, the actual interrogation began:
PMIL: So, what has your sister studied? Me: BE Electronics. She’s an engineer.
PMIL: Is she working somewhere? Me: Yeah, she’s a lecturer for an engg. college.
PMIL: So… she must be quite career-oriented, right? Me: (Thinking: what… duh???) Um… yeah….
PMIL: Oh… ok. Actually, I’m searching for a bride for my son; he’s an engineer. I want an engineer wife for him, but I don’t want a career oriented girl. Me: Ok. (And I banged down the phone.)
My sister’s never taken her family aspects lightly. She’s always known that she will have to run her own household, and is ready to let go of her career for that. But if she can handle both, and she sucessfully has, she’ll not sit at home to pander to her parents-in-law.
Fortunately for my family, such backwardness has never been a problem. My grandmother was a schoolteacher, she retired about the time I was born. In fact, my grandparents’ was a love marriage. Yeah, in the early 1940’s. We grew up with a comparatively post-modern thought culture in the family. My family stood by my sister when she ended her first marriage due to career, family and other issues. She’s moved on since, got herself a Master’s, got promoted more than once, and is getting married again next month.
I’ve seen sense enter the rest of our extended family as well. If girls in my generation have been held back at home by familial pressure, they atleast are not passing it on to their daughters and daughters-in-law. And yes, they’ve made a career out of their life. So much so that I can call them ‘homemakers’ in the true sense, not just as a modern politically correct term for ‘housewife’. And I agree with you, some are pushing their daughters ahead, enabling them to fulfil the dreams for all generations – the grandmother, the mother, and the child.
@Zephyr… My writing is not of your level, seriously. I cannot even imagine doing a guest blog here. Thanks for the invite, though.
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Your family is just like many of them today — supportive, understanding and encouraging. Like you said, your sister would give up a career if she feels it is warranted and on her terms. That’s what I mean by keeping the spark alive. When we are able to take so many changes in our lives and lifestyle, we somehow lag behind when it comes to issues pertaining to girls but I am gratified that it is changing now. It is for the girls themselves to make the most of the things they are now getting in all aspects and reach for the sky. And I hope the time comes soon, since like Kartikay says, ‘we need to move fast.’
And Grond, this is not a literary blog nor is it highly intellectual in content. It is just a space for us to give words to our thoughts on various issues. And since you are following it for sometime now, you have a fair idea of the kind of things I blog about. And, you are highly underestimating your writing skills. You have definite views and you have a way of expressing them. My invitation is open. You are welcome to take it any time.
I loved the way you ended this piece, so apt!
And I am appalled that girls still think only in terms of getting married and ‘settling’ down. Not that there is anything wrong in it, but it makes me wonder if the aspirations are based on what they see around them and in the media? When I was growing up, I was quite sure that I wanted to be a career woman, and I did have a successful career. I did give it all up – but I did it because it worked for us – but in no way has it snuffed out a spark in me. As you say, I do what I do on my own terms. And hopefully will teach my daughter the same. I would want her to decide what she wants to do and aim high and do her best, just as my parents taught me to.
Welcome here Smitha and thanks for the comment. As you say there is nothing wrong in opting to settle down after marriage, but it should be of one’s choice and not just the end of everything in the girl’s life. After all, everyone can’t become a creative homemaker and sometimes an outlet for one’s creativity and talent even academic is necessary for a woman to find fulfilment. And yes, the girls are all too glamour struck by marriage. I am appalled at the extent they go to spend most extravagantly on their wedding, courtesy their parents, of course!