We Need To Change The Way We Define Successful Women
A successful woman has it all, we are told, she is a super achiever, and an all-rounder, who aces work-life balance. The way society looks at women’s success is not meant to encourage us, but to approve of our achievements. Like the opposite gender, it is never enough to just be successful at work, or to be a scholar, or be famous. What good are these achievements if an Indian woman doesn’t uphold the customs and values that her society has bestowed on her. So according to our society, a woman is only successful when she excels in her field, all the while being a flag bearer of our culture and norms. A woman who may have found professional success, but doesn’t uphold cultural value, remains a failure for people.
- The parameters of success differ according to gender in our society.
- A woman’s professional success is only accepted when she also upholds social norms and rituals.
- Does no one realise how this burden of expectations discourages women?
- Or are these ifs and buts meant to do just that?
The rules of success are different for men and women. While men are encouraged to concentrate on their careers, women must do so while acing household chores and basically being ‘sanskari’.
Take shuttler PV Sindhu for instance. A twitter user pointed out at an unsettling juxtaposition of Sindhu’s two images in someone’s tweet. In one picture the BWF champion is seen posing with her gold medal in company of the Indian Prime Minister. In another she is seen wearing a saree, holding a Kalash over her head. “A successful women can do both with perfection,” read the tweet. But just why this mandate for a successful woman to be able to balance everything? Do we ever expect men to be ace their family and cultural duties while being successful at what they do? Does a man’s achievement lose any sheen if he isn’t traditional?
Sigh. So tired of definitions of "successful women". Something very depressing about the juxtaposition of these images. She's a world championship for God's sake..but she's only perfect if she can balance (pun fully intended) all aspects of being a woman – whatever that is! https://t.co/Dk6mL0PCcF
— Gopika Kaul (@gopika_kaul) August 29, 2019
It is as if it’s not enough that Sindhu just made history and brought pride and joy to the entire nation. Especially with married women, we have this compulsion to validate their success by highlighting how they are also domestic goddesses. They may be successful entrepreneurs, but did you know they maintain a tastefully done house? They cook three meals for their family and they also tend to all the needs of all their family members without fail. Does no one realise how this burden of expectations discourages women? Or are these ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ meant to do just that? To lay out the terms on which the society is willing to accept a woman’s success? To create more barriers in front of women to discourage them from chasing their dreams?
A hardworking woman shouldn’t have to worry about dirty laundry in her free time. She has every right to put her feet up and rest. To not feel like an underachiever despite her success, because she cannot ace the social norms laid in front of her.
We need to stop putting terms and conditions on women’s success, and bring the bar down a little, which gives them a leeway to not only take up a challenge but also take some time out for their own well-being. A hardworking woman shouldn’t have to worry about dirty laundry in her free time. She has every right to put her feet up and rest. To not feel like a failure despite her success, because she cannot ace the social norms laid in front of her. Else, women will continue to either drop out of workforce, or pay the cost of success with their well-being. So, let us just stop being judgemental and celebrate women’s success for all the hard work and dedication that they have put in to achieve it. Not because they also meet our expectations as ‘good’ girls and ideal women.
A change in gaze will encourage more women to take up challenges in various walks of life and chase success. But the question is, are we ready to let them be?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.