Single Working Women & The Constant Struggle To Justify Their Choices
It is not easy being a single working woman in a society where norms would rather have you bound to the kitchen. You are unmarried and you step out of the house every day to earn your moolah. You are single-handedly breaking stereotypes, so naturally, you aren’t going to get away with it. For single working women in our country, every day is a struggle to live out their choices, and justify them to people who become roadblocks to their success and happiness.
- Single working women face a lot of criticism and questioning both in and outside of their workplaces.
- These women have to justify their choices to the world every single day.
- Our patriarchal upbringing makes us see them as an unruly entity who needs to be shown their place.
Sadly, we still live in a society where merit and talent come second to bias and conditioning.
Genderlog, a crowd-sourced hub on gender, recently did a Twitter thread on the perils of single working women in India. Many women recounted stories of unrelenting questioning they have been subjected to due to their status. How even when applying for a job, the recruiters unabashedly prod them on their unmarried status, and how they have to justify their lifestyle and position both inside and outside the workspace every single day.
While we rightfully recognise how women at workplaces, esp single women, are constantly belittled, undermined and dismissed, a related question is- in our society, what kind of women have the choice of being single?
— Genderlog (@genderlogindia) March 22, 2019
Even for women with those privileges, rebelling against the unrelenting, stifling pressure from parents and society to “setlte down” isn’t an easy task, esp when you have been socialised to believe that your parents’ "happiness" & reputation matter more than your own.
— Genderlog (@genderlogindia) March 22, 2019
What do these stories tell us? That we still remain a largely orthodox country which cannot come to terms with women breaking norms and refusing to live by stereotypes. That a woman who refuses to tie the knot, having kids and holds a well-paying job, still intimidates people. She is an unruly, “bad” woman who must either be pestered into submission or declared an outcast for simply making these choices.
We still remain a largely orthodox country which cannot come to terms with women breaking norms and refusing to live by stereotypes.
These barriers are in addition to the discrimination and outright sexism displayed by recruiters, management, and peers at workplace against all women. The most common example is the dreaded interview question- "do you plan to get married/ pregnant anytime soon?"
— Genderlog (@genderlogindia) March 21, 2019
The patriarchal conditioning, we all are subjected to, since childhood, tells us that women do not belong to the world that lies outside the front door of their homes. If any woman dares to toe the line, she must have a good reason to do so. She must justify her place in the outside world every single day. It is not enough for her to be good, she must be exceptional. She must be a brilliant student if she wants to attain higher education. She must be exceptionally talented to be “allowed” to work. That’s not it, she must be extraordinarily hardworking to get that promotion at work. She must have a phenomenal career to justify why she is stalling getting married.
Have faced this in many interviews. After they notice that you are of the "marriageable" age & yet not married, you can see the evident tension in the recruiters face. As if they equate marriage & pregnancy with some disability!
— Suranjana Das (@suranjana_d) March 21, 2019
There is simply no place for an average working woman in India, because if you aren’t exceptional, you aren’t worth being given a by-pass from following the set course of life, which ideally all Indian girl should follow. Thus, you are better off at home, rearing kids, fussing over your husband and doing household chores. You must convince yourself that this is the level of fulfilment you deserve because of your gender.
Marriage has been made into this target every woman must achieve to find acceptance in the society.
The main problem when it comes to bias against single working women at workplaces is that employers are aware of the social pressure these women face. They see talented women drop out of workforce year after year, giving in to the pressure to settle down. But is it a woman’s fault really? Should they be held accountable here and face discrimination because their kind is a species which rarely manages to outrun the predator that is Indian matrimony?
While employers shouldn’t take marital status into account while hiring women, what truly needs to change is the gender dynamics in this country. Marriage has been made into this target every woman must achieve to find acceptance in the society. But it often costs women, their career, which is why many women are now running away from it. So either leave these women alone to live their lives in peace, or bring in some formidable changes in the way a marriage functions in most Indian households.
Picture Source: India Today
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.