He leads, she follows. That’s the general template that every relationship in India is expected to follow. Love or arranged, marriages or romance, society doesn’t approve of relationships where women call the shots. Why is it difficult for people to digest the fact that women can lead in relationships, giving it a definite direction? Why must she wait for her man to propose marriage? Why must she face criticism for demanding that he move cities or switch jobs as per her convenience? Or if it is she who is the primary earner among the two, and takes decisions on how to save, where to invest and when? Moreover, why do we assume that men are insecure to let women lead their relationship?
- Men are expected to lead in relationships, and women to follow.
- Relationships where women call the shots still make us uncomfortable.
- Who gets to make the final call on defining decisions in a relationship shouldn't depend on gender.
- Our expectations to be the leading one pressurise men into doing so even if they don't want to.
Why is it difficult for people to digest the fact that women can lead in relationships, giving it a definite direction?
Patriarchy trains us to see men as leaders in relationships. It is they who must take the first step to initiate conversation or even intimacy. A man’s word is the final one in most Indian households, but no one asks him whether he wants to be the one making the call. Do we not realise how putting this onus on men is unfair to them as well? It keeps women from voicing their opinions, it devalues their contribution to a household or relationship, and further cements their position as the secondary gender in the society. But it isn’t better for men. Imagine facing the pressure of making choices and calling shots in every little and big thing in your life, day in day out. Imagine being expected to lead, whether you like it or not.
We simply assume that men love to be the decision-makers in all households, but is it gender which must give a person the agency to be the assertive one among a couple? Shouldn't both partners have an equal say and thus equal agency in a relationship? However, we all know that in each relationship one partner is more assertive than another. While one may possess clarity regarding the couple’s future or current life, the other may be simply happy to take the cue and follow. Also, when it comes to decision like who moves or switches jobs after marriage, must such decisions be based on gender or rational?
We simply assume that men love to be the decision-makers in all households, but is it gender which must give a person the agency to be the assertive one among a couple?
Well earning and independent women are often labelled as self-centred and dominating because they expected their husbands to adjust according to their situation and not vise versa. Perhaps they cannot find a job in the city their partners lives in, or perhaps the position being offered to them isn’t lucrative. Should women give up on good opportunities simply because of their gender? Because the society won’t let men be the compromising ones, as it threatens the very patriarchal foundations on which it rests?
Times are changing and the women's drive to reclaim their agency isn't going to slow down in future. A lot of men have no issues letting their partners be the decision-makers. However, they do have to endure social shaming for such a liberal attitude. But if we turn a deaf ear to such discriminatory criticism consistently, perhaps one day the society will change its outlook.
Image Credit: Bustle
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.