She was in her late twenties, way past the acceptable age for a prospective bride, as per her family. We were yet to complete our studies, but most girls in my class were already on the marriage market, being “just the right age”, including myself. This was a time in my life when marriage felt like the most obvious next step, since dentistry was a career that complimented a young married woman, as much as it did a single one. My friend did not feel this way. But when her parents informed her (not asked, mind you) that they had begun the groom hunt for her, she complied, because she knew that they were really stressed about finding a suitable groom for her “at this age”. No one asked her whether she wanted to get married at all in the first place. Neither did I, and I regret that. Most of us thought we were doing our duty as her friends when we shrugged our shoulders and told her to accept this turn of events and be happy.
- If your friend is being pressurized into getting married, and you encourage them to accept their fate, does it count as support?
- Won’t you be acting as an agent of patriarchy if you offer your support to just help them accept the situation?
- The pressure to get married on women is due to many reasons, advancing age, social scrutiny, a good match to name a few.
- Why is there no consideration of a woman’s will to get married?
In smaller cities and towns, even today, women are expected to oblige their parents by consenting to get married as per parental wishes.
When I sat down to write this piece, I felt many would feel conflicted about what I meant by “support” here. Isn’t cajoling your friend to make peace with their fate not supporting as well? Don’t good friends pacify each other in tough times? I think this is exactly what we all do, and then pat our backs for being such good supportive friends. But aren’t we acting as a catalyst to patriarchy? We are pushing our friends towards an unwanted life long bond, forged out of convenience and fear of running out of options after a certain age, rather than love.
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There are many reasons why women in India have to give in to parental pressure to get married. Advancing age, a good prospect that won’t wait for long, no money or parental desire to let you pursue higher education, unmarried sisters next in line or the social pressure to get rid of the burden at the soonest. In smaller cities and towns, even today, women are expected to oblige their parents by consenting to get married as per their wishes. You may be educated, independent and working, but when your parents tell you it is time, you wind you your old life and start a new one with a groom of their choice. If you are lucky, you get to have a say in this choice. If you are luckier, your parents will ask you to fetch a boy for yourself, saying that if you fail to do so by such and such date, then they’ll take the matters in their own hands.
Most modern-day parents raising educated, independent daughters will comply with their wishes and prioritise their happiness over social pressure.
So where does our support to our friend stuck in such situations fit in here? Most of us are a product of the very patriarchal system that leads to the coercion of women into marriages. But our definition of support here needs to shift from offering sympathy, or help them come to terms with their fate, but help them take a firm stand. To gently put it out to their families that they do not want to get married just yet. All your friend may need is a little confidence and backing. Perhaps a plan to have this conversation.
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The same conversation took place in my household when my parents started a discussion on how it was time for my younger sister to start thinking about getting married. Some acquaintances had begun pushing them, advising that it was time to get her married. My sister said she wasn’t ready yet, I backed her, and the topic was closed. Fortunately for us, we come from a rather progressive family. But I think most modern-day parents raising educated, independent daughters will comply with their wishes and prioritise their happiness over social pressure. While I agree that there are many battles on the field of patriarchy and arranged marriages that we simply cannot win yet, because families are too oppressive, one has to give it a try. And so, as a friend the correct way to support a friend facing the prospect of an unwanted alliance, is to encourage them to have this conversation.
Pic credits: glamour.com
The views expressed are the author’s own.