Every girl in our society is brought up to be adjusting by nature, an expert at adapting herself as per any situation. Afterall, she’ll get married one day and this quality to be able to change her way of life and even her personality, in the name of marital adjustments, will then come in handy. Even today, women are expected to mould themselves as per the requirements of their new household, because the latter doesn’t approve of her identity. She must change the way she dresses, walks, speaks and eats as per their liking. This happens across urban and rural households, even in families who pride themselves for their modern outlook. Subtle or stark, this policing of women’s existence happens and they often end erasing their previous identity, to become a new person that is approved by their new family.
- Women are expected to change themselves after marriage.
- They must change anything that their new family doesn’t like about them.
- Even something as spontaneous and normal as laughter is subjective to intense scrutiny.
- Why do people feel entitled to moulding women as per their liking in our society?
Subtle or stark, the demand this policing of women’s existence happens and they often end erasing their previous identity, to become a new person that is approved by their new family.
A woman recently posted a tweet in which she revealed how a newly married friend of hers has been asked to change the way she laughs. She wrote, “A friend of mine got married recently and her father-in-law has told her to change her laugh because women are not supposed to ‘laugh like that.’ Laugh like what? Like they forgot they were a lesser human and not allowed even the freedom to laugh without being policed.”
a friend of mine got married recently & her father in law has told her to change her laugh because women are not supposed to ‘laugh like that.’ laugh like what? like they forgot they were a lesser human & not allowed even the freedom to laugh without being policed
— Mehar Khursheed (@curlistani) November 5, 2019
One is not advocating ill-manners or rude behaviour among women, but just why do Indian families feel so entitled to moulding women? Why must a woman change herself to fit in after marriage? Why is something as spontaneous and ordinary as laughter prone to stigmatisation for women in our country? Don’t laugh loudly, you are too high pitched, why are you so expressive when you talk…the policing is unending. The worst part is that we endure this policing from the minute we are old enough to be coached to be well-mannered. A girl should sit with her legs crossed, she must never talk back, she must always wear “decent” clothes. But turns out that this schooling isn’t enough and the entire cycle repeats itself soon after a woman gets married.
Women’s agency is taken away from them since childhood, by labelling them “paraya dhan” or the one who belongs to others. She is an object being safeguarded for her future husband.
Now she must adapt herself to the ways of her new household, even if that means compromising on her happiness and identity. In some homes, she must cover her head, in others, she is told to speak softly, or change the way she sits. This is yet another proof of how women’s agency is taken away from them since childhood, by labelling them “paraya dhan” or the one who belongs to others. She is an object being safeguarded for her future husband. Later on she is someone’s wife, daughter-in-law or representative of a household. What about her individual identity? Every living breathing person has the right to freedom, then why do we not grant this basic right to women in our households?
Boundations and adjustments in a marriage are two separate things and one can’t be passed of as another.
Will the roof of your house fall down if a daughter-in-law laughs too loudly, or a wife dresses or lives as per her liking and not yours? But we have normalised policing of women to such an extent that any woman who challenges these norms after marriage earns a bad reputation. It is her in-laws or husband who are seen as victims, who were duped into bringing home a stubborn ill-mannered girl. She refuses to laugh as per our liking today, heaven knows what she’ll do tomorrow.
Boundations and adjustments in a marriage are two separate things and it is high time our society understood the difference and how the former leads to unhappy and unfulfilling marriages which do not bode well for either partner.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.