Opening WhatsApp the first thing in the morning is never advisable. Lord knows what travesty awaits you in form of garish good morning messages, forwarded texts long enough to turn your hair grey before you finish reading them, and the most deplorable of all, sexist commentaries guised as jokes. It is the latter kind that is responsible for giving me a headache the first thing in the morning today, for I committed the crime of scrolling through my texts before my morning cup of tea. And boy did I pay for it. This one cajoled husbands to swiftly send off their wives to their maternal homes, to ensure their festive budget didn’t go overboard. The punchline was to the effect of investing in train tickets to save the yearly bonus. But then this wasn’t the first joke I’ve heard that projected women, or rather wives as needy, demanding and dissatisfied.
- Women are stereotyped as needy and demanding in our society.
- But are all the demands women raise unreasonable and irrelevant?
- Does this stereotyping keep men from taking needs of their partners seriously?
- Is this social attitude the reason for our collective dismissive attitude towards women's agenda?
We harass or worn out husbands to romance us, or our cave dwelling partners to listen to us. We talk too much, we cry too much, we vent too much. How dare we?
The stereotyping of women as needy is nothing new. We see it in stories, advertisements and films, at family gatherings and even at parks, often in the form of backslapping man to man jokes. That girlfriend who will rip off her man of cash, demanding that they eat at an expensive restaurant, or that he recharges her data pack. That wife who taunts her husband for not earning enough, or demands that he buy her gold or diamond jewellery. The demands aren’t just monetary though, women are touted to be emotionally “needy” as well. We harass our worn-out husbands to romance us, or our cave-dwelling partners to listen to us. We talk too much, we cry too much, we vent too much. And we demand that they endure. How dare we?
Such stereotyping clubs all women’s demands, reasonable or otherwise, as the latter, giving the society an excuse to dismiss us whenever we raise our voice. It is no wonder then, that we feel so unheard, so voiceless. Aren’t there woman who pay for their own drinks and dinner on a date? Who shower their husbands with gifts and pay the bills without a fuss too? Who contributes to their household savings, by either earning or managing the money at hand smartly? Is it too much to expect that your partner listens to your workspace issues? Moreover, is everything that women “complain” about unnecessary, and irrelevant?
Do we see women who demand time from their partners as needy, only because our patriarchal society gives precedence to family over a husband-wife relationship? Or because women are expected to be giving and sacrificial in nature?
We do not realise the grave harm that such seemingly innocuous stereotyping causes. How it conditions men to see relationships with the opposite gender as burdensome and depleting. Don’t we hear men complain about how their wife “demands” things for them? Don’t people judge women in question without considering the validity of their demands? Would a woman have to ask for money from her husband if she didn’t have to face resistance from society or her family to earn her own paycheck? Do we see women who demand time from their partners as needy, only because our patriarchal society gives precedence to familial bond over that between a husband and wife? Or because women are expected to be giving and sacrificial in nature?
There are so many questions which sexist forwarded jokes don't shed light on. Their relevance will only dawn on us when we learn to look beyond the punchline and put up a resistance instead of mindlessly forwarding these stereotypes.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.