During the festive season, Indian women get deified year after year, being equated to the goddesses who bestow us with intelligence, protect us and usher in wealth and prosperity. It is the latter avatar which will be revered in coming few days, with Diwali just being around the corner. Girls and women will be hailed has incarnations of goddess Laxmi, who brings good luck to a household. And yet, women are dropping out of the workforce in India at an alarming rate, which keeps getting worse with each passing year. Which leaves one wondering, if she is the usher of prosperity, then why not let her earn? Why the stigma that women shouldn’t prioritise career and paycheck over household duties? Why is our deification seasonal and as per patriarchal convenience?
- Women are seen as the embodiment of goddess Laxmi in Indian households.
- Yet only the labour force participation of women in the country is at a record low today.
- Is woman a goddess we want to revere only in her hegemonised form?
- Why is the society still reluctant to women stepping out to earn their paychecks?
If she is the usher of prosperity, then why not let her earn? Why the stigma that women shouldn’t prioritise career and paycheck over household duties?
According to the 2018 Annual Status of Education Report, 13.5 percent of girls between the ages 15-16 and were out of school in the said year, which is something to cheer about. Similarly, another report by All India Survey Of Higher Education says that the enrollement of women for higher education has gone up by 1,350 percent. Which means our girls have better and more access to avenues of education than they did before. However, a National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report has revealed that India’s Female Labour Force Participation Rate today stands at a mere 24 percent. This means that while girls and women are increasingly completing school and getting higher education, somehow they do not end up in the workforce for long term.
Despite being revered as suspicious, the year-round stigma remains that women belong in homes. The goddess needs to build on the wealth that a man brings into the household by saving or smart management of household expenses. Bottom line being, she is only a goddess in her domesticated form, performing unpaid labour and managing the home. We would rather not have her step out to work and bring in wealth from outside, because who will take care of all the chores then? The patriarchal society still hasn’t warmed up to the idea of conditioning boys to help out at home.
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The result is that duties remain deeply divided by gender in our homes, and both men and women have to bear the brunt of it. Women endure diminished standing in a home since the work they put in has no monetary value to it. While men bear the stress of being primary earners and thus responsible for fulfilling every financial need of their household. Even when women do step out to work, they are expected to do so while performing all the household chores on their own. Thus, many women simply wear out and drop out of the labour force.
Equating your wife or daughter to goddess Laxmi is of no use if you stop her from acting out on the virtues that the goddess represents. Let her give you a helping hand to secure your wealth.
Unless women are freed from the gendered norms that make them solely accountable for domestic chores and child care, they won’t be able to sustain careers which do justice to their skill-set and earn them solid paychecks. By making careers a secondary priority for women, households are losing a chance at securer financial status. Two sets of hands are always better than one, and that goes for any task, in or outside of home.
So, equating your wife or daughter to goddess Laxmi is of no use if you stop her from acting out on the virtues that the goddess represents. Let her give you a helping hand to secure your wealth. Let her put her education and skills to use, not just as per your requirement, but as per her talent. All it will take from your end to appease this goddess of prosperity is a helping hand at the chores at home and appreciation and support for what all she does. The prosperity will surely find its way to every home where a woman goes to work with her head held high and a strong support system to back her up.
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.