Why do you have to do a job that won’t give you the time to take care of your children and husband? This is what my mother said to me, annoyed at how my work keeps me too busy to do ‘enough’ household chores. “Do a government job as it is easy, comfortable and women-friendly. It won’t intervene in your life as a wife and mother.” Though now I am used to these question and remarks, why a woman who wants to do something different even have to face such questions?
If a woman wants to be a lawyer, she is told that no man will agree to marry her. If she wants to be a journalist and travel back and forth to cover stories, she is reminded that her future in-laws won’t approve of it and besides, who will take care of the children! “Aim for a ‘simple’ job,” she is casually advised, “that doesn’t require much effort and gives you time to take care of the house; after all a clean house is more important than your dreams.” The idea of “Lakshman Rekha” constricting a woman is so deeply rooted in the patriarchal society that any leap beyond it is always supervised and controlled. Today, if a woman is free enough to step out and gain an education, patriarchy controls her freedom not only by reminding her of her primary duties as a woman but also of her inferiority to men. Why her duty as a wife or a mother is considered as the primary aim of her life and while education and career become secondary? Why should patriarchy decide which career is appropriate for a woman?
The idea of “Lakshman Rekha” constricting a woman is so deeply rooted in the patriarchal society that any leap beyond it is always supervised and controlled.
In many Indian families, women are told that education is important but financial independence is not that necessary. It is always taken for granted that the husband’s salary will be enough to provide for the wife’s need. The idea that the homemaker bahus are more gullible than the working ones is still prevalent in many Indian families. Besides the working bahus are expected to shoulder household duties all on their own. Just because you earn doesn’t mean that you are exempted from cooking, cleaning, up, managing your house and caring for your family. It is known that in Indian marriages, the bride’s family has little to no freedom to question the demands and decisions of the groom’s families. Since getting their daughter is their number one priority, families often choose to ignore their stereotypical mindset, and instead groom their daughters beforehand to adjust.
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A”feminine job” is a legit term because patriarchy and sexism denigrate women as incapable of a career in STEM, commerce, army, sports and other fields that are traditionally masculine. They are thought to be suitable only for the comparatively ‘easier’ streams like home science, arts and others. It is because of these stereotypes that there are fewer women in STEM and fewer women aiming to build a career in arts and humanities as it is seen as a ‘just a degree for the sake of education’ after which they usually get married. There are many women who are excelling not only in STEM, entrepreneurship or sports but also acing careers in arts and humanities. But because of the stronghold of the patriarchy, their success is undermined as an aberrant or an exceptional privilege.
How long will women sacrifice their dreams just because it is not feminine enough or their in-laws won’t like it? Why can’t we aim towards changing the patriarchal structures rather than learning to adjust to it?
Harassment at workplaces or while out to work is one of the major reasons why families hesitate to allow their daughters to work. My mother’s major reason behind not letting me pursue journalism was the reported cases of women journalists being threatened and abused while field reporting. But are women responsible for their own harassment and rape? Why should women be the ones to sacrifice their dreams because rapists cannot be punished?
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How long will women sacrifice their dreams just because it is not feminine enough or their in-laws won’t like it? Why can’t we aim towards changing the patriarchal structures rather than learning to adjust to it? Let us begin by accepting that women can aim at and excel in any career options without the validation from the patriarchy whether or not she is on the right path.
Picture Credit: The Hindu
The views expressed are the author’s own.