Ever have to go to a gathering in your colony, while your husband lounges away at home? At every function in my society, I have observed that there are more women in attendance, with their children in tow, than there are men. Especially when the event is of the kind which involves recreational activities such as dance competitions during Navratri, or singing /antakshari event during Ganpati puja. Men usually sneak in towards the end of such events, either huddling together in a corner with like-minded souls or desperately searching for their better halves and children. So is it easier for a man to be a social recluse than it is for a woman? Or have women brought it upon themselves? Or does our society play a certain role here, giving men an easier way out of social gathering they may be reluctant to attend?
- Women have a tougher time wriggling out of social engagements than men.
- Somehow it is acceptable for men to be absent from Ganpati celebrations or Navratri festivities.
- But when women refuse to socialise, they are met with criticism and a cold shoulder.
- It is women who are tougher on other women. Is it because we have been conditioned to be flagbearers of cultural values?
Have women brought it upon themselves? Or does our society play a certain role here, giving men an easier way out of social gathering they may be reluctant to attend?
When it comes to the pressure to socialise, I have a bigger grudge against women than anyone else involved in this picture. Men perhaps don’t have similar expectations as women have from each other. They are okay to not meet with friends or acquaintances for months and be cool with that. Amidst women though, it raises quite a few eyebrows when you politely decline to be a part of the colony kitty or show little interest in festivities and events. Being a recluse, married to another, the stark difference in reaction to our absence from functions is an eye-opener.
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If one’s husband has been a no-show at most events held in the vicinity, his absence is not just assumed it is understood. He has work to do, he must be tired, he just came back from the office, all these excuses are met with an empathetic nod. I might as well tell people that he is at home watching a cricket match and I would be bestowed with that nod again. On the other hand, I have seen women who used to be warm once, suddenly turn icy and formal once I cut back on my socialising on a regular basis. I have work, and while I do so from home, I manage other household chores as well. However, the responsibility to show up with my kid for a gathering falls on either me or my mother-in-law (mostly) and my absence is duly marked and discussed. I have been taunted, shamed, criticised for not showing up social gatherings, ironically by women of my age group the most.
Must you taunt someone who is warm to you on every occasion that you cross paths, but doesn’t show up at society’s Dandiya night?
There are a lot of social factors which are at play here. Women are considered primary caregivers in society. They are also the bearers of customs and culture in every household. Society looks at them when it comes to preserving its way of life. This means that the duty to observe all rituals that are particular to a household falls largely on women. It is they who also ensure that these customs and practices are passed down to the next generations. Which is why we see more mothers at social gatherings than we see fathers. Women have internalised these social expectations and norms, as a result of which they find it an anomaly when another woman refuses to be a part of gatherings or festivities, they are involved in?
This isn’t about whether it is better to be culturally enthusiastic or not, but about the alienation of those who are not on the same page as you. Must you taunt someone who is warm to you on every occasion that you cross paths, but doesn’t show up at society’s Dandiya night?
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Women need to learn to cut each other some slack. We are all different from each other, leading contrasting lives. And no matter what we do, each one of us has the right to live life on our own terms. It is okay to be a working mom or a stay-at-home wife. It is okay to be religious or agnostic. Similarly, it is okay to want to hang out with other women all the time, or barely socialise. Let’s not judge each other because there are plenty around us who already do so.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.