When Clare Boothe Luce said that a woman’s best protection is a little money of her own, every docile mother who endured indignities and suppression in her marriage must have agreed to it. Earlier, most of the women did not have the agency to break away from the shackles of oppressive matrimony. For many, the reason behind suffering in silence was unfortunately the lack of financial independence. Nevertheless, times are changing and women won’t tolerate subordination any longer as most of them are now financially independent.
In an episode of Sisterhood With Shaili, renowned actor Neena Gupta talked about the importance of financial independence in a woman’s life and how money gives women the much needed liberty to leave bad marriages.
Why do you think we need to address women empowerment issues?
I think a woman’s position in society is changing a little bit; little means very little. Women have started to earn, they are getting educated. They don’t get married right after their education, as they want to build their career and be independent. However, the society is not ready to see women who are earning, as when they start earning, they become different. They don’t take any shit from anybody. And such a woman doesn’t fit the society’s mould of ‘how a woman ought to be’.
They work so hard, and on top of that, things are already so difficult for them owing to the challenges posed by the society. That is why we need to address all these issues. When I made Saans or any other project, there was always a subtle, feminist message. In fact, I don’t feel like working on any project if there isn’t any such undercurrents.
When will our society stop expecting women to live up to stereotypes?
It’s going to take a long time; it may take many centuries to change as these stereotypes are so deep rooted in our society. Nonetheless, when more and more women start to work and earn, it will definitely change. It will take time, maybe way more time than we expected, but it will. Till then, young girls who are working right now, and the succeeding generations will have to face these stereotypes.
It’s 2021 and divorce is still not normalised. Why?
This is again the same thing. Where will the woman go after divorce? Where was the question of divorce? What will they do after divorce? He will get married the next day, she will take the children and do what? She is not earning.
Hence, everything is related to finance.
Career or Marriage: What should be a woman’s priority?
Itne bade sagar mein, samundar mein, abhi boond giri hai. Abhi boond ko samundar banne mein bahut waqt lagega.
Secondly, I am saying that marriage is futile and you should only think about your career. Salman Khan once said, “Kaam toh abhi hain, kal hoga, parso shayad nahi hoga, but family will always be there.”
No doubt family is very important, so I am not suggesting that you should not have a family and just focus on work. The point is to find balance between family and career.
Why do you think women are constantly abused in relationships?
Again, finance is the prime reason. Most of the women get abused, but they can’t leave their husbands or any other male abuser of her family; they are financially dependent on them.
Neena Gupta on Divorce – How money changes everything
The rest of the women who get abused in relationships are the ones who don’t want their marriages to break for the sake of their children. They feel that the children will have to suffer from the consequences of a broken family. So, many women suffer to be able to have a family for their children.
What are your thoughts on many women suffering in silence owing to domestic violence?
Mere bolne se kuch nahi hoga; mere interview dene se kuch nahi hoga. A woman has to act against such abuse. Many women are reluctant to take action as they see that their husbands are nice to them the very next day after the episode of abuse. He will apologise and promise not to hit again. So, you hope that things will get better and you start making justifications for the earlier abuse. Gussa aa gaya hoga. Gusse mein ho jata hain kabhi kabhi.
People fight, every couple fights. However, to hit your partner is off-limits. Par main keh rahi hoon ki yeh sab bolne se kuch nahi hota hain. Yeh sab karna padta hain. Aur aap yeh tabhi kar paoge jab aapke pass paise ho.
People call you a ‘strong woman’. Do you agree?
When they call me a strong women, I accept that because when I think about how far I have come, I really feel that I am a strong woman. There are many women like me who are not known, but they are as or even stronger than I am. I also feel that women are stronger anyway, in the sense that they usually suffer more and can still move on.
Why do you think age is considered as a barrier for women?
Women can’t have a child at 60, but men can. That’s the only difference and that’s why everything happens. If a woman could also conceive so late, then you see, it wouldn’t have been like this.
What is the one thing that you remind yourself everyday?
I have had a long career. In fact, I still work at the age of 60. I have only told myself that theek hain kaam nahi milega. Koi baat nahi, jo chhota mota mil raha hain woh kar loongi. Nevertheless, I will continue to work hard. Even if I might not get what I want, but I will definitely get something.
What’s your final message to all the ladies out there?
There’s no harm in marrying. There is no need to be against marriage, but what is important is that they should put their foot down for what they want because they are not secondary citizens. They are as important as men. They should have self-esteem and should know their worth.