Anushka Sharma marriage comment has triggered an interesting debate among women. When Sharma was asked that how does her life look like after getting married, she replied, “The same! What more do I need to do to appear “married”? Cook and do the dishes?” Her fitting reply exposes society’s obsession with a woman’s looks and identity and roles after getting married.
It’s assumed rights to define what is a valid identity of a married woman. But do we expect men to look married? Or to change their identity, looks and behaviour after marriage? Why must a woman look or behave in a certain way to be labelled as married?
Parting of the hair filled with dark red sindoor, feet dipped into a plate of aalta, hands submerged in the basin filled dirty dishes, neck pulled down by the weight of mangalsutra and the kohl-rimmed eyelid lowered in respect of in-laws and husband- this is how a “married” woman should look like for a patriarchal society. In our society, even before a woman is taught about being independent, they are trained to be a good bride, bahu and wife. It is made utterly important for a woman to subscribe to the rules and regulations of her in-laws’ and husband’s to become a promising bahu and wife. As it is not the husband who needs to walk with a board claiming ownership of body, life and choices.
But doesn’t these expectations narrow down the aspects of a woman’s identity? After marriage, must a woman’s life revolve around housework, sanskars and shringaar? Must she give up all her ambitions, dreams, hobbies that defined her identity before marriage? Is marriage about companionship or about redefining the identity, but only women’s?
It is because of this pressure to wear the narrowly defined identity of married women, many women end up losing their jobs and education. Reports suggest that even though women enrolled in educational institutes and job markets, most of them dropped out at the time of or after marriage. Moreover, some women had to face trolls and court cases for not subscribing to society’s norms.
Remember when Guwahati high court claimed that not wearing sindoor and shakha is a woman’s signal that she doesn’t want to be married. Remember when Anushka Sharma’s photo was morphed by trollers to add a streak of sindoor in the parting of her hair? These instances and more show that society, including the makers and protectors of law, find it reasonable for a woman to appear married by changing themselves as per rules in order to prove her devotion to her marriage and its legitimacy.
These conceptions are not only biased, since men are not expected to look married, but also a breach in a woman’s freedom to define themselves. It is just not right for the dictators of patriarchy to define what it means to be married. Marriage certainly involves changes but they should be chosen by the women themselves. Moreover, just because a woman chooses to get married doesn’t mean she chooses to put her agency and identity up for sale. She still owns them along with how she looks, behaves and what she gives importance to. It is imperative for society to change its rigidity towards married woman’s identity and make it an open ground. This will allow more women to be happy in marriage, ambitious in marriage and outspoken in marriage. We need to understand that the absence of these are the primary reasons why women end up in unhappy marriages.