What do women want in our society when it comes to marriage? Be it arranged or a love marriage, I think there are some basic parameters in every woman’s mind when it comes to what she wants from matrimony, or more specifically her partner. A man who is not abusive, physically, verbally or mentally, who is okay with his wife having a job (but isn’t willing to contribute much to childcare or household duties, is seen as good marriage material. If women expect basic human traits of courtesy and “good” behaviour among their husbands, aren’t they settling for less?
Aren’t women prone to overlooking sexist behaviour from their partner, because we are simply glad to not be at the extreme end of the rope? You have to pick dirty socks off the floor, the husband won’t even deposit his used tea-cup into the kitchen for washing, he may want to have nothing to do with the kid’s studies. But still, he gets the brownie points, not just from his wife, but from the society as well.
The problem is that the world that we live in tones down our expectations from the opposite gender early on. As fathers, brothers, friends and then later as husbands and sons, women judge worth and character of men through the lens of violence and abuse. There are women who have it worse, they have dads who won’t let them step out of the house unless they are wearing salwar kurta. They have brothers who keep a check on their movements everyday, and cannot tell protection apart from policing. The bar is set very low.
This bar needs to be lifted up. No man is obliging any woman a service by helping out in household chores or childcare. It is 2020, and no one deserves a round of applause for “letting” their wife work. A man doesn’t deserve a hat tip for not catcalling a woman on street, or not harassing a female colleague at workplace.
The problem with constantly applauding men in our lives for basic decency is that it lets them get away with a lot of everyday misogyny.
A brother who doesn’t police his sister is a good brother, even if he won’t lift a glass of water for himself or anyone else in the house. A father who lets his daughter study will be praised, even if he refuses to let her marry a boy from another cast. Infact such an act would be seen as backstabbing on a daughter’s part, since she has betrayed a father who invested in her education.
When you turn this argument on its head, it does appear that men as well in this country are settling for less, when it comes to marriage. The criteria fed to them by patriarchy are fair colour, expertise in cooking, knitting and willingness to rear children. Just as patriarchy wants women to prioritise a man’s paycheck and social stature while considering marriage prospects.
Women and men have so much to offer to each other’s growth in a relationship if only they have the desire to give and receive more. Marriage is a fractured institution that often fails those who devote their lives to it because the very criterias that it runs on are flawed and outdated.
We have to rethink what we want from a marriage and what we are willing to give into it if we want to be happy and content with it. Your ability to endure and social pressure to make it work may cause a marriage to last a lifetime. But then is a long marriage, always a good one?
The views expressed are the author’s own.