“She will not obey”, “She will break the family”, “She will make the son her slave” or “She will torture her in-laws” assumptions like these about future bahus are very common in Indian families. In fact, in my family, my parents have already made plans about how they will not expect their bahu to be ‘good’ and stay away from her. But is this villainisation of bahus in Indian society right? Will any bahu be accepted wholeheartedly by a family if there is so much prejudice? Where do these assumptions stem from?
Whenever a man gets married, his family builds certain expectations for the daughter-in-law (DIL). And these expectations are rooted in the patriarchal definition of a bahu. A bahu should be devoted to kitchen and housework, she should respect her in-laws and their demands, she should keep her husband happy, she should rarely step out of the house, she should prioritise her marital family over parental family, she should not interfere in financial matters of the house, she should not make any decision for the family and she should bear the chirag of the family- usually a male child.
Stop Villainising Daughters-In-law
But in today’s world where women have understood the need of being independent and found a voice for themselves, the expectations automatically get challenged. Today, DILs are earning, prioritising their needs, voicing their opinions, and demanding their rights. This changed version of women is certainly an eyesore for patriarchal families. These families have idealised the patriarchal definition of bahu and hence revolt against women who are different. Consequently, the families villainise the present generation of women for lacking the qualities of a ‘good’ bahu.
But dear society, bahus aren’t characters in your play they won’t speak as per your script! Why does a bahu have to be subservient to be good?
Men in our society have the freedom to go astray because ladke toh aise hi hote hai. But women have to walk on the tight rope of patriarchal morality, no matter how worn out and old it is, to be accepted as a respectable members of family or society. But how long will this inequality rule our lives? When will patriarchy stop being the rule of our lives?
Kindness is the key
Dear society, before villainising bahus for being defiant, determined to their goal and daunting, think that would you consider men wrong for the same behaviour? If not, then stop right there and ask why such different rules for men and women?
I am not saying that every bahu who goes against family is right. Cases have been reported about DILs being abusive towards marital families. But being prejudiced against a woman who has a mammoth task of adjusting to a new household is unfair to her. Daughters today are given equal opportunities as sons in terms of their education and opportunities. Be kind. Let us make her feel welcome in the new home with her strengths and her flaws. Once she feels at home she will emerge as a binding force for the entire family.
The views expressed are the author’s own.