#Opinion

Dear Michelle Obama, I Disagree. It Matters How Much Money We Make

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The former First Lady, Michelle Obama, famously said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make; It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” But I disagree with Michelle Obama. She is not the first person to advise against running behind money. Even our grandparents and parents have often told us that “paisa sab kuch nahi hota”.

Money is an important barometer of success. And women, more than anyone, need to be encourage to talk more, earn more, seek more money in different spheres and stages of their lives. Can we not condition women to think money isn’t a big factor? It cannot be ignored that to be successful, independent and self-sustained in today’s world, you need money; your bank balance matters as much as your CV. More so, if you are a woman striving to earn a life of dignity amidst sexist criticism.

Women need money to have freedom and independence

We live in a society where women are considered as a burden on their families or paraya dhan. Some families are even reluctant to pay for their education and rather invest it in dowry and marriage. While others expect their daughters to not be “too educated” or earn money because that might affect their possibility of getting married. Yes, some parents or husbands are ready to pay all the bills for women. But often, that financial dependence and freedom come with conditions and expectations that will never allow a woman to live on her own terms.

Now for an ambitious woman, it becomes imperative to start earning money as soon as possible to pay for her education, needs and live a life that she wants. She will have to earn enough to be seen as capable to support her parents and husband after marriage. And choosing to be single gives more reasons for a woman to be financially independent. Money will add power to her social status and open up the opportunities which were initially closed for women. 

So for women, financial independence and money are not just for paying bills; but to break stereotypes, demand equality, respect and freedom that men have by birth.

In that case, how can we not worry about how much money we make? If the bank balance is not enough to pay the rent, buy food, medicines and clothes, how can we sustain on our own? If we don’t earn as much as men do or even more, how can our voice be heard in the male-dominated society? Because if women aren’t able to earn enough, society will be quick to blame their gender and render them as dependent subjects of the financially capable men.

Women need more money than men for basic needs

Even if a woman chooses to be financially dependent on her husband, she needs enough money to fulfil her needs, invest and save for future requirements. In fact, every woman, whether she is earning or not, needs enough money to save and invest in health insurance and retirement plans and make their future secure. Many studies have proved that the need for individual health insurance and retirement plans is more for women than men.

Another very important reason why women need money is the gender-based pricing of products. It is more costly to live as a woman than a man. A research revealed that women’s care products are priced more than those of men. Of course, gendered pricing is a reflection of the world’s sexism. Sanitary pads, basic T-shirts and a renthouse with proper safety (because women are more unsafe) demands more money than what men have to pay for a basic living. 

But until the world gets rid of its sexism that makes women’s life hard and costly, we have to survive here on our own without compromising with our basic needs. So yes it will matter how much money we have in our wallets.

Yes success should bring a change, but should pay the bills too

I do partly agree with Michelle Obama because successful people do have the responsibility to bring the change that the world needs. Through success in life, a woman can set a role model for every other woman who wants to dream and excel. She can be the harbinger of change in her family and society that will begin valuing women and their independence. Obama herself is one such successful and inspiring role model for women all around the world.

But dear Obama, we can’t ignore the importance of money and financial independence for women empowerment. Sure, earning money should not cost a woman’s mental peace, health and love for the close ones. This might be a reminder to change the choices or maybe take a break but even that needs money because living won’t stop, bills won’t stop.

Views expressed are the author’s own.