The demand for Graduate but gharelu bahu is increasing in the marriage market. Groom’s families are now hunting for brides who are educated enough to spell their name and understand modern trends but gharelu enough to not go out and earn.
You might ask what is the proof behind this claim. Well…hasn’t it often been the case or, let me rephrase, the stereotype that the more educated and empowered the man is the more attracted he is to an educated yet homely wife or “beauty with brains”.
Why the obsession with graduate but gharelu bahu?
To make the picture clearer for you let me draw a scene from Anurag Basu’s Chokher Bali from the 2015 Netflix Series Stories by Rabindranath Tagore. In this story, a well-educated man first marries a beautiful but uneducated woman. But as soon as he comes across a widow who is educated and beautiful, he is enticed by what patriarchy calls “beauty with brains”. He leaves his former wife to spend life with the other. The point is, the idea of “beauty with brains” has become popular in the marriage market as educated men refuse to marry women who are rural and uneducated. However, the group of these “educated” men r refrain from marrying a woman who challenges them on grounds of office or salary.
Men today seek wives who know well how to help their mothers in the kitchen and then cope up with their husband’s definition of modernity in terms of dressing, speaking and enticing. Bollywood movies often use the trope of a modern husband hating his uneducated and not-so-modern wife for wearing a saree to a cocktail party or a sameej salwar to the beaches of Goa. To be more precise, graduate but gharelu bahu is at-home modern wife and a traditional bahu of the society. This idea of wrapping daughters-in-law in double standards of modernity and traditionality is nothing but a raga of patriarchy that apparently begins with a tone symbolic of empowerment which only fades away in few seconds
Graduated bahu? Is it a good sign?
It is a known fact that in India, many parents are reluctant to educate their daughters. They would rather prefer saving the money to pay for her dowry and marriage. And even if some girls enrol in schools, they drop out because of child marriage or early marriage.
But is it good that marriage markets are now demanding brides who are graduate or at least 12th pass? Is it a signal towards a better future that if marriage will require education, more and more parents will encourage their women to study? Unfortunately, the reality is far from similar.
As per data, the enrollment of girls in higher education has significantly increased from 39 per cent to 46 per cent from 2007 to 2014. More women are enrolling themselves for undergraduate courses too. However, fewer women go for professional courses like Engineering, PhDs etc. According to a 2019 study, around 42 per cent of women were enrolled in PhDs.
Moreover, according to data by World Bank their workforce participation has also dwindled from 30.27 in 1990 to 20.8 in 2019. It is also important to note here that even though parents enrol women in government-run colleges/schools, their attendance is lower than that of men as they consider education only as an asset to get them married. Most of these girls are forced to stay back to learn housework which is supposedly more important for her to get married to a good family.
If women do not formally seek education, how can they participate in the workforce? If their education is only an asset for marriage, can they use it to raise their voice during times of crisis?
If women enrol in educational institutes just to earn a certificate without attending the classes or marry on the basis of fake degrees, can they ever walk on the path of empowerment that education ensures?
Even if some parents encourage their daughters to study and earn degrees, the in-laws who hunt for “beauty with brains” do not allow them to work. And this is another major reason for the absence of women in the workforce.
The only solution to this issue is to increase the awareness of women’s education and empowerment among bride’s and groom’s families. A daughter’s family needs to understand that education is not just a piece of adornment or a sign of marriageability for women. But a weapon to empower themselves and others in their circle. Rather than allowing women a figurative education, encourage them to pursue higher degrees, match shoulders with men on grounds of job and leadership.
As far as the groom’s family is concerned, it is high time for them to get over the stereotype that only women can run the kitchen and housework. That only women are supposed to be “gharelu” and men should go out and earn. Teach your sons to cook and clean too so that they can match shoulders with women who know how to survive on their own- both earning and cleaning by themselves.
Moreover, if you expect your educated sons to have a well-paid job then why do you restrict your educated bahus from going out to work? Rules must be the same for both genders or there should be no rules at all.
Dear society please leave behind the idea of “beauty with brains, a sexism clad compliment, that only undermines a woman’s ability to be educated and empowered. Amidst the stereotype that educated bahus are rude and hence less demanded In marriage markets, it is a good sign that families recognise the existence of women’s education. But it will be empowering for women only when education acts as a medium of freedom and empowerment and not an illusion to trap them inside a mirror.
Views expressed are the author’s own.