It is a truth universally un-acknowledged, that a single woman also desires possession of a good fortune, and must not always be in want of a husband. — That is perhaps what Jane Austen might have wanted to say, but couldn’t, given the restrictions placed on women during her time. The fight for liberation and empowerment has undoubtedly come a long way since. But that a woman can wish for something other than a good marriage is still a hard idea for this society to digest. Even today, women are pestered about their marriage plans more than they are ever asked about their professional ambitions. And we don’t even need to look that far to search for examples of the same.
Indian Household and Its Obsession with Women’s Marriage
For girls growing up in Indian households, remarks such as sasuraal jaogi toh aise baat karogi (will you talk to your in-laws like this?), or aise behave karogi to acha pati kabhi nahi milega (if you behave like that, you’ll never find a good husband) are very common to hear. One’d think that a girl’s breeding of becoming a good wife starts as soon as she comes out of her mother’s womb! Girls are seen as would-be daughters-in-law before they are even viewed as the family’s own blood. After all, which one of us didn't have those annoying relatives who'd appear in family gatherings to tell you that it's time for you to "settle down"? Or those neighborhood aunties who will constantly be after your life to give unsolicited advice on how to rope a man?
Everybody in an Indian household has their own sets of dreams about a girl’s future, specifically about her marriage (because what else can a girl’s future be about, right?) But what if the girl herself doesn’t share any of those dreams? What if her dreams are made of mountain treks, campfires, and large bungalows where she lives happily with her dogs? Or of dapper coats, diplomatic meetings and powerful positions? Why can’t a woman be taught to dream about all those things, as much as she is told to fantasize about her wedding? And why must a woman who dares to dream of all those things, be made to feel like she is committing a crime by choosing them over a life of domesticity?
To Marry or Not to Marry- That Should Be The Question
Every woman should be given opportunities to discover life on her own terms. And after having all options at her disposal, if she eventually decides that in marriage lies her calling, then she should go ahead and make that choice with her head held high. There shouldn't be any stigmas attached to any of the choices that she makes, whether it's one of getting married, or that of remaining single. It reminds me of a powerful scene from Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women: After Jo becomes sad that her elder sister Meg chooses to get married, Meg gives Jo an important life lesson. She asks Jo to learn to support every woman who chooses her own happiness, even if that path may not be what Jo approves of – “Just because my dreams are different than yours, it doesn't mean they're unimportant.” And that's exactly how it should be like.
Every woman has a right to dream about her life, and live it accordingly. She has every right to become financially independent, and then either choose or decline to marry. Whether she dreams of having her own house, it’s her decision; whether she chooses to share that house with somebody, again, it’s solely her decision. And absolutely nobody should have any authority to tell her otherwise.
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.