Working women in our society are seen as those going against the tide, subverting the norm that their kind must stay at home and raise kids. Women are often discouraged from holding a job as their families feel it would speak poorly of their reputation. No one cares about a woman’s desire to be independent. ‘Aurtein majboori me hi kaam karti hain, tumko kaam karne ki jarurat hi kya hai?’ career-oriented women are asked.
In most families, women have to ask for the ‘permission’ of the male members of their family to even contemplate the idea of having a career. This permission culture creates a huge barrier in the manner that a very important aspect of a woman’s life is still navigated by men’s will and whim. Also, it reinforces the idea that women are not capable of taking decisions for themselves, hampering their confidence.
Dilemma Of Indian Working Women
There is a stigma attached to the idea of working women in our society. People believe that women should be ‘allowed’ to work only when there is some sort of economic hardship in the family, otherwise they should stay home. Here there are two important things to notice: First is that our society perpetuates the idea that a woman should not be the primary breadwinner and the second is the notion that if a woman is working willingly despite no ‘financial constraint’ she is challenging the authority of other earning members of the family, and guess what, all of them are men.
Suggested Reading: Working Women vs Homemaker: Both Can Be Choices
The burden of unpaid work falls disproportionately on women, while men are either not expected to or refuse to contribute to any kind of household chores in their own houses. Thus it is a fact that balancing employment with household responsibilities becomes more challenging for women. This ‘inability’ of women to balance between work and family is then often used as an argument to dissuade women from working outside.
Women’s safety while travelling outside is a huge concern for many families. No one is saying that women are safe outside, where every 16 minutes a rape happens somewhere in our country. But answer me this: Who rapes women? Who makes them feel unsafe? Who is the villain in the story of ‘the safety of women’? Clearly, it’s women who are at fault but everybody else. However the safety concern is yet another argument used by Indian families to point out how a job might put them at an ‘unnecessary’ risk of being harassed, abused or sexually assaulted. Is it worth it?
The only argument that is not taken into consideration by Indian families is- what about a woman’s will? Why should her career suffer just appease the ego of men in her family, who feel they are entitled to play the role of providers? Why should she decline a shot at financial independence because society has failed to create a safe space for women?
From what they wear to who they meet and why they want to get a job- women shouldn’t have to offer explanations for their decisions and desires to anyone. They have the right to live on their own terms and gaining financial independence plays a big part in developing that agency.
Views expressed are the author’s own.