As a progressive society, we display quite significantly our acceptance of individual agency and freedom. However, the display is clouded the moment the patriarchal code of conduct comes into the picture. From ‘we let our daughters work,’ to ‘daughters from respectable households don’t go out late’ and from ‘we don’t control our daughters, they can wear whatever they want to’, to ‘don’t wear that in front of your dad’, how far stretched are society’s duality? Are we really able to adopt a progressive attitude towards women? Is a woman’s ‘modernity’ reflected only through her clothes, working hours, and time she gets home, or does it have other factors too? Why do we hold so many reservations towards the notion of ‘modern women’?
To suit our hypocrisy, we have a scale on which we measure the modern woman and the traditional woman. Saree, religious duties, cooking, household duties, and saying ‘Yes’ to every question asked are the traits of the latter. While the former is humiliated for wearing short clothes, being poorly skilled in household work, partying with boys, and retaliating when shamed. There isn’t a middle ground on this scale, either you are this or that!
Yet, with rare grace of pity and in a bid to appear progressive, society grants some liberties to women as long as their independence does not threaten its norms and structure. You are allowed to be modern only until your idea of modernity brings something to the table but doesn’t ask anything in return. For instance: You are allowed to ‘look modern’ but only until you wear clothes that cover your whole body. Dare to wear something revealing in any sense, and you are out on the edge of the scale. You are allowed to work but only if you come back home on time, prepare meals and look after the rest of the family. Dare expect the men of the household to share the burden of household chores, raising children, and yet again you are on your way to being conveniently painted as a villain who is self-centred and carefree.
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The Ultimate Idea Of “Perfect Woman”
This prototype of the “perfect woman” is based on a working professional who manages to take care of the household as well as look after her children, all by herself. She’s glorified by society as an angel and is boasted about. She’s the standard that other women are compared to and should ideally aspire to be. She’s simultaneously idolised as well as dehumanised by being put on a pedestal.
You are allowed to be modern only until your idea of modernity brings something to the table but doesn’t ask anything in return.
The Double Standards For The Sexes
What goes unquestioned here is the role of the men in the household. While women live under the constant pressure to strike a balance, men get to walk away without even a single finger being pointed at them. Men are applauded for doing the bare minimum and for helping in their own households. If the woman is expected to maintain a balance between her career and personal duties, how do we justify men prioritising their work over their family? Why are men so untouched by these hypocritical standards that women have been made to live by for centuries?
The need for change
The two-faced concept of modernity is eventually working to reinforce a regressive patriarchal framework in our society. Here rules are set that being independent, ambitious, and modern is mutually exclusive to women who are maternal, caring, and feminine.
Women cannot truly be liberated if their progress comes within the constraints of patriarchal norms. Eventually they will have to break out of these restraints, questions their limitations and demand more. Guess what? That’s what numerous women are doing, at the cost of being called “bad” or modern women. But we owe it to the next generation, to ensure that the path that we walked on, created by women who preceded us, only goes further away from regressive customs and doesn’t simply circle back.
Views expressed are the author’s own