Why Is It Just A Woman’s Responsibility To Uphold The Modesty Of Her Family?

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The popular television drama Anupamaa has been raking in viewership with its relatively progressive storyline centred around a meaningful female lead. Rupali Ganguly as Anupamaa has been a mirror for the society to reevaluate the way they treat women in their homes. Her latest monologue from the latest episode is going viral as it tugs at viewers’ heartstrings.

Spotlighted on a divorced woman, the show focuses on her advancement in building a life outside her home but everyone still limits her to the domestic identity she held. When she falls in love with her former batchmate Anuj, played by Gaurav Khanna, her family dismisses her decision to re-marry.

Her former mother-in-law also known as Baa, who has supported her now criticises her saying, “Dadi ki shaadi nahi ho sakti (a grandmother cannot marry).”

However, in a recent episode, Anupamaa decides to defend herself with a stirring monologue that is fast going viral on social media. Here’s more on what she said.

However, Baa retorts that it is a woman’s responsibility to uphold her family’s modesty. “It is the weight of modesty because of which a woman’s head is bent. The day she lifts her head, the modesty is lost,” her former mother-in-law says.

Does this dialogue not ignite your thoughts? Don’t you wonder why is it just a woman’s responsibility to uphold the modesty of her family? Why is that woman have to be subservient?

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The argument, the discriminatory treatment she is meted in contrast with her husband’s and the dialogue are all a testament to how we force our women into upholding rigid standards. Men are never chastised for not abiding by the codes of morality or modesty. Society uses the half-baked excuse, “Men will be men” to defend all problematic behaviours they display with impunity.

The supposed quality of modesty is used as a tool to oppress women in the patriarchal setup. The word modesty means self-effacing and sexually chaste. In spite of being a genderless quality, it is applied to women more than men.

A self-assured woman in this set-up is seen as immoral. But for how long must we women be pressured into giving up our individuality to uphold our ancient sense of modesty and morality? Why can women not lead independent lives? Why are women criminalised for not abiding by society’s skewed sense of modesty?

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Under the garb of asking women to be modest and men boisterous, we are conditioning women into believing that everything wrong that happens to them is their fault and taking away the culpability from men. We condition them to believe that men are like the raging bulls from bullfighting who seemingly lose the agency of their impulses over the slightest “provocation”.

The modesty culture also perpetuates the rape culture which penalises the survivor or victim instead of the culprit.

It places the onus on women to safeguard themselves by suppressing their needs—be it physical or emotional needs, irrespective of their age. It dehumanises women; it reduces their complexity and individuality to their ability to stay subservient to men.

When will we stop scrutinising women for knowing their worth? When will society stomach that a woman can have a life outside of the domestic role she is expected to take on? When will society unlearn the ingrained bias and misogyny, and let women exercise agency over their own lives?

Views expressed are the author’s own.