This is an article that has been due for long but got late because I could not just find the right way to put it in. I don’t know even now if I have been able to convey exactly what I am thinking but I did not want to delay it anymore. Before continuing I would also like to share that this has been written based on the many stories that we have heard from India, so this will be more of regional content.
About a month back, there was a video being circulated on all social media platforms where a popular actor from yesteryears hosting a cookery show and interviewing a newer actor and they were discussing on girls running the household. The video gained attention since the two ladies had starkly different ideas on feminism, cooking for the household and who should be running the family. This video and the several trolls that followed it made me uncomfortable and thus the reason for this write up.
First of all, please, women stop pitting against each other! It is just not the way to do it!
And secondly, it is not just she (the host actor) who thinks like that. Yeah, let’s face it, unfortunately, she represents a pretty large group of our population. Look around and I bet you, you can find at least one such person in your near neighborhood. This group of people believes that the best thing a lady can do with her life is to cook, and by cooking I mean cook for the family and not for herself or to suit her taste of cuisine. For them, the biggest achievement is when they sacrifice important dreams of their lives to build their perfect homes. And that was what they needed growing up, to be approved by the society. Back then it was not easy to speak up the way we do now. So they had to grow up obeying everyone ( and I mean this literally).
Let’s take to moment to look at their lives. Now I am talking of maybe our grandmothers.
Most of them grew into a family with more than 5 kids to parents who were taught by their parents that men have to look after homes (financially). So once the kids of the family were given basic education, it was to time to marry off the girls with a decent dowry and spend the rest of their savings on the boy’s education. Because money spent on education for boys would come back to their homes eventually through dowry. And also it was the boy child who had to look after parents (as per societal rules).
So these girl kids grew, and while doing so, they had to obey their parents, relatives, society, and even their brothers. Because in most households the girl child had no voice. Once they get married, they leave their dream of higher education and replace all this with love for their husbands and were advised to make him their idol/god. And now the pressure had doubled. They had to obey an additional set of people other than their own family… Until a child is born to them.
When they have a child, the child is the only place where the mother can vent off all the anger and sorrow that had built up in all of these years. The child is the only one who obeys and listen (even if forced) to them. And because the only ideology they had come across is of patriarchy they passed it on to their kids. So the boy child in the family grew up thinking he was supposed to look after homes financially. But what about the girl child? Some of the mothers in the earlier story (our grandmothers), would have understood the importance and use of education and willfully passed it on to their daughters. They do it making sure that the elders of the family don’t hear all the nonsense of educating girls, they do it in secrecy, risking being caught. That is how they did their part in shaping future generations.
Now, these girl children (our mothers); they grew up totally confused! I mean their lives were even harder. Because they were taught education was important for girls, so they learned with dedication, and sometimes they even performed better than the boys. But then the patriarchy is still remaining in society. So they got married as well, maybe two-three years later than the age when their mom got married, but still at a younger age. They too had no choice but to obey everyone except their kids. Till here the story is the same for most. From now let us divide this group into two.
So the first group, even though they had been educated were not allowed to continue it. Some of them did not want to work or continue studying because maybe that’s how they were brought up. And some of them were forced to. They idolized patriarchy and believed ladies should be one step behind the men and let the men take care of the finances and be head of the household. Unfortunately, this first group is way higher in numbers than the second group. But luckily most of their kids also got educated because by then education was no more a privilege but a right (at least in some of the Indian states).
The second group of ladies was lucky and determined enough to be able to continue their education or even pursue a career after their wedding. So these women, or our mothers they did all of the household works and did a fantastic job at their offices. They are superheroes if you ask me. Also, their husbands because it was indeed a matter of permission back then. And that was not it, they sowed new seeds in their kids. Having been read and educated they are now aware of feministic ideas and they want their daughters to be successful in their lives. So they exempted their daughters from household works allowing them to focus their time and energy on education. But let us not forget the patriarchal devil that is still ruling the society. Society is now a mixed group of people and these moms are afraid of whether their kids be able to cope up with societal pressure. By the time the girl child reaches the age of marriage, they are worried sick. They fuss about the daughter’s cooking skills and teach them some basic lessons. They try to teach their little girl how to be a homemaker and career-driven at the same time.
Finally, let us talk about our generation. I am 27 years and married now. Right from the younger age of growing up, we have been exposed to a feministic approach and ideas. At schools, we were given equal attention, if not more. We read books on feminism and equality of all races and religions. We watched movies that discuss women. We listen to talks that discuss women. So for us, patriarchy is something just unacceptable. And we make this clear through our actions and words. We get married only after completing at least graduation and most of us (even now, not all) have the option to pursue the career of our choice. And if we don’t have that option we fight for it, or some of us are even privileged to do it anyway. We cannot fathom the prospect of waiting to get permission from someone to make our life choices.
Even then some of us in this generation are forced to obey and live a life of regret. And now it is our time to raise the kids, the next generation.
My husband and I have many conversations on topics like equality and how girls are treated. And he always says this thing that really strikes me. And that is – “we are the first and maybe the only generation that has to obey our parents and our kids as well.” So we need to be careful about what we teach our kids. We cannot just vent out our emotions on them like what happened in the previous generations.
Now coming to the TV show and the trolls that followed what made me uncomfortable was how we were focusing our energy in the wrong direction. Because this group of people (like the TV anchor), they will never agree they are wrong and especially if they are being corrected by someone younger than them. Because that’s what they have been taught and that’s what they have suffered and lived through. So they have just decided they are the only right when it comes to conversing with younger ones. To them it is okay to openly say to a girl that you are wrong, you are putting too much focus on your career, or they think it is okay to say you are too slim/too fat. They think It is okay because they feel they have the right to do so. They cannot take advice from the younger generation on such matters. Now we know that their ideology of patriarchy is wrong but let us not forget the part they have done in shaping our world, for giving us girls a voice in our homes.
Our generation still has the power to change things around. And that is by guiding the next generation of kids in the right way. Make only enough kids that we have the ability to educate (be it boy or girl) and provide the right guidance. Talk to them stories of equality and fight, how the generations of women before us had suffered in silence. Let them know these stories. Let them know that the father and the mother have equal roles and responsibilities in building a home.
Here again, I would like to take a detour. See. Even now it is okay if a woman does not work. Like she has a choice now whether to work or not. Some of us are just okay and happy being home. Even I have those days and I go to my husband saying why do I have to work so much. I think I should also be a homemaker. But then when we discuss I realize that girls have a choice, but what about the guys. They don’t have the option of not working. They should bring in money to the household. But that’s, not equality right. Maybe it is time to teach our kids that there should be a mutually agreed division of responsibilities when it comes to building homes, taking into consideration the interest of both the husband and wife. And it should not be a stereotyped one. The blame for not being a homemaker (like cooking, laundry, etc.) should not be with the ladies just as much as the blame of not being rich or not getting enough gifts for the partner should not lie with the men.
So when we talk about equality, let us teach our kids all this. Let us make videos and take snippets of instances that promote such things. And girls, in general, let us be there for each other. Because we have seen a lot of posts and videos and real-life examples of incidents against women. And let us women break the stereotype of blaming fellow women behind their backs.
Cheers to equality!