Here’s a comment I would like to respond to:
Comment: Hello everyone ,
In this forum, I see a lot of very sensitive, sensible, intellectual and rational comments and arguments in favour of women, and by women. Rightly so.
1. Not in favor of women or men or Patriarchy or tradition, just the honest, and maybe sometimes the only practical and realistic option/s.
2. What might make the advice appear radical sometimes is that it is generally not what most people would hear from the family and community elders and the neighbours.
3. The traditional advice does not (and is not meant to) consider the well being of individuals concerned, but to protect patriarchal norms and the status quo. It was (and continues to be) less of an ‘advice’, and more of an ensuring the individual didn’t question established norms (often convenience of those who are advising is a priority).
4. Whenever questioned, this traditional advice continues to be proven either seriously harmful, ineffective, blatantly biased and frequently quite impractical.
It has directly lead to male child preference - and hence a skewed gender ratio and crimes against women.
Some examples of impractical traditional advice for the average Indian woman:
i. “Please adjust and win over their hearts” – this advice is never meant for anybody except those who are the lowest in the Indian social hierarchy – mainly the average Indian daughters in law/paraya dhan/ghar ki izzat/chaati par bojh.
ii. ‘The restrictions/unhappiness/abuse will become easier to bear/disappear once there is a child’,
iii. Daughters must win the approval of the entire community specially if they are related to their present/possibly future husbands,
iv. ‘Elders know better’ and ‘husbands know better’.
And of course,
iv. Get Married Stay Married (or die trying)
v. ‘Obey.’ (only if you are lower in the social or family hierarchy)
vi. ‘Don’t question.’/’Don’t answer back’.’
Comment: Many argue that in a relationship,”men are mostly non-committal, and women are desperate for a commitment”. Hmm, In my opinion, when one looks at Urban India in most of its parts, this is quite true. Only when you are talking about India`s Elite group (rich, richer and richest), this can be arguable.
IHM: Any woman (self reliant, rich, educated, or poor and dependent) who believes that her happiness is less important than random people’s opinion of her might find herself believing that her life’s biggest goal is to Get Married and Stay Married.
Often this is what makes women (elite, illiterate, non earning, wealthy) desperate for commitment.
Please consider, if the patriarchal pressure to Get Married Stay Married is lifted would an average Indian woman worry more about her happiness than about getting and staying married?
Who benefits from the social pressure on an average Indian woman to Get Married and Stay Married? Mainly, dowry seekers and abusive and controlling misogynists.
Comment: I am just curious about the people commenting or commentating about the issues here in this forum. I suppose they (the women especially) are all from either one of pretty well-to-do backgrounds, progressive, liberal, positive, well educated, confident etc. by nature, or they became this way after a bad relational experience of their’s or their known one`s, whichever way, I don`t know.
Are these advises and suggestions that they give (I endorse them, practicality questioned) possible for an Average Indian Woman (read as middle class typical) to even consider? Will she be able to think that way… educate me! To know one, you have to be one. Because, most of the solutions to many problems were like, to date, get to know the guy in person before commitment, should put your self esteem before his work, be ready to say NO if you don`t like his family members, be brave to just walk out of any relationship you don`t like, dress the way you like, have a child when or if you want to, etc…
Absolutely sensible. Sensible for the women I previously mentioned! I am not a male chauvinist, not a pessimist, not an optimist every time either. I try to be a Realist. I`m open if need be. I would love not just a woman, but anyone to be that way. Be absolutely independent, and then look for the whoever they cannot live without… gaud. This idea of “get committed to a guy as quickly and easily as possible” is a problem or a forced phenomenon which most Indian women have, irrespective of financial backgrounds. Reason being, financial, social, xyz security, whatever. But who needs more of this, and in turn being exploited, is the one to talk about? Aren`t they from the majority of lower middle, middle, and to an extent, the upper middle income group? people who are not as confident, gifted, fortunate, financially and emotionally as strong as most of you (us) are ?? (presuming financial might brings with it, confidence, fortune, exposure etc.. debatable though!) I have a few questions to ask to the “solution/suggestion givers” in this blog, with due respect ,
1. How will You instill your confidence, questioning and reasoning ability into a middle class, Indian born and bred woman, who doesn’t have the backing, background, exposure etc. that you have? (the middle class Indian girl gets to face most of the problems that we are discussing here)
IHM: I think a good beginning would be talking about the possibility of self reliance and the freedom and happiness it can bring. Awareness has to be the first step. The discussions on this blog are a small step in that direction.
Comment: 2. In India, who wants a marriage badly ? Who is best equipped to live without a marriage ? a guy or a girl ? I think the answers to these questions should give us a proper answer to all that has led us to most of what we are discussing and arguing about now. Most of the lower, middle, and upper middle class women in India are still dependent on men for a future, whatever that might be. Middle and upper middle class women in India are mostly not brought up emphasizing the absolute need to work, unlike the boys. They just get a degree for social status or acknowledgement. I know a lot of women (some my classmates) who have their BE , M.Tech , MBAs ,M PHILs etc , but don`t have a job. They didn`t even try for one. They got it just for the sake of it. May be its one of the ways of bringing down the dowry, or getting a groom who makes good money and/or lives abroad.That is how the girl`s parents`, her relatives` thinking process is, and, or may be, the girl herself is made to think that way. Devil knows.
I`ll make this short and sensible if possible.
At a very young age, boys are told that they have to work once they are grown ups, irrespective of what they learn or what their grades are, in school, college and wherever… It is not the case with all the girls. They go, or are told to go to college just to keep them occupied till they are 20 or 21 years old. They are then married to someone else. It is a shame. In India, both boys and girls have to be brought up in a way that they are independent financially, physically, emotionally, and what not. Marriage should only be an option and not a compulsion , for everyone .
IHM: Agree. How can we help in making it happen?
By creating awareness about it.
Awareness and attitude, it seems, doesn’t depend upon education, social status or financial self reliance.
Women and men, of all ages, who work as domestic helpers and construction workers, defy social norms as much as educated middle class or upper class women and men do.
Most people who don’t fit into patriarchy defined societal roles rarely find support for two reasons: 1.) because those affected don’t seem to directly benefit from their decisions or 2.) often those who are not being supportive are genuinely convinced that Patriarchal norms, however unfair, are the only way to live by.
How can this change? One way I can think of is, to be that often much needed moral support by simply providing validation. As in, acknowledging a wrong is a wrong, and no amount of traditional excuses and no matter how unavoidable it is, nothing makes it right. At other times just knowing one is not alone is reassuring.
Also, it’s possible that those who have understood that the only way to be happy for them is to fight back, but they are not able to gather the strength to fight back. They need to know that sharing their awareness of abuse is not permitted only if they also start fighting back. Sometimes one needs to know that they are understood and that they have themselves understood the situation correctly; and they need not feel guilty for not understanding their feelings for the abusers (and for those who excuse the abusers). And they need not feel guilty for not being able to/wanting to do anything about the abuse.
And knowing that when they can fight back, they would have the support they need.
Change can not come without first admitting and then accepting that the change is needed. Which is also why this first step seems to face a lot of resistance.