When a newly married Indian woman gives up her career, what else does she give up?

What does having a career mean to a newly married Indian woman?

1. She is working towards self reliance and real choices in decisions that affect her more than anybody else, decisions in which she probably has very little say, even if she has the mental strength and will to fight for those decisions.

Financial self reliance means she would be less likely to have to choose between her parents’ home (Maika), husband’s home (sasural) or being out on the streets.

2. A support system (friends and a social life), specially in a society where married women are unlikely to find support from their parents. Many Indian parents seem to choose unhappily married daughters over unhappy sons in law or parents in laws/divorce.

For instance, Are Happily Married Daughters a status symbol in India?

An email: “But my parents, fearing the society and their reputation begged him to take me back.”

3. Personal growth.

So, when a newly married Indian woman gives up her career, what else does she give up?

Why is it considered reasonable and harmless to expect a woman to give up (or change) her career to Stay Married?

Do you think the woman in this email is making a choice or is a choice being forced on her?

Updated to add this link: What do you think?

 Some unsolicited advice to men in relationships!

… a call from a childhood friend last evening…

She asked me a strange question; in fact, it was a strange conversation:

Her: “Is it ok for me to borrow money from my parents or my brother?”

Me: “What do you need the money for?”

Her: “Just like that, I want to keep it with me. I have no savings.”

My friend is married, with two children. [Continue to read here]

Related Posts:

“Let me give you the reason I asked for advise here instead of talking with my family.”

An email: I am not sure how my husband is going to react to this…

Society benefits immensely from childbearing, childrearing, and caregiving work that currently goes unpaid.

How important is it for a girl to get married?

What good is being liberal or modern if your daughter gets divorced in the first year of the marriage?


86 thoughts on “When a newly married Indian woman gives up her career, what else does she give up?

  1. She is not only loosing her career, she will be loosing her confidence and her own self in long run and just be dependent on her husband. Her only identity will be so-ans-so’s wife.
    When a girl has never had any career to start with this might still be able to live with this, but when a girl has a career and is forced to drop it, she will resent it every time.


  2. Simple question : Can a husband do that for a marriage?

    Both are partners in life
    Both are educated enough
    Both are capable
    Both are human beings
    Both have relations
    Both have emotions
    Both have career aspirations
    Both have responsibilities
    Both are considered equal as per law


  3. She is losing out on so much. By being forced to give up something that is clearly part of who she is, isn’t the relationship already skewed badly towards one person in the relationship? When a relationship starts this way, it’s a clear indicator, in my opinion, that she would be the one with very little say. I’ve heard people say that ‘some initial sacrifices, will help in the long run’, but why is it so important for her to give up her independence? Why is it so wrong for the woman to have a clear say in things that obviously matter to her.

    As you say, a career means so many things, self reliance and independence, being on the top.. Giving up that takes away so much from a woman.


  4. A newly married woman giving up her career is giving up all of the things you mention IHM, a chance at self reliance, a support system, and personal growth.

    Plus the following –
    – She’s giving up the most important time in her career – the formative years – assuming she is somewhat young, her career is just beginning – would we ever advice any of our sons to set aside their careers when they’re just getting started? Then why do this to our daughters? Why not see the tremendous potential in them? Who knows what one’s daughter is capable of achieving, when given the opportunity and the supports? Maybe she was meant to fly airplanes or save rain forests or find the cure for cancer.
    – The ‘newly married’ phase is a precious one – a time to get to know your spouse really well, make adjustments, establish a healthy relationship before having kids – if you give up your career, there is tremendous pressure to have kids – many people give in to this pressure and have kids way before they have a chance to establish a bond with spouse or become mature or even assess if the marriage is viable
    – A woman who focuses on her career in the early years makes a great role model for her future children – both sons and daughters. She can teach her daughter to be self-reliant. As for her son(s), he will have a healthy attitude toward women and will see them as equals, when he grows up in a home with a self-reliant mom.


    • I think Indian society squanders away immense talent and potential simply because it insists that half the population make marriage and children their BIGGEST aspiration; beyond which all goals and achievement are meaningless.

      I mean, when even educated people think badly of a woman because she is divorced, widowed or single or childless, I am forced to wonder if we have made any progress in the last 100 years.

      A woman may be an excellent musician, artist or dancer, but she is worthless if she’s not married or is childless.


  5. Pingback: Conflicted marriages & some unsolicited advice to men in relationships! | ramblinginthecity

  6. She is giving up on so much and the worst part of it all is that she is expected to do it, most of the times. It doesn’t matter if she wants to do it or not. But forcing her to give up on her entire life is ridiculous.
    In MOST of the cases (thankfully, not all)
    She is expected to leave behind her home, while the man is not. He can still live with his parents and no one raises an eye-brow. How is this equality?
    She is expected to leave her job. She gets questions like – Will you continue to work after marriage while no man is asked that question, ever. Equality? – No!
    She is expected to change the way she dresses after marriage while the man is never asked to change anything about the way he chooses to dress. This isn’t equality either.
    She is expected to care a little less about her parents and a little more about the guy’s parents while the parents of the girl don’t expect a son-in-law to be their son and lend a helping hand in times of need. Equality- bullshit.

    I can state numerous examples here.


    • Good examples of embedded patriarchy and lack of equality in the most common places.

      I just remembered even shaadi.com asks female members on their profile “Do you want to work after marriage?” but men are asked “Do you prefer a working wife?”. Blatant patriarchy even on a so-called modern match making website used worldwide.
      WTF, I was so mad at this and refused to pay membership fees from my pocket any more, let my parents foot the bill as they insist to paint me as the “adarsh bhartiya nari” on shaadi.com and I am anything but that.


  7. Updated to add this link: What do you think?

    // http://ramblinginthecity.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/some-unsolicited-advice-to-men-in-relationships/
    … a call from a childhood friend last evening…
    She asked me a strange question; in fact, it was a strange conversation:
    Her: “Is it ok for me to borrow money from my parents or my brother?”
    Me: “What do you need the money for?”
    Her: “Just like that, I want to keep it with me. I have no savings.”
    My friend is married, with two children. //[Continue to read here]


  8. She is losing out on all those things. Meanwhile, the father likely is also losing. If she’s a stay-at-home mum, odds are that he is losing out on: Having a close relationship with his own children. Experiencing being the main person responsible for taking care of an infant. Cooking for his family. Having someone else shoulder the economic burden. Doing homework with his children.

    Sharing is good for both. Last year, when the company I work for was close to bankruptcy, I sure slept better at night, knowing that my family have *two* incomes, and thus even if that would happen, we would still have a income.

    Men who haven’t tried sharing everything with their wife, don’t know what they’re missing.

    Perhaps most important of all. Sharing means better opportunities to understand oneanother. I know what it’s like to take care of a baby. My wife knows what it’s like to have stress and short deadlines at work. I don’t think you can -really- understand either thing, unless you’ve experienced it.


    • Agrajag, this is an excellent point! In families where the mother works, the father has a chance to develop a more intimate relationship with children – I’m not saying all men use this opportunity to bond with their kids but it’s there. My son looks forward to doing specific activities with his dad – it’s ‘their stuff’ – like going to the farmer’s market and walking around sampling foods, eating bbq corn (while getting the buying vegetables done of course).

      And you are so right about ‘understanding one another’ by sharing the stressed times (last para). When we had our first baby, my mom was here to help. But my hubby helped too. He cooked when my mom was helping me with the baby. He changed diapers when my mom was cooking. His part in it was probably the smallest but still doing the little things helped him understand how much work it is taking care of a newborn. And this helped us feel close. We’d been there, done that, together. The first night my son slept through the whole night (around 4 or 5 months), we BOTH celebrated, not just me!


      • I agree completely.

        When we adopted our daughter, we both decided to take a break from work, and in all my years with my wife (over 12 years of knowing her and nearly a decade long marriage), I don’t think we’ve ever bonded quite the same way as we’ve begun doing now.

        In a lighter vein, I believe there is something to be said for career-oriented people marrying equally career-oriented people.

        There are benefits to a relationship that blossoms in short snatches of time stolen from your respective work days (which is what our marriage was like before the daughter). There are pitfalls too, of course, but they generally pop up when only one of the couple has time for anything.

        We were always a rather placid couple, which I suppose is because you really don’t tend to have all that much to disagree over after a 14 hour day at work – you are just happy to see a friendly smile again. Since the cones of your experience are so similar, you have shared perspectives on most all of the things that matter. To a borderline workaholic, it’s somehow comforting to slink away at family occasions to type out an E-Mail for the office, only to find their partner doing the exact same thing, and looking around in the exact same guilty manner. It’s like a deeply shared religion. Differences become less important, the similarities much more important, and it is all very hunky-dory, more so when you hardly see each other all day and are forced to make the best of any time that you do spend together.

        I feel that in some things, a couple should be alike. The overall value system is definitely one of those things. If your partner does not appreciate and value the things that you do (and vice versa), there are bound to be major problems.


  9. A friend’s SIL, educated but not allowed to work, asks her brother (friend’s husband) for spending money each time she visits. The friend resents this as she works hard to earn a part of it. This SIL also “steals” small amounts from her husband’s pocket each day. Why can’t she ask for what should be hers? I cannot imagine how this woman lives. What kind of self worth does she have?


  10. Q 1: She gives up self-confidence, the knowledge that she is equal to what life or society throw at her. The knowledge that she doesn’t need anyone’s goodwill or benevolence to live her life on her terms. She gives up the reins of her life.

    Q 2: Because we tend to treat marriage like a b’day – it must, somehow, inevitably come at ‘this’ point of life, ‘this’ stage of life. Because we do not teach our children to value their own selves and their own convictions above what the societal norms dictate, have dictated for countless centuries. And when we live by someone else’s opinions, then the decks are stacked against women. All lip service to worshiping goddesses aside, women are supposed to be chattel – to listen and obey, to propagate the family name and swallow all kinds of ridiculous demands and expectations because it makes life more convenient for others.

    Q 3: Insufficient information about interpersonal dynamics, so unable to say if the compliance is willing (as a result of persuasive arguments) or unwilling (and thus a result of the desire to go along).

    However, assuming certain basic conditions – adulthood, education, financial independence – all of which are met in this case, how can someone force you to do something you do not want to do? Barring physical threat and intimidation and imprisonment? If you choose to submit, it is still a choice.

    Let us assume the worst case scenario in every aspect of the situation and say that the girl’s compliance is unwilling – that she is not rocking the boat because while she may be willing to live without a husband who doesn’t respect her enough to listen to her, she cannot imagine a life where her parents do not talk to her. The fact still remains that she is still *choosing* to live with a man who doesn’t treat her well to please parents who do not put her well being first. The fact still remains that she has options open to her – she already has a job and a pay check coming in each month. She is likely to be still in her first trimester and can opt for an abortion. So she has other choices, unlike many other women. She is still going to office, and so is not imprisoned at home. And so her choice is still *her* choice.

    I am not saying it is an easy choice. I ought to know. When I finally took my kids and walked out on my marriage, I had no clue how my parents would react. How anyone anywhere else would react – friends, mutual friends, siblings, extended family, work colleagues. All I knew was the *I* needed to do it and that I’d deal with the consequences of my decision.

    Though I wasn’t expecting it at all, not even thinking about it, both the ‘rents and my brother offered me their homes for as long as I wanted/needed. Again, it was my decision to not take them up on that and strike out on my own….unless you are being held captive, it is all about *your* choices. And taking responsibility for them.


  11. It is somewhat hard to find logic in the discussion about what a newly married woman gives up after her marriage. If a woman is educated, sensible, confident and liberated, she should make these things absolutely clear with her future husband and in-laws well before marriage. If she understands that she will ‘have to’ give up certain things after marriage, it is only sensible not to go for such a marriage altogether. Marriage is not like going out to some new place to have dinner and then crib about the food turning out to be bad. If a woman gets to know that her future in-laws are the sorts who would ‘force’ her into giving up things after marriage, it is sensible that she refuses to be married into such a family. Expecting every husband and in-laws to be sensible and understanding and hence jumping into the marriage blindly can only be the choice a woman makes herself. And if a woman still makes such a choice, then she would be lacking in one or more qualities of an educated, sensible, confident and liberated woman.


    • A husband and in-laws who seem sensible before a marriage can turn out to be very different people afterwards.

      Spending greater amounts of time will all the protagonists in a marriage will probably result in better ‘reads’ on the personality and expected behavior of each of these people, but such an analysis can never be perfect.

      Avoiding such situations by communicating clearly and effectively with the other party is ideal, but since things do not always work that way, it is important to discuss non-ideal situations as well.


      • Praveen, I never said things work ideally always. Of course people can turn out to be very different after marriage but that does not mean one should not even try to communicate and clarify things before marriage. And if a woman is educated, sensible, confident and liberated, she cannot be forced to ‘give up’ on certain things after marriage. If she can be forced, then she does not have one or more of the above characters.


        • I disagree.

          ‘Forced’ is not a binary state, but rather a continuum. Our decisions do not fall under neat categories such as ‘forced’ and ‘unforced’. Rather than a coerced/non-coerced dichotomy, coercion is measured by degrees. When a person is continuously harassed about something, the entire nature of their decision making process changes. If I am trying to decide if I should do thing X, and I am constantly pressured to not do it, then my options are no longer ‘Doing X’ vs ‘Not Doing X’, but rather ‘Doing X and continuing to face emotional agony’ vs ‘Not Doing X and thereby ending said agony’. This cannot be called a free choice.

          When faced with few avenues of escape, great emotional pressure and little or no support from friends, family and/or society, even educated, sensible, confident and liberated people can be coerced into making decisions that they resent and dislike, and that they would not have made under more favorable circumstances. Emerging unscathed from such a situation requires a degree of mental strength that very few people have.


        • “And if a woman is educated, sensible, confident and liberated, she cannot be forced to ‘give up’ on certain things after marriage.”

          How does a woman make the leap from educated and earning to confident and liberated? Does this happen automatically? That is exactly the logic behind such discussions. They help women question traditional gender roles and expectations. They help them question romanticised notions of ‘duty’ (be it motherhood, wifehood, DIL-hood, whatever) and undo the effects of a life time of conditioning. Going through this thought process is how you become ‘confident’ and ‘liberated’.

          Most women (and men) have grown up internalising patriarchal values, like the requirements from a ‘good wife’. Even if there is no obvious ‘force’ from the in-laws, but just comments and gestures, there is the internal (and external) pressure of wanting to please your new family member, or come across as a nice person yourself. Especially if they are nice and not trying to force you, beat you or burn you for dowry.

          I am very educated, earning, liberated and confident but I felt this pressure when I got married too. There were no demands made of me, but some patriarchal expectations are spoken of without malicious intent, simply as default, like the suggestion of filling out forms to change one’s last name, and you actually have to stick your neck out and say ‘no’. I’m sure my husband felt the pressure of wanting to please my family too, but women are more susceptible to this because patriarchy demands more changes from them. I actively watched out for things I might be doing only to do to please others, if even subconsciously.

          It takes active effort and thought to be true to yourself against social expectations and pressures, especially when you are newly married. It does not happen automatically. You are indeed right that women are responsible for their choices, but we need to create a mental space where they can question traditions and pressures. Such discussions are absolutely logical and essential.


        • Unless an adult woman is not intimidated with physical violence, any coercion ultimately is to be taken as the choice which the woman has made. If the woman is threatened with or is undergoing emotional agony, she can choose to walk away.


        • Unless an adult woman is not intimidated with physical violence, any coercion ultimately is to be taken as the choice which the woman has made.

          You may take it to be that, but that does not make it so.

          In a world where this was the accepted definition of coercion, blackmail would not be illegal.


      • This is yet another reason to live together for a reasonable period before marrying. There are no guarantees in life, but the odds of learning what people are really like, are better with more time. I lived together with my wife for 20 months before marrying her, thus I knew both her and her family very well before we married.

        Like you say: spending more time, will give a better analysis, and thus a higher success-ratio. But I agree with you that there’s always going to be the possibility of a mistake.


  12. This reminds me of a little discussion I had with a friend which made me realise how important financial independence is. My friends parents and her uncle’s family(her mother’s brother, his wife and their daughter) lived close by. Her grandmother(my freind’s mother and uncle’s mother) lived with the uncle’s family and visited her parents often. She often complained to her daughter that DIL steals money from her and her son and sent it across to her parents because their own son doesn’t give any money to her parents. Recently her uncle had a heart attack and died in his 40 s. Now my friend and her parents and grandmother are trying to see where all he had invested money. They are trying to put it in such a place that she doesn’t have access to all of it and gets interest because they are worried that she will send it all to her parents and there will be nothing left for her school going daughter. My heart goes out to the poor woman who lost her husband, can’t support her own parents. All this could have been avoided if she herself was financial independent. I do have problem with her meddling in laws. They have no need to poke their nose into husband/wife’s financial matters too. Am I going off track? But this situation nagged me a lot and I did have an argument with my friend. Still I feel her aunt would have got some confidence had she had a career.


  13. An educated woman who does have a career (or just starting out one) and gives it all up after marriage is essentially playing a gamble in the casino with her own life. She might have hit the jackpot and married the nicest man who respects and values her domestic contributions as essential to the success of their family unit as a whole or she might have rolled the wrong dice. Even the nicest jackpot husband can die or become disabled in an accident, what then? You are putting yourself and the future of your children in the hands of fate and hoping/praying/fasting that god/in-laws/society will take mercy on you in your time of need. Women have done that for ages and we know how that turned out. I think giving up your career is an unhedged financial bet on your life. You won’t invest all your money in one stock, why put all your eggs in one husband? Sure there is life insurance or some inheritance, but do we just want to rely on that?

    Besides financial security, a career provides man or woman with fulfillment and a sense of doing something in the world, making a contribution. Just think of all the talent and human potential that is lost if we systematically exclude half of the workforce !

    This week is the 50th anniversary of publication of Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique book which is believed to have sparked the second wave of feminist movement back in 1960’s in the US. This book goes in depth about the dissatisfaction the housewives felt back then when they realized their lives solely restricted to the domestic sphere of child/hubby rearing was simply not enough for their growth and self-actualization as a human being. This book is an amazing classic on this topic, way better than anything I ever could write here. Would encourage every woman to check it out, one book woman should read (sure it is written about privileged American suburban housewives in 1960s but still extremely relevant even today).


  14. Quite one sided picture. It is not always that women are forced to give up. What I see around are women eagerly waiting for a husband who could rid them of the trials of working, which for the most part taken up just as a hobby or to improve marital CV. Also, the situation where the husband is without savings while the wife is loaded is very common in cases where both of them work. Simply because husband is considered responsible for all the expenses, of bills, households and of the wife, while the wife either saves or splurges her money.


    • I have seen such cases too where women could hardly wait to find a provider, so they could stop working. I think the problem is that either they were brought up to believe that they only need to work until they get married (meaning they never truly realized what it actually means to be financially independent) or that their job doesn’t fulfill them and marriage seems to be the easy way out. I agree with you, not all women who enter relationships are interested in true equality but in having a comfortable life. Just as not all men are interested in having an equal partner but a housekeeper. As always, it depends on the respective people.


  15. My neighbour’s daughter told me this last time I met her :
    – she had to leave her job once marriage was fixed because her workplace was far from her in-law’s place. She was told that they have no issues with her working after marriage, she can look for job near in-law’s place.
    – once married, her in-laws advised her to enjoy newly married life for some time and then search for job. Well, her husband was off to Dubai after 15 days of marriage, to resume his work. So enjoying married life was essentially serving in-laws and guests.
    – nearly six months later while she was searching job ‘near her in-law’s place’, her husband left Dubai and set up a hardware shop .Her in-laws said as she has not landed a job yet, why waste time, they can have a baby. She conceived.
    – after delivery, her intention to work was postponed with excuses, “let the baby be at least six months old”, “let him at least stand on his own”, “let him go to school”, thus it got postponed for another 3 yrs. she finally landed a job but just 4 mths into job, she had to quit because her MIL became seriously ill and needed to be taken care off. Thus ended her career aspirations.
    – point to be noted – she was never forced or threatened but convinced.
    She told me the whole story, when I found her in tears one evening and I enquired the reason. She said, “you are lucky you are working after marriage. I could not (because of the above circumstances).So now, I am NOT treated like a slave, but I have no say in any of the important decisions,I cannot even buy a bindi without asking my husband, I cannot spend anything for my parents, I cannot buy a saree of my choice but only what he buys for me. I am often reminded that I am not an earning member of the family but someone who is eating up the earnings of the family. I have stopped caring all those remarks, but what bought tears today is when my 6 yr old boy misbehaved and I scolded him, he said : who are you to scold me, you go and do your work in kitchen. thats your duty. my father earns money. he spends on me. I will listen only to him.”


    • Seena, the situation you describe is very common. I do sympathise with your friend. However, please tell her that just because she is staying home doesn’t mean that she’s not a contributing member. She has a right to have some money of her own to spend without checking with her husband. She should be involved in all the big financial decisions. It’s not just ‘his’ money, it’s ‘their’ money because it’s not possible for him to have a career without her running the home for him by doing 100s of unpaid chores.

      And whether she chooses to take up a career or not – please ask her crack the whip (not literally!) when it comes to the kids. She is the home maker and she needs to be in charge. The kids ought to respect her. This boy is going to grow up disrespecting women if she is not a strong mother to him. Worse, he’s going to value money and power over other qualities like kindness and affection.


  16. Expecting a woman to give up her career to stay married is not ‘reasonable’ by any stretch of imagination.

    In my experience, such expectations are not actually spelled out openly. Rather, the desired objectives are achieved through strategically planted comments, gestures, tantrums, and other forms of emotional manipulation. The addition of a baby to the family only results in greater pressure being brought to bear on the unfortunate victim, and coupled with the high social (sometimes financial) costs of ending the marriage, typically culminates in the woman ‘choosing’ to stay at home with the baby. This is, very strictly speaking, a free choice, but also (in my view) a situation that is as abhorrent as it is unhealthy.

    The negative effects of giving up a career under family pressure (as opposed to doing so on your own terms) extend beyond the immediate loss in financial independence. It is often the first of many surrenders, each one more meek than the last. It broadcasts a message of weakness, and sets up a deeply inequitable power dynamic, which tends to cause much misery in the long term. In this day and age, a healthy amount set aside as personal savings is imperative for everyone, irrespective of age or sex, and all attempts to prevent one from working towards that goal should be met with steadfast resistance.


    • Praveen, if a woman is financially independent, she does not have to put up with strategically planted comments, gestures, tantrums, and other forms of emotional manipulation. She can simply walk out of the marriage if she feels that her independence is being threatened. If a woman still chooses to stay, she cannot complain of being forced to give up her career.


      • She can simply walk out of the marriage if she feels that her independence is being threatened

        In the West, perhaps.

        In India, she would first have to convince a judge that she has a good reason to want a divorce. If the judge happens to be a ‘family values’ type, this is no easy task. Once this hurdle is crossed, she would be forced to reckon with pointed barbs and general social sanction. She would also be forced to reckon with the same general social sanction being extended to her children (if any), not to mention (in many cases) disapproval from immediate family.

        I am not suggesting that divorce is a bad idea in such a case – in fact, it is the course of action I would recommend. My point is that in a country such as this, divorce is a lot more complicated than ‘simply walking out’. The social consequences of a divorce (assuming they can even obtain one without demonstrating some kind of abuse) can be very unpleasant for women, and ignoring this fact makes for an argument that is as fallacious as it is insensitive.


        • Praveen, an empowered and independent adult woman is actually the one who does not care about social sanctions or disapproval. Any woman who is afraid of the unpleasantness of the consequences of a divorce cannot be called empowered or independent. So if your comment is directed only towards the oppressed women, then it holds true.


        • Being afraid of unpleasant consequences is a fundamental part of the human psyche. The extent of that fear varies, of course, but no one is entirely free from it. The vast majority of human beings are also affected quite strongly by social disapproval and ridicule – this is one of the reasons most men will not wear skirts to a dinner party, even though there is no written rule against it. Even if one is not concerned by social disapproval directed at oneself, it would actually be quite irresponsible to not be concerned by disapproval directed at one’s children.

          Since practically no one in the world fits your definition of ’empowered and independent adult’, your argument is rendered rather irrelevant in most situations.


        • Sanjay,

          I can’t agree with only calling those women empowered and independent who don’t care about social sanctions or disapproval. Many women who do make the choice to walk out of nasty situation have to go through fear, doubts and anxiety about how things will work out. Being afraid of an uncertain outcome and of social stigmatization is perfectly normal. It’s human. Only a robot wouldn’t care about having to face unpleasant consequences. My respect goes out to women who take the step despite their fear because they realize it is the right thing to do. According to your definition, any woman who doesn’t do so with a devil-may-care attitude is weak and dependent. Which is nothing but a slap in the face of all the women who took this step and felt nervous nevertheless.


      • Which world are you living in? Yes, it would be wonderful if many women could do that, but the fact is that is a difficult path to take, fraught with difficulties. All of this is a result of years and years of inequality combined with extreme social pressure and socialization from a young age. Yes, it is commendable when women stand up for themselves, but having the expectation that all women should behave the same way is unrealistic and puts all the blame on the women.

        If every group of oppressed people were all this empowered, and could collectively rise up to fight without any issues among themselves and without any fear or concern, we wouldn’t need this kind of social change or movements at all, for anyone.


        • I guess Sanjay does not know how much it hurts to have people discount your worth as a human being simply because you’re divorced, nor is he aware that most women spend many hours, many nights and often, many years desperately looking for options, condoning nasty behavior from spouses and in-laws, convincing themselves that the problem is really in their own heads.

          Then one day, they realise that they are ready for that final, irrevocable step. Ready to confront social disapproval, ready to deal with lonliness, heartbreak, disappointment and an uncertain financial future. Its freeing and terrifying at the same time.

          That my dear Sanjay is the truth about divorce. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies.


      • Replying to Praveen’s comment below (didn’t find a reply button down there):

        “this is one of the reasons most men will not wear skirts to a dinner party.”

        Not really true. Especially, if the men involved are Scots.


        • Ah, touche.

          Then again, although a kilt is indeed a type of skirt, calling it that is kind of like insisting on calling a cravat a tie. It’s accurate, but pointless, because to most people, ‘kilt’ and ‘skirt’ have completely different connotations – the former being a symbol of Gaelic culture, the latter, an article of clothing worn exclusively by women.


      • Haha, only a man can have said that. Of course you probably do not realise what a herculean task it is for a woman to leave a bad marriage.

        EVEN when she is financially independent, has liberal supporting parents and a good support system, a divorced woman in India confronts with a lot of prejudice, bias and judgement on a daily basis.

        Believe me, it can wear down the strongest and most resilient of us.


      • U r totally wrong. Why a women have to walk away from marriage becoz she cnt satisfy her mil needs. U and your male dominating society can never understand what a women goes through. Its very simple for you to say so becoz u r a male. Why males are not compelled to live with their in laws and walk through marriage if they are not capable of handling the pressure


  17. “Normal women, psychiatrists proclaimed, renounced all aspirations outside the home to meet their feminine need for dependence.”http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/opinion/sunday/why-gender-equality-stalled.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    putting ones family and spouse first is what young girls are conditioned to do all their lives ,see our Tv serials our movies,women who go out and work are portrayed as “not the norm”.

    this is another link of the chain of silence that propagates what suits patriarchy.


  18. I have a funny story,
    not to lighten the problem that most women face and are forced to after marriage.
    In my case i was workingin b’lore and my husband was based in bombay, he had a house, business , etc., etc., while i lived as a Pg and worked in a nice company. when i out of my family , i had to my name a suitcase of clothes and a fine job and 10,000 int he bank , then we decide to get married , in 3 weeks , i quit, we got married in swamimalai, took a flight to bombay, set up my stuff in his fine home and took off on our honeymoon, came back had a nice reception in bombay and come monday he was off to work while i had a colossal meltdown.
    ohh it was not fun. i raged and whined and yelled at the injustice of giving up my job and why he couldnt have ( not that we had talked about it) all his explanations of his business and the fact that he had a house and car and every possible solution in place in bombay not to say in those days it was much easier to get a job there went over my head, finally we pooled resources, actually he pooled resources behind my back and i landed a job in reliance 🙂 .
    to this day he tells me that was a miserable 1 month in his life , he was waiting for me to bolt and he was on the verge of panic the whole time wondering what he would do if i left and where he would find me. he added me to his accounts, got the house registered in both our names ( not an easy feat trust me) and did evrything in his power to share what he had with me, to no avail. all it did to fix me was getting a measly low paying job.. but a job it was. and miraculously i was the queen of trust 🙂

    so after my long winded story all i mean to say is it’s int he mind and having a job is something that cannot put a price on, or even having the confidence you can find a job.


  19. She is changing her identity completely. That could be a huge shock to her self-image, self-worth, self-esteem. This would then lead to a string of potential issues – where she will agree to do things she might never have.


  20. Reply to Sanjay’s post (couldn’t use reply option so posting separately).

    Sanjay, you said, “If a woman is educated, sensible, confident and liberated, she should make these things absolutely clear with her future husband and in-laws well before marriage.”

    As a culture, we’re on the cusp. More and more educated middle class women are just beginning to learn what it means to be liberated. I graduated from my Master’s at 22, so I was ‘educated’ but I wasn’t liberated. It took so many little changes in my thinking over the years, induced by my interactions with the world. It took a lot of mistakes and failures. It took years of ‘unlearning’ what had been ingrained in me through my upbringing. I’m learning even now, as I read this blog. It is a very good thing we are having these discussions. It gets other people thinking about their own lives – young people who are about to make big decisions in their lives, older people who feel stuck and know inside that change is needed but don’t know where to begin. If someone is struggling to stand up for herself, these discussions will help reinforce her thinking and put her doubts to rest. By not discussing and assuming that we all fall into 2 categories – we’re either liberated or we’re not – we are shutting the door on so much potential for change.


    • I totally agree with you Priya. It takes years of unlearning. I myself am going through this phase.
      Sanjay doesn’t seem to be living in the real world. He just needs to open his eyes and look at the women around him. He is living in an ideal world, the world which we are still trying to create by demanding change in the society’s mindset; discussing these issues in blogs like these is a small step towards that.


  21. @ Sanjay,

    Try to understand the reality of life as it is.

    I’ve had the personal experience of having someone very close go through a variety of non-physical emotional torture in her marriage for years which included forced abortions as well. And this woman was highly educated, working and as sensible as such a woman can be. But people like you would never understand that physical violence is not the only way to force someone into doing something against their wishes.

    I have come across more people like you but I refrain from arguing with them as I consider them too thick-headed to understand these issues. I comment here only because there is sensible discussion here and I find many other sensible commentators who can use words to a better effect to put their point across.

    Praveen, Aray, Carvaka, Priya and IHM, what would you reply to a person who says things like –

    “if an adult woman is “influenced” by her family members (without violence) I’m completely ok with that. It’s her choice. She’s weighed the pros and cons and decided to keep her husband/in laws or whatever happy and is sacrificing her own happiness for them

    That is perfectly valid. Every adult has the freedom to screw up their lives if they want. Who are we to interfere?”


    “I believe that “force” should only mean physical force. Everything else is a choice. How else can someone be forced to do something? If a woman is “forced” into an abortion by say her husband, she’s choosing to follow her husband – that is not force. That is persuasion. Unless he threatens to use violence against her in which case it become and issue of physical force all over again.

    This is like saying adult women are “forced” into marriage by their parents. No. They choose to follow their parents.”

    I wish people who utter such words could be a bit more sensible than they are and stop putting the blame back on to every woman who is forced to give up her choices after getting married.


    • Makes me wanna scream – Careless Chronicles


      This post is a response to Bhagwad’s comment on Sorry, no Saree. He said that “People must stand up for themselves. There is always emotional pressure and one assumes she can withstand it.” He wondered if there was a physical threat to the woman who refused to wear the saree.

      …in several families, it has become an accepted norm for family members to dictate the clothing choices of their adult children or children-in-law. Such interference is more common in case of women.

      Several people – related and unrelated, older and younger – comment on or give hints to women on a plethora of personal issues throughout their life. Women recognize this fact and while some welcome it, some don’t.

      Conflict arises when women don’t want to act upon these suggestions. Our society is conditioned to think that “good” women shouldn’t really be opinionated – leave alone be unbending about their choices. A woman who does not want to do as she is asked to, is viewed as being in the wrong. She is described as rigid and arrogant – ziddi aur gamandi.

      Once you dismiss the woman’s right to free choice as wrong, or worse, silly, then it’s easy to undermine her stand and laugh at her opinions as just another evidence of her zidd. Zidd is totally discouraged in women even during childhood, while obedience and respect for elders is promoted.

      The family’s “izzat” is entirely tied to the behaviour of the women of the house – particularly the daughters and the daughters-in-law. The older women of the house who have been trained into a certain kind of behaviour and have adopted specific styles of dress, pass on these traditions to the younger women. They adopt several strategies to force them to toe the line. When the younger woman still refuses to bow down, the men are brought in to persuade, starve, deprive or even beat her into submission.”

      Do read the entire post.


    • Force is never just physical. Even in the complete absence of physical force, intimidation (verbal or implied) and social isolation can still have devastating effects on one’s mind. Take away a person’s self-worth through systematic verbal abuse, and it becomes easy to break the best and the strongest among us.

      No one can fight alone all the time. Those of us who consider ourselves liberated – yes, we did go against the grain and it was bumpy – but we were also lucky – we had at least one or two people who stood by us – a loving spouse/a good friend. Even Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr didn’t fight alone. They had help and supports. They suffered moments of weakness and self-doubt.

      A friend of mine is single, has always been single, never married. She’s in her 40s. She has always ignored negative remarks from relatives, has lots of hobbies and interests and friends, is a happy person. Yet on her recent trip to India, her mother said something (full of regret) and my friend broke down and cried when she told me about it. She said, “I’m really scared of growing old alone. Did I do the right thing? Is my mom right?” I told her, “Think of all the married women who are abused, neglected, used, unloved, even hated – they are married but they’re truly going to die alone. You are strong and happy. You have good friends. Why would you be alone?” She calmed down later. But I’m telling you. I happens to the best of us.

      I hope that on this blog, along with sage advice, we can also offer words of kindness and empathy. Every person can change only when they are ready and at their own pace. That doesn’t mean we let them go to hell because they’re not becoming liberated overnight.


    • That’s a very narrow view indeed. When discussing human motivation, it is imperative to understand that people are as invested in their emotional well-being as they are in their physical well-being.

      Violence (or the threat thereof) is only one aspect of intimidation and coercion. The other aspects include attacks on social reputation, constant ridicule and belittlement, emotional blackmail, passive-aggressive behavior, and general mental harassment and abuse. Such tactics, when carried out over an extended period of time and when combined with major social barriers to an easy exit, can bring even the strongest people to their knees.

      The decision of going along with act X on pain of loss in social reputation and intense harassment is no more of a free choice than going along with said act on pain of physical abuse. It is nothing short of delusional to call such a choice ‘free’. In the context of human relationships, freedom is not the mere absence of physical coercion, but also the absence of mechanisms, institutions and social structures that put intense pressure on individuals to behave a certain way. If physical coercion was the only kind that existed, feminism as a movement would be largely unnecessary and irrelevant.


    • That is why I like this blog so much. Not because the thoughts here match mine, but because people express their views so clearly that even those with the thickest of heads can understand.

      I hope people like Sanjay and Bhagwad (who made the above statements on his blog) read the above comments to understand that even the strongest of people can crack without a hint of physical violence. In fact, most Indian women are actually stronger as they carry on in spite of being forced into things against their wishes.


    • Well, maybe we should change our choice of words from ‘forced’ to ‘pressured’
      because I think there is an element of choice involved if there are no violent consequences. Related to this post, pressure through guilting, emotional manipulation etc. is practically impossible to resist when the woman has no source of income of her own. Even if she does not want to go through with something like an abortion, she does not have the option of walking out (who will pay for shelter/food/clothing/necessities?). That’s why I feel it is a very bad idea for women to give up their jobs after marriage. Leaving aside important things like having a social network, leading a purposeful life etc., it also places them in a very vulnerable position, like a dependant child. Money is power.


      • There is an element of choice involved even if there are violent consequences. You can ‘choose’ to go ahead and do what you want, at the cost of being beaten up for it. As I said above, people are not necessarily more invested in physical well-being than emotional well-being. Emotional abuse from a person who is in a position to dole it out, can be just as damaging as physical abuse, if not more so, and serves as just as effective a threat.

        Of course, physical violence has much broader latitude – you can physically intimidate a random person on the street, but you cannot emotionally abuse the said person. This is a fact.

        However, the dynamics are very different when the person being pressurized is in a position of dependency (financial or otherwise) with respect to the perpetrator.

        The question is not whether there is an element of choice involved – there is an element of choice in practically every situation. A better question to ask is whether that choice is meaningful, given an individual’s personal situation and means.


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  25. Very much true in our society we only have jargon words to describe our society… but when it comes to reality we follow the same modes of operande for women and men which we have followed for years.. ur a girl u hve to first scarifice ur self for any new relationship that ur taking… after doing so if u raise any voice against this ur made a soul person responsible for ur decision, so u have to live with this pain in ur soul for lifelong… god also can’t save human being from this disaster bcoz he has not created this law…


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  28. Meh. The fundamental question to ask is, why does a woman need to give up so many things to please others? IMO young women need financial independence first, marriage can come later…


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