“…Or are they the first to point the finger at women who try to be equal to their husbands/partners/men in general?”
An email from Garima.
As a British woman with an Indian background, I wasn’t particularly interested or up to date with Indian sociology. However all of this changed a little over a year ago with the terrible case of the Delhi bus gang rape in December 2012. That was about the time when I stumbled upon your blog. I want to share my experience with you of how saddened and confused I am that the currently generation of women in my family do not seem to embrace female empowerment.
My paternal grandparents were big feminists. They were progressive, kind and strong people, who not only educated their sons but their daughters too and encouraged them all to peruse hobbies outside he house and made sure that my dad learnt the basics of cooking and cleaning when he was still single and living alone. Without meaning to be dismissive or pompous, out of the 4 female cousins on my Dad’s side of the family, I am the only one with a professional future, which I know would have deeply saddened my Grandad if he were alive today. One gave up work when when she got married, another gave it up when she had a baby. A third never worked and went straight into a marriage (arranged). I am quite a bit younger than them at 21 but I am a medical student and like to think I have a well balanced life – I love playing hockey, long distance running and cooking in my spare time. I can look after my house that I rent with four of my friends, do my laundry and generally take care of myself, which I think is important regardless of if you’re a man or a woman. Now what I find concerning is the attitude of my female cousins – a lot of things they have said (bar the eldest one, who has spent some time living abroad and is a more balanced person) seem to me that they are enforcing the stereotype that women must serve their husbands first and that “Indian culture” is of paramount importance. For example, I received this (terribly typed) joke from one of them this morning:
Wife On Husband’s Birth’day:
Kya Gift Dun.?
Pyar Se Dekha Karo.
Tameez Se Baat Kiya Karo.
Yehi Kaafi Hai.
Nahi. Main To Gift Hi Dungi..!!!!!
Husband & wife dining in a hotel:
Husband : I wanna tell you something.
Wife: It’s not good manners to talk while eating.
Wife:Now tell me …
Hubby: There was a cockroach in your biryani!
Aur copy karo angrezi culture…!
Izzat? Tameez? Many people would praise the husband in this joke for asking his wife to simply be a good wife. But words like these draws parallel with the wedding vows that were the norm until about 15 to 20 years ago where the wife promised “to love, cherish and obey” her husband, while her simply promised “to love and cherish”.
Why should a wife elevate her husband onto a pedestal as if he is her master? But more importantly, why does my cousin not question this? In fact, why are they scoffing at the idea of the wife to do something nice for his husband as “angrezi culture” and not questioning the husband’s demands? It may be that as Hindi is not my first language, I am taking the joke out of context. I am most definitely offended that they are looking down on “angrezi culture”, which I would regard as MY culture. I think the message that a nice gesture for your husband is an alien concept and that the best thing an Indian wife can give to her husband is her subservience is a dangerous one. Unfortunately it seems that my female cousin agrees with this and doesn’t think twice before perpetrating this idea. This brings me to my question – do Indian women see socially reinforced gender inequality as a problem in the first place? Do they want to remove double standards and expectations? Or are they the first to point the finger at women who try to be equal to their husbands/partners/men in general?