What about girls who are not very academic? Must they be condemned to forced marriages?

A Guest Post by Wordssetmefreee

Are freedom and fundamental rights only reserved for those who are academic or enjoy professional success?

Aarti brings up a good point in her comment in response to this post – How can forced marriages be prevented when the person being married off is dependent on the people forcing them to be married off?

What about girls who are not very academic? Must they be condemned to forced marriages? Are freedom and fundamental rights only reserved for those who are academic or enjoy professional success?  This does not make logical sense – every human being must have the same rights – but let’s look at how this is possible in other societies and what the barriers are in India.

In Western societies (I live in the US and can speak for the US at least), a girl who is not very academic can still be independent, make her own decisions, and enjoy the same fundamental rights (as others who are academically or professionally successful) because she can,

–      Work in McDonalds or Target or Walmart along with numerous other girls like herself, without anyone making unwelcome advances, passing rude remarks, checking her out, or making her feel uncomfortable.

–       She can work as a nanny, babysitter, or tutor or a cook without fear of getting harassed by the kids’ dad or other male members of the family, who could get reported for harassment.

–       She can clean houses without relatives and family judging her to the point of disowning her for bringing shame on the family.

–       She can deliver pizza, drive a bus or work for a limo service, because the companies that hire her are focusing on the business not on her physical attributes and they want reliable drivers with a clean driving record, so again because she can be safe doing what numerous other women are doing.

–       She can work on an assembly line along with hundreds of other male and female workers.

–       She can work in multiple part time jobs.

–       She can work late hours along with numerous other people who work the night shift to make ends meet, and not have people think she’s ‘asking for trouble’.

–       She can go out by herself in public places, shop, spend her money, use the ATM, etc., without street harassment.

–       She can rent out her own space without landlords and landladies giving her a hard time.

(For all those who think I’m trying to say Western society is perfect and devoid of sexism or misogyny, I’m not.  I’m only talking about work options, public spaces, and non-academic work environments for women.)

Now, why can’t an Indian girl or woman who is not academic or professional do this? 

I keep asking myself this question – why is this email writer in the grip of her parents/relatives/family etc?  Why can’t this email writer have the same freedom and fundamental rights that Nina (my baby sitter when my kids were little) or Steph (the lady who cleans my friend’s house) or Amanda (the 20 something girl who works at the McDonalds near my house) has?

Trying to answer some of my own questions here.  Indian women don’t have the same options because –

–       No safe working environments in non-academic jobs

–       A sense of ‘shame’ (‘Such jobs are only for the poor.  Middle class women, if they are not professionals, must get married to be financially supported’)

–       Lack of acceptance among families who will actively oppose a daughter’s decision to take up a job in a factory or as a nanny or at a restaurant.

–       Lack of employers who will focus on the business and productivity and will  be interested in hiring productive workers regardless of gender etc.

–       Lack of supportive work environments (even if the employer is supportive, male co-workers can engage in sexual harassment and get away with it).

–       Lack of strict laws against sexual harassment or lack of proper judicial process in such cases.

–       General resentment when women enter unconventional fields for the first time (‘she’s taking away jobs from families’)

The above barriers are twofold. One set of barriers are created by our society and our way of thinking.  Another set are created by our government (judicial processing of harassment cases).  The latter are much harder to overcome.  We could at least start with the former?  We can start by changing our attitudes, perhaps?

In changing our attitudes, we must,

–       Overcome class differences and class feelings.  Respect anyone who has a job and is using an honest means to make a living.  Respect every job.  Respect every human being, no matter what their job is, because they are doing what they need to do to survive.

–       Be willing to be uncomfortable and not always expect a cushy life supported by parents (here in the US, kids who grow up in middle class families, when they finish high school, some of them go to college, others go on to jobs.  Both sets of kids struggle on their own initially to pay bills.  They may not have a lot of comforts until about 5 to 7 years later.  They expect to go through this struggle before they stand on their own two feet.)

–       Make public places and work environments safer for women.  Speak up!  If you are being harassed, yell at the person, shame him.  Then that person is somewhat unlikely to harass someone else in the future.  Nothing is gained by remaining silent.  ALSO – Stand up for other women being harassed.

Not sure what else we could be doing to make our country better for women.  Any further ideas and suggestions are welcome.

Related Posts:

This 27 year old woman could not be forcibly married off or silenced or shamed.

A comment: One more thing, had I been financially independent I would have never got married.

“You can listen to your parents and be unhappy or you can go against them and feel guilty – those are your choices?”

Please watch Queen. Feels like our country is finally changing.

At what point should educated, 21st century women who can think liberally for themselves, take responsibility for themselves…

“This man is openly threatening his daughter and is instigating others to burn alive their daughters.”

“I know my dad is short tempered but he was never this aggressive until my relatives started making him over think about my marriage.”

My father says study but not without your FIL’s permission.”

 

“Her husband has told her she can leave if she wishes, she does not have a steady income of her own.”

53 thoughts on “What about girls who are not very academic? Must they be condemned to forced marriages?

  1. IHM, I think she has a point. Women have the fundamental right to choose where they work and whom they marry, and when. Women shouldn’t have to feel like a job is below their “standard” or “undignified”. And even if they do not earn, they should be able to choose being single over marriage, or one man over another. I’m with the guest write on this, one hundred percent.

    Your post about the girl whose head was shaved by her brother comes to mind. He thought that he could control where his sister worked and whom she married. She refused to comply, regardless of the hardships she had to face. And she was probably lucky he didn’t set her on fire or pour acid on her face.

    We need more women to do this. We need nothing else, because everything else will gradually fall into place if women start standing up for what they believe in.

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  2. Interesting post, while this opens a bit of can of worms and my view may not entirely be generally supported. First, I agree that having a professional career need not mean having independence. Financial independence is the first step any individual should take.

    Now coming back to the point mentioned, comparing western society and indian work environment is good point but both have same level of security as of now.

    – Work in McDonalds or Target or Walmart along with numerous other girls like herself, without anyone making unwelcome advances, passing rude remarks, checking her out, or making her feel uncomfortable.
    There is a big workforce in McDonalds, KFC (who also hire hearing disablity people) etc. No one has put legal barrier in applying to these jobs but still a lot of the jobs remain vacant.

    – She can work as a nanny, babysitter, or tutor or a cook without fear of getting harassed by the kids’ dad or other male members of the family, who could get reported for harassment.
    While India doesn’t have a minimum labor job, most of those who live on daily wages. Anyone from middle class family, literally, refuses to take these jobs. While harrasement is not as promiment as is potrayed, there can’t be 100% clean environment unless every girl stands for herself.

    – She can clean houses without relatives and family judging her to the point of disowning her for bringing shame on the family.
    Own family judging her will take millions to subside. There are girls/woman who work as a housekeeper and are judged. But those who don’t bother being judged get the job.

    – She can deliver pizza, drive a bus or work for a limo service, because the companies that hire her are focusing on the business not on her physical attributes and they want reliable drivers with a clean driving record, so again because she can be safe doing what numerous other women are doing.
    This is changing nowadays and there are a lot of taxi service who hire woman drivers.

    – She can work on an assembly line along with hundreds of other male and female workers.
    Isn’t that happening now?

    – She can work in multiple part time jobs.
    – She can work late hours along with numerous other people who work the night shift to make ends meet, and not have people think she’s ‘asking for trouble’.
    – She can go out by herself in public places, shop, spend her money, use the ATM, etc., without street harassment.
    – She can rent out her own space without landlords and landladies giving her a hard time.
    Landlords give everyone hard time, even when I was a bachelour to now when I am married. I got hard time. It is common and best chosen to ignore.

    Point being, the first step should be taken by the girl and not anyone else. While the society may change hundred years later if 1000 girls step out of the mindset and do anyof the things mentioned above, society might change in a decade. Problem is, who will bell the cat? Who will take the first step?

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  3. I like the way it is in the West. I like the fact that it is so much safer and more conducive for women, single or not. There are many more opportunities, no doubt.

    As for India, labour is aplenty and going rates for labour-intensive (so-called ‘menial’) jobs (like that of a nanny, or assembly line worker, or bus driver, or household help) are very low, so it is usually the poorer people who are taken at very low wages for these jobs. Someone from a middle income household might not want to do this, because income/class difference is so great in a country like ours where a large chunk of the population lives in penury and resorts to offering cheap labour. I think this would be a problem in any country like ours, where there are too many people, especially from the low-income group.

    That said, the I’d love to move to a Western country!

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  4. ‘Forced Marriage’ = when you dislike the person/family you are getting married to.
    Always unacceptable.

    ‘Forced Marriage’ != when you choice marriage as the best among the available career options
    Not ideal, but life is often about choosing from an array of sub-optimal choices and making the most out of it.

    That the options for women should improve is something nobody here will disagree with (I hope!)
    But meanwhile, there is no need illegitimize the choice of a girl marrying because (she thinks) it is better than what is out there now, by calling it a ‘forced’ marriage.

    Let us not make a virtue out of career
    For many people theirs is a ‘forced career’ – as they aren’t wealthy enough to not work.

    And – here is where I let the cat out of the bag, with a gross generalization – a girl choosing ‘marriage as a career’ to a reasonable person/family she does not dislike, will have a more wholesome life in the long run, than many of her American counterparts working multiple min.wage jobs ‘independently’ today.

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    • But then how do you know that person/family is going to be reasonable? What if she’s signing up for a lifetime of slavery to an entire clan, endless demands for ‘gifts’, harassment or much worse, abuse?

      Also, rather than making a virtue of career, I’m saying every child must be raised to be self-reliant, whether academic or not. Why should we raise girls to think, “if you are not going to be successful professionally, then marriage will take care of your financial needs.” Yes, there are many barriers to this in India, and that’s what I’m exploring.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Honest answer: she wouldn’t know.
        I don’t want to posit a milk and honey positive extreme against the negative extreme.

        She and her family should make prima-facie assessments and not get into something they are uncomfortable with. i.e. she should not ‘resign’ into a marriage.

        Why is this ‘wrong’?
        In fact I’d say this should be an option regardless of whether she can be ‘successful professionally’. As long as she is making a choice.

        You just have GOT to have a career, GOT to be a thoroughly independent person – are universalized a little too much. People seek happiness and ‘completeness’ in different ways.

        The whole tone of ‘marry if you can’t get a job’ smacks of resignation! As if it is virtually impossible for any woman to want to choose marriage.

        Update from Gen Y – many girls start a good career and chuck it on their own volition to be housewives. Whatever floats their boat!

        To be clear: I am not suggesting they are in any way the majority. Even today, the majority of post-marital resignations are because of over and covert insistence of the groom’s side. No qns about that.

        But even in the miniscule minority of cases, the fact that educated girls are consciously not pursuing their career is something not to be ignored.

        We can’t simply call those choices ignorant ‘oh! if only they knew better’, such a decision could have only been due to situational or societal complusion etc.

        I felt the word ‘forced’ – suggested such a line of thinking.

        Yes, as I said, I get that. I am probably making only a tangential point that while the options improve, one should not ‘sit upon judegment’ and discourage ‘marriage as a career option’.

        Bottomline: some of the choices women make, may not challenge patriarchy at a macro-level. But as long as those are their choices – they should not to be called ‘forced’.

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        • I agree uh-oh. I think the ultimate feminism is acknowledging women know what they are doing, that they are not childish and silly creatures – and acknowledging women are not men🙂

          Any true individual choice is challenging not only to patriarchy but to the establishment.

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    • In India ,I doubt menial jobs will be given to middle class people !
      If you are middle class and not educated much or educated in fields which offers no jobs or very few jobs,you won’t even get jobs like nanny,cook,sale esgirls !Even though you might be good at that simply becoz you don’t look poor !!
      At least that’s been my experience ! After studying a course which has no value or value equal to a BA, I was not getting jobs !The jobs I got paid same as a receptionist or admin !
      Then when I fell sick ,I decided to work as front off but nobody hired me as I was overqualified, or no exp as front off….years went by !But at home I learnt cooking and sewing ,…now I am a very good cook and sew my own clothes !
      My father refused me to to people houses to cook,and he couldn’t see her smart in academics and ranker as a tailor !
      I couldn’t go back to my old job which was extremely stressful after a long break because of break and because it pays as well as a receptionist !!
      I got a job now only after dumbing down my resume and went for interview looking poor ! I don’t if that worked or it was just co incidence !
      Nowadays, engineers are roaming jobless ,….that makes me feel better !!!

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    • I agree with oh oh !many housewives I know are very happy doing nothing !
      They have no talents and they cook food,watch TV and rest all the work is done by maids !
      They do nothing creative with their hands!!
      If these women have to go out and become a cook ,they’ ll run away !!!
      Some women don’t want to work for self respect and make money !
      Nowadays, mothers themselves don’t know basic skills so what they will teach their daughters !!!
      I think we need to have lots and lots of technical training schools with good teachers wherever everything is taught (even cleaning ) and given a certificate !!!We need to bring back apprenticeships !!
      We need employers who believe in giving part time work,pay by hours,contract work like lijjat papad franchise !!! These jobs should be open to all who is willing to learn ,do a good job and improve skills !!
      Attitudes are changing or rather because of economy they were forced to change !!
      I don’t understand why merit is seen only in studies,….try doing embroidery and sewing something perfectly ,…it requires merit and skill like nothing else !!!

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  5. While I agree with the sentiment of this article, I don’t think some of the points are workable in the Indian context. There is a huge difference between Western and Indian society, and I don’t mean social, cultural or legal issues.

    1. Most Western countries have a strong safety net for their poor members, which actually reduces the income divide. For example, in a country like UK, if you don’t earn what the government has calculated as the requirement for sustaining oneself, the balance is made up by the State. Under these circumstances, independence is easier.

    2. Population. India is bursting at the seams and while jobs are increasing and the economy is doing well, also consider that there is immense competition. Hence, the salaries for some of the jobs outlined would be insufficient.

    3. Do you really think that people who work in construction and cleaning jobs are able to afford any sort of independence? These are the people for whom joint families are still a viable option for economic reasons. These are the families where brothers pool together to ensure that basic necessities are fulfilled.

    4. The LW you referred to was a student. Indian colleges believe in rattafying and making sure you learn how to slog. Do you think that it is possible for a student to study and work in India, especially when doing a full-time professional degree? Do you think work hours are as strictly monitored in workplaces as in the West? People are always expected to work just that bit more and when you are in need, you just do it. Where is the time for study, then?

    The economy does not lend itself to a completely independent lifestyle, for men as well as women. We just have to work on the social and legal angle and ensure that more and more people are educated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fem, all good points. But this is exactly what we should be examining. We should be looking at the barriers and start tackling them. We must fight for better working conditions, minimum wage, safer public spaces for women, a more sensible education system, maybe more practical curriculum that trains people to be mechanics rather than just mechanical engineers, etc.

      Realistically, only 20 to 30% of any given group will be academic. What about the rest of the women? Even if given opportunities they may not be able to become professionals. Are they then going to be stuck with no choices and no independence in their lives? What is the way out for them?

      Liked by 1 person

      • We already have a minimum wage, though it is very complicated and different in different states, not to mention different for different industries. But the problem is that the minimum wage does not guarantee basic survival. Then again, what could one expect from governments that push down the poverty line to declare there is now less poverty. All these statistics actually don’t make any sense.

        We definitely need better working conditions. But looking at how even highly educated professionals in reputed companies have to slog it out, it is a pipe dream to achieve anything decent for blue collar workers. Look at the way some of the famous Indian companies have a minimum working day of TEN hours! It’s ridiculous, but there you are!

        We definitely need to revamp the education system but how many people would even support it? Dang and blast it, what if your child decides to take up Arts instead of Science? Quelle horreur! It’s about as rock bottom as you can go. [/sarcasm]

        The point I was making is that the lack of independence under these circumstances are not just applicable to women, it is also applicable to men, who have to stay with their parents, share a home, finance family events and savings. Another point is that while your suggestions are great for focussing on what we must work towards and what we need to achieve, they are currently not useful for women who are struggling now.

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        • Yes, they do apply to men as well, EXCEPT women are further hampered by lack of public and work environment safety.
          No I never intended to propose a seamless solution for NOW. Exploring barriers to a wide range of employment options is the first step. We have to start thinking about this now, so that we can continue to make progress with women’s empowerment and the girl child not being seen as a burden.

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      • Rest of women,get married !!
        But then even married women,are not willing to cook properly run the house or do housework !
        In India housewife can hire maids for 2-3 jobs but if she is not even willing to cook,…I doubt it can be counted as ‘working’ !
        Earlier being a housewife was back breaking job even salesgirls don’t want to do !!
        Things are changing,….for e.g girls from lower middle class don’t know to make chai or even cook , they get paid good money to do a shoddy job of cleaning or becoming mall girls or helper !
        In malls they get paid 8,000 to 10,000 just to stand and talk ,they never help customers or even know where things are !That’s great money !
        So,they get those jobs only because they belong to that ‘class’ !!!
        Just the other day, when some people I know were recruiting a driver ,….the guy was so stubborn ,know it all,he refused to learn and understand that a Mercedes requires different type of handling than a Sumo !!!
        So,drivers,maids,etc know they will have jobs in India just because they belong to a ‘class’ and they need not even improve,learn more skills, or work better ,….they’ll get paid !!!!

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        • I am not sure what your point is. You just seem to be ranting out of the blue. Where have I said that rest of the women should get married? o.O

          Why should all married women know how to cook or run the household? Where exactly are you going with this? This sounds very arrogant to me that you expect all women to do house work just because they got married!

          Why is it wrong if girls are getting work in a mall?

          Are you actually blaming poor people …? Unbelievable!

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        • It was not for you ,fem or anyone else in particular !
          I was commenting on reply by wordssetmefree !
          What I meant to say is there are jobs available where people get away by making little or no effort and still get paid !!!
          The rant part was :
          There is scope for improvement in jobs which are so called menial : one can best nanny or driver then get paid very well instead they prefer to do less or bare minimum !
          How do we expect standards be raised !
          Yes, a housewife has lots of jobs but if she is not doing daily cooking,cleaning and other work then she might as well go out and work ??
          In India as it is ,she has help ,…she can get 2-3 jobs done by the maid depending on her husband’s income !But if one doesn’t want to work at or for her own home, we can’t count it as ‘work’ !
          If maid does all other work and housewife doesn’t want to even cook basic meals,where is her contribution ,in Indian scenario ?You can replace ‘cooking’ with any other jobs of the housewife !
          In office,nobody pays for intentions !
          As for mall thing, I said its great money !!! Who pays 8000 rs to stand in one corner and chat when you don’t even need to go extra mile to help a customer !!
          Attitudes have changed,people are already getting minimum wages in practically all private jobs !
          Income disparity is between middle level execs to top tiers,…and that disparity is huge !

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  6. I think more than an womens issue this is an issue of over-population, Sure women face harassement everywhere in india. both young and old. for that to change mindsets and the way one raised kids needs to change.

    But the gross overpopulation in india means labor is chaep and not necessarily even and fair. so it’s very hard to pull oneself up from min wage job, i doubt you can clean houses for a living and survive much above th epoverty line. My cleaner here lives in a beautiful 3br house . of course she is exceptionally good, charges us thru the nose but is reliable and clean and her rate per hour is much much higher than min wage but it’s back breaking work and she demands the pay for it. its supply and demand.
    There when you have so much supply where is the demand??
    As for students earning. college life is not condusie to that, but thats OK thats the way the education system works there.
    recently though there opened up a spate of jobs for not professionally qualified people . also my aunt is a BA ( long ago) not professionaly qualified an dshe’s always been independent as a steno in some firm, she always says she never learnt shorthand and her typing was atrocious but she managed and acted as the general office help and she’s fine.
    If someone wants to marry as they couldnt find work ( and my cousin did) thats ok too, it’s still work sharing the workload at home, however Im of the firm belief that financial independence is necessary for everyone , male or female. just because we live in a world where anythng can happen and one better be ready to face it.
    so we cant compare west . we have diff problems , but they all have solutions, of course we have plenty of limitations and the general maleis great , female is secondary nnsense … for that to change one can only pray🙂

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  7. This is a classic issue on socio economic disparity… Firstly marriage by any means is a personal choice and there rests an individual’s life on it. Of course family can provide guidance but a crucial choice like marriage when is gambled for socio economic raise or religious pressure, it turns out to be a forced institution. Women are not safe bid it, let it be a corporate scenario or a menial job. Being a woman indeed is not a crime but then it seems crime in itself causes a woman to think twice for venturing to do what she wants to do. Be it norms or social conditioning, we have along way to go and I always believe in do your bit part and trying to uplift at least whatever possible in individual capacity. I am proud to be a woman but I want to feel proud to be an Indian woman….the road ahead is arduous but let’s strive with our capacity

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  8. Fine post.
    Echo her views.
    In three visits to USA in the past three years, I too observed how young women keep their heads high in that society even if they are not the academic type.
    I too wish our girls here in India could emulate them.
    There must be other ways they could be productive in addition to being maid servants, nannies, ayahs, counter sales girls etc.

    We have lady postmen here in Bangalore.
    I also see lady traffic police at some intersections.
    I had heard about a taxi service with women drivers for lady passengers exclusively.
    The Bangalore Metro has a few lady drivers for the metro trains.

    In Korea in 1993 (where I was posted for some time) I saw women perched at great heights doing welding.
    I could not find a male barber in Korea. I overcame my embarrassment and finally willingly submitted to a lady hair dresser who did a splendid job of giving me a long overdue haircut.

    I am sure there could be hundreds of ways for our women to be gainfully employed and be useful to society.
    Getting married and staying married need not be our number one priority.

    Regards
    GV

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  9. In Western societies, large numbers of women entered the non-academic work force with the beginning of the industrial revolution. In India, under Nehru, we did start our own manufacturing base, but it did not coincide with women joining the work force – largely due to social factors – women needed to stay home and take care of their joint family clans – whereas in the West they had nuclear families and the woman earning became a must for supporting the family – which in turn had the nice side effect of growing women’s self-reliance and productivity.

    However I do see glimpses of this happening in India – at least among poorer to lower middle class women – for us, recently it has been the upsurge in the service industry – opening up jobs for non-academic women. I traveled on a Kingfisher flight and was pleasantly surprised to see that all the flight attendants were women (and some men) who were not the Ms. India types from privileged backgrounds. They were hardworking, courteous, and gave all passengers excellent service. Wow, I thought, if their mothers had been docile domestic helpers and construction workers, these young women were somehow different – they were assertive, confident, determined. Many of these women also worked in the airport, weighing luggage, getting the paperwork done, etc. Very nice to see. I also see more women working the night shift at hotels – again a welcome change – but we need to make our streets, our buses and our trains safer for these women – then more women would be willing to take up these jobs – then we will have a more productive nation without half the population being seen as a ‘burden’.

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    • “… women needed to stay home and take care of their joint family clans – whereas in the West they had nuclear families and the woman earning became a must for supporting the family – which in turn had the nice side effect of growing women’s self-reliance and productivity.”

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    • Sorry, I do not agree. Women in the West were working long before the industrial revolution. They worked in farms, fields, family businesses and even factories. And they were living in joint families for a long time… I would say up until 2-3 generations ago. And some of them still live in joint families. And now many children stay with their parents until they are in their thirties because of the price of rents.

      What changed the lives of women in Europe is 20th century wars, when labour force was lacking since so many men were away fighting.

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    • “In Western societies, large numbers of women entered the non-academic work force with the beginning of the industrial revolution. ”

      This is factually incorrect. The two events that pushed women into the workforce were the following:

      1. The World Wars, especially the second : With the young men all in the Army, there was no choice but for women to fill the work needed at home.

      2. Widespread use of home electric appliances: These made domestic chores much less time consuming than before, which freed up time for women.

      Two more remarks are in order:

      1. Many of the “independent” young women you see in America are really on various forms of government welfare. Just because someone depends on the government for support instead of the family doesn’t mean he/she is “independent”.

      2. Notice that in the 2-3 decades that led women to “freedom”, 1940s to1960s; society insisted that the most dangerous jobs be done exclusively by men, the same way that it insists even today. The actual dying on the beaches of Normandy or the death traps of North Korea had to be all done by men. It is an interesting question why the feminist movement that flowered in 1960s complained a lot about how men get to be doctors and lawyers, but complained very little as to why women never got a chance to die like rats in the bloody fields of battle.

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      • I have responded to the Industrial Revolution versus wars issue – my response has several links to articles so it will take time to appear. Here your argument does have a fair basis (historical evidence on the IR is sketchy so there are several interpretations) and I do agree wars had a huge impact.
        Regarding your two points, about “women who are supposedly independent are really on welfare” and “why are women not dying in wars”, I will not respond. You sound very angry and condescending toward women and it is impossible to have a rational discussion with such an attitude.

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        • He might be angry but he has a point, especially the second point. The first one is applicable to a lot of men as well I guess.
          Let us not look at it in the men vs women frame but something as an issue that needs to be examined.

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  10. Nice article by LW.

    What I feel its not about being nanny, househelp, working factory or any other work its more about safe sexual harassment free working environment. Being working in IT industry itself I have to limit my work time on projects upto a certain time because working and travelling in night is not safe. So for my manager If project is on Live system then his first headache is in case if issue takes a long time then he can’t ask me to stay back till late night. So its better put a guy on Live system. Bingo you lost the chance to learn.

    Many jobs which women are not able to do because of fear of harassment. Working in factory, driving cabs, night shifts, early morning shifts, travelling jobs even in sophisticated sector like Telecom,SAP,on site Indian IT projects which demands night shifts and travelling womens are not able to take up because of fear of harassment.

    2nd thing which I feel is that all mens in middle class are not academic type but they make living without working as daily labourer, welder, electrician etc. They easily take up good jobs not highly academic but still decent ..Men don’t have working hour constraints also so easy to employee.
    Why and how they become financially independent??????? Because men are always taught that you have to earn no matter what condition is there you have to be financially independent. For them its their main goal, motto of life. Without job they can not marry in most of the cases. If the son of family is not earning then the family biggest tension id to make him independent.

    But for girls financial independence is side business. Its okay if girl is financially independent but its not a tension if she is not. She can always cushion up on marriage. Because of this attitude girls don’t see their dependency as a big issue. Even if the girl is earning still they don’t take any financial responsibility for themselves and their family. So family doesn’t ever get confidence that they can depend on their daughter or DIL. So whenever needed their job is axed. And many family don’t even encourage daughters to be independent because at the end she is not going to bear responsibility and give up job so why waste energy.

    This attitude will not change until unless women by force don’t take up their as they have done in West. I don’t why their is no feminist movement in India like West. We have already lost 50 million Women in three decades. and how much loss we are going to lose before we wake up.

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    • “Without job they can not marry in most of the cases. If the son of family is not earning then the family biggest tension id to make him independent.But for girls financial independence is side business. Its okay if girl is financially independent but its not a tension if she is not. She can always cushion up on marriage. Because of this attitude girls don’t see their dependency as a big issue.”Yes, yes, yes!

      Also another reason girls don’t get the right to work and see marriage as their only option:
      My niece and her friend both did their MBA in marketing. Both got many job offers. Parents started realizing that almost every marketing job requires travel. Her friend’s parents told her she can find a job locally or forget about working. Then they got her married to some guy, despite her protests, because “Who will support you? We are getting old.”

      My niece fought for the right to work, and yes, travelling on business is unsafe and full of hassles for her, just as the parents predicted. Why can’t we fight for this simple right? How is this any different from the Taliban not allowing women to walk on a street unaccompanied by a male relative? Let’s reclaim public spaces for women (or rather let’s ‘claim’ them – not sure we ever had them to begin with).

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      • WSMF… reading this example, it seems to me the problem is not especially forced or arranged marriages but the whole family system of India, whereby respect of elders’ decisions is higher than your own well being (labelled in the West as “toxic parenting”). In the West, it is not jobs in MacDonald’s that are protecting youngsters, but the generally accepted idea that children have to find their own way in life.

        Then how do you think middle class families with non academic children react if their kids want to work in fast food restaurants ?

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        • But would you see it as an option for your children ? My rebel daughter stopped school at 17 and became a waitress. I can tell you it gave me a lot to meditate about…. including what does it mean to be a feminist mum😉

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        • @Victoria, replying to your last comment here about ‘would I (or you) be okay if my kids worked at these jobs?’ Yes, if my son CHOSE to be non-academic, I would still insist on him being self-reliant. And if he chose to be self-reliant by being a waiter, then that is is choice. (This is not very relevant because we are talking about the vast majority of Indian girls who try to be academic but fail and then give up on self-reliance. We are not talking about kids who are being rebellious or making their own choices.) I’m not saying all parents should be happy about this, I’m saying they can’t force their daughters to not work but still call them a burden and get them married. I think we’re nitpicking here. The point is very simple. Indian daughters are not encouraged to be self-reliant unless they are academic, and it is very common for parents to pressurize daughters to get married before they’ve had a chance to work. If that is somehow unclear, I will not try to clarify any further.

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        • WSMF. It is clearer but are you not talking of upper middle class families only ? I know so many Indian girls who work !

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  11. The following article describes the experience of a working woman in a non-academic job. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kochi/They-threatened-to-torture-my-seven-year-old-daughter/articleshow/42437676.cms . In another news article about the incident they detailed her lumbar injury. This incident really shook me. I tried to do some research, and stumbled on reports of custodial torture in Kerala in particular and India in general which was so horrific I wish I hadn’t seen it. The perpetrators usually get way with it; maximum they get a slap on the wrist. Maybe some of the readers of this blog have some influence. Can anything be done to prevent incidents like this at a practical level?😦😦

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  12. I agree with most of your points but I do not agree with your point about kids not expecting a cushy lifestyle. I am horrified at stories of western parents expecting their kids to pay rent as soon as they turn eighteen if they haven’t moved out already. There is a difference in culture between india and America and it is difficult for college kids to get part-time jobs here because there’s usually lots of competition for those jobs. I don’t see struggling to pay bills as something we should emulate-it makes zero sense to me that you would willingly move out after school to a tiny place somewhere,forgoing all the comforts and joys of home. Of course if you get a job somewhere or really want independence then that’s a different story, but I don’t like the western way of moving out at all costs and shaming those who want to live close to family. If your family can support you through the early rough years of your career, then what’s the problem? I for one don’t want to live an uncomfortable life.

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    • B, actually parents do not abandon their kids at 18. What really happens is a combination of financial necessity and the kid’s fierce desire for independence. Where we live, an ordinary public university costs $35,000 a year. Times 4 for four years of study. An Ivy league school is about $65 K a year. Scholarships only cover a small part of that. Many middle class parents do not have that much money. Remember they must also contribute to their retirement savings and in the US, health insurance was until recently non-existent for those who retire, and now with new laws (Obama care), it is better but still highly questionable. Health care costs for aging parents are extremely high and people are living longer. People are now wondering where they will get the money to live from 60 or 65 to 80 or 85 without going broke. So, the kids doing jobs to pay their way for school is, in many cases to avoid parents getting into dangerous levels of debt or going broke after retirement. This is not at all about kicking kids out.

      Despite this situation, many many parents save up money in a college fund (as we are) and want to pay for as big a part of college expenditure as is possible. Due to the recent economic challenges, many kids are also now opting for local colleges so they can stay with parents and save rent. About 3 years ago when the economy was really slow, even kids who had graduated came back to stay with their parents because there were no jobs or the jobs didn’t pay enough. American families adjusted to need of the times. In fact, in many cases, the kids who leave their home the earliest are the ones who opt OUT of college – they can get a non-academic job and they can afford to stay on their own because they don’t have to put up with crippling college expenditures.

      For most college going kids, making it without parental financial support is nearly impossible and almost never happens. Of course, when there is a choice of colleges, and money is not a problem, kids do opt to go far from home because they are excited about their first steps toward independence. Somehow this concept gets misread in India – the point that – living in the US and battling healthcare and retirement costs is extremely hard – is somehow often lost in the translation.

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      • My son who is turning 16 would like to go this reputed U that is technically “local” for us, but is a 3 hour commute due to heavy traffic and the notorious inadequacy of American public transportation (unlike Europe and Japan). So we have 2 choices – he can stay in a dorm adding another 15K per year or stay with us – both my hubby and I work so we can’t make the 3 hour commute both ways – so buy him a car? Now we’re talking gas, and worse than gas, insurance on 3 cars. Where is all this money going to come from? The only way we hope to pull it off is the college fund (a big part of our savings) + scholarship (hopefully!) + a campus job. As you can see, even with the student working, families barely make it. And imagine for the lower income families. And we have no idea yet how we’re going to do all this for our second one! The only kids who can afford to have everything paid for are those from wealthy families, and like everywhere, these are in minority.

        As Fem said below, all of this struggle early on gives them fantastic practical skills and a go getter attitude that I see sorely missing in kids who are cushioned for much longer. I can’t even begin to describe the difference in the grads we get at interviews – those who worked their way through college have done a tremendous amount of learning, are way more mature, responsible, take more initiative, and are better problem solvers, and utilize the resources in their environment way better than those who’ve been taken care of by wealthy parents.

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    • “I am horrified at stories of western parents expecting their kids to pay rent as soon as they turn eighteen if they haven’t moved out already.” And that’s exactly what they are – stories. I have plenty of European and American friends and I don’t know of a single case where parents expected rent from their children. They did expect them to become independent and lead their own lives, eventually move out, but nothing horrifying. Of course, I am talking about people still studying or starting their careers. It is a great idea to share finances appropriately once the kids are settled enough and decide to still stay under the same roof.

      “Of course if you get a job somewhere or really want independence then that’s a different story” – That is the problem. When people talk about independence as optional, then it is really horrifying to me.

      This is not to say that people should not choose what is best for theme economically, but independence should never be optional. Also, in a country like India, where parents tend to sit on your head for every small little thing, it is a great idea to move out and experience life, learn what you really want and who you are and then settle into whatever pattern you really want. Know your choices before making a decision.

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  13. Although this is not very prevalent in our country but it is steadily increasing, more and more women are working in newer and previously male-dominated areas. Now, we even have female petrol-pump attendants, workers and cashiers at retail stores, bus conductors, cab drivers, hotel staff etc and not just high-profile executives, engineers, doctors, lawyers etc.

    Of course, there still a lot of gap, women still have to start working in lot of roles like skilled construction workers e.g. welders, crane-operators etc.; and in front-line combat roles in the armed forces; as fire-fighters etc.

    And slowly and steadily more and more women are getting capable of living as they like. Social conditions change when people are enabled. And this is good for everyone, including men. Of course, a lot needs to change and the rate of this change is on the rise.🙂

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  14. I have a generic comment to make about Indians who live overseas and comment on life in India. I don’t disagree with them. I just wish to remind them that the India they left, is not the India of today, unless you left very recently. I used to live abroad and now live in India. I travel frequently and every time I talk about home, it changes. I find that I need to be conscious about upgrading my views based on what I experience today, not 10 years ago. For e.g., taking science and medicine was all the madness when I was in school. Today I hear and see kids take up all sorts of different professional streams. Also, I think aspirations of youth today, male or female, rural or urban depend strongly on geography – things are different in the south, north, east and west.
    I live in Bangalore and what my experience is that for empowerment we need legal assurance, decent labour laws for people in the informal sector, and community empathy. For e.g., my maid is not embarrassed to be a maid, but I hate that she has to work 7 days a week. She has Sunday off from me, but not the other aunties. Have you thought about this: if you are woman who hires a maid in your house in India, why she has to work 7 days a week? I have tried to convince people I know – the response – “Oh Sunday is the only day I get free” – Ok, so give another day off – no, she bunks too much anyway. So set up a plan at the start of the year for holidays. No, too much work. How many of your maids get paid-vacation? If she doesn’t get paid on time, she had no other recourse than ringing the doorbell of the defaulter. Ugh. I hate that she doesn’t have a bank account because she feels intimidated by the set up. She reads and write Kannada. Her life absolutely depends on the damn ration card.
    I met a girl in the bus once. She was going home to a town outside Bangalore. Worked at the garment factory in the city. Her work timings were horrifying: 10-10. She pays for every day she takes off!
    Or the girls at the beauty parlour. 11 – 8/ 7 days a week. Holidays only on request and that too both cannot take off at the same time. So what happens at Diwali? One forgoes. One of them had a kid – now she is unemployed. There is no way she can afford day care. And of course, there wasn’t a contract that specified a paid maternity leave.
    So, at least in our part of the country, women are already financially independent in most cases. They do work at Mc Donalds, KFC, CCD and the Jockey store. For such people companies should be legally made to pay for health insurance and pension, and a legally bound contract, so independence is not limited to that monthly paycheck. That’s how you have and demand rights, by law.

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    • Hi Megha, I’m commenting based on what I see on my yearly trips (I visit for business as well as family). I do agree with you that it’s different in different parts of the country. I still get the feeling that non-academic jobs are resisted/shunned by middle class families. If you have observed that that is indeed changing, I’m happy to hear that.

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    • Megha,
      I just want to add something,… Even in white collar jobs I worked ,the big corporations didn’t pay for health insurance ( mediclaim) ! if I opted for it amount was deducted out of my CTC !
      Yeah I got paid holidays, which were actively discouraged to be taken !Nowadays, holidays in corporate sector are only 12-15 a year !I am not talking about Government jobs ,…..they have lots of holidays !
      In some companies, its an unwritten rule of working 10-11,…some people stay back of their own accord to either complete work,or to get noticed by bosses !
      But people in factories have a union and get overtime for extra work or hoursl Not so ,for all white collar jobs !!
      !So ,only maids and factory workers are not the only ones who suffer !
      in fact,maids are free than the people who work in offices !
      They can chuck jobs without notice,don’t inform about their absences,lie and cheat all the time or whenever opportunity is available !
      Most maids have flexibility of time,no punctuality enforced or even abided by them ! Most freelancing maids work only half a day !
      .…….
      Work culture in whole Asian subcontinent is a bummer, I am told !

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      • Hello Cosettez,

        I want to clarify – changing labour laws does not mean advocacy for unionisation. My comment was not on industrial policy, but to reflect that middle class women do take up non-academic jobs – in my family and certainly in my circle of knowledge they do, the next step I felt was to offer them legal protection for health, working hours etc.

        And I do take umbrage at the generalizations about maids and factory workers. “They can chuck jobs without notice,don’t inform about their absences,lie and cheat all the time or whenever opportunity is available !” –
        Can’t speak for factory workers, but not true thus far in my life about maids. You treat them well, they treat you well too!

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        • Its not about treating well or even paying well,…most people I know treat maids very well,…even let go many things which no employer in office scenario would let go !
          I was just adding that legal health insurance paid by employers is non existent even for white collar jobs not just maids and factory workers !

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  15. Since we are talking about jobs for women, would like to say i saw a female “coolie” at the agra cant railway station! I was pleasantly surprised to see her and went up to chat. She has a supportive mother-in-law, husband and 3 kids who actively encourage her in her chosen job. She was quite at ease with her male coolie colleagues and she said she faced no discrimination. India is a-changing!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Please watch Dum Laga Ke Haisha – where a man is asked to Please adjust and save his marriage. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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