Sharing an email by A Confused Male.
It can be confusing unless we have had the opportunity to find out how those who are involved actually feel.
Those who benefit from the system (via obedient elder-care providers, ladke wale status, dowries etc) probably cannot be expected to view it honestly. The few unhappy voices that are heard are accused of washing ‘dirty linen’, being westernised, or of not being sanskaari enough.
Many more voices are hushed whispers, or silenced.
Also, the few women who do speak up are able to do that because they have that option – and most still choose anonymity.
While women face complete control, men in such patriarchal families are not really free either.
Amongst other things, men may not be free to love or marry someone they like and may not be permitted to choose what they do for living. It’s tougher to fight control, emotional blackmail and abuse, when it comes from those who seem to genuinely care and possibly claim to ‘live to see them happy’. Also, in return of such controls, they are offered benefits which lead to dependence, controlled freedom and a sense of entitlement.
And then there is this censorship of not just what some people are permitted to say, but also what some obedient adults are permitted to hear or read.
Too many social evils are rooted in the present system, like male child preference, sex selection, dowry, bride burning, ill-treatment of widows, dependence of elderly women (and men) on their male children, semi forced marriages, objectification of women (aggravated by segregation), adults who are not emotionally and economically self reliant etc.
Hope you are doing fine.
Am a regular reader here. Wonderful platform you have created.
Sharing here an observation as well as a few questions for debate by you and your readers. If you find this worthy of your space, kindly share on the blog anonymously.
I have been looking at a population segment in my state (Gujarat) – semi-urban/small town, middle/upper middle class, local college educated, average jobs/business class people with 5-10 lakhs per annum incomes. And following are some observations (Just my observations. No concrete research or statistics to back these):
– Men and women marry young – generally before they turn 26-27, ages where people are still to form strong views on what they want from life and hence often defer to parents’ judgements.
– Men and women are quite prepared for “arranged” marriages. Such marriages are between two families and hence the two set of parents are the key decision makers. If they agree on a match, their children generally agree. There is no feeling of being “forced” into a marriage. Horoscopes match; Cultural, social and financial backgrounds are similar; External aspects – height, weight, complexion, car, house are in order and so compatibility is automatically assumed.
– Marriages seem healthy, the husband-wife seem to get along fine – well set in their respective responsibilities and busy with their children. The physical abuse seems to mostly not exist. Divorces are unheard of.
Further, the way boys and girls are brought up in this segment of population and the kind of things they see around them, the following is readily accepted and neither party sees any big issue with these:
– Wife relocates to husband’s town/city and lives with his family
– Wife changes her surname to that of the husband
– Wife refers to the husband as “aap”
– Wife adopts the customs, preferred deities, cooking style and schedule followed in the husband’s home. MIL takes the “responsibility” of “training” the DIL in these (a younger DIL is preferred as she is “easier to mould”)
– Wife can continue to work only if the husband’s family permits. In any case, she is expected to quit working on attaining motherhood. Till she works, money belongs to the husband and his family. Spending a lot of her own money on her birth family is frowned upon and would need permission from husband
– Husband will be a “mumma’s boy” and will not openly side with wife in case of a conflict. Husband will consult his parents on major decisions / expenses
– Wife is expected to “give” sex to husband when he wants
– Marriage is for life. Unless there is physical abuse or outright pre-marriage lying about medical/financial condition or likes, divorce is unthinkable
Followers of this blog would find most of the above oppressive to women. But these men and women, since a very young age, have seen only such marriages around them that there is nothing unusual for them in this set-up. A woman accepts all of the above knowing well that some other woman is going to marry her brother and accept the same conditions as a DIL in her own home. Likewise, a man who expects the above from his wife has a sister who accepts the same in her husband’s home. How do you expect any different from what’s prevalent in your own home? And so no one seems very bothered and considers this as a normal way marriages are. Essentially, they are perfectly comfortable with the conventional gender roles and the traditional idea of a marriage – a man is responsible for earning, a woman is responsible for children and home and that after marriage a woman’s birth family must assume a secondary place in her life.
So on one hand, we have a section of women who, through their own lives, are waging a spirited battle for truly egalitarian marriages and man-woman equality and are rightly refusing to do things that parents/husband/in-laws/society expects out of them just because “that’s what a woman should be doing” or “that’s our culture”. And on the other hand, we have this section of women who seem content and even happy with the current set-up. This seems akin to a freedom struggle going on here. I guess, to a segment of population in pre-independence India, British rule wasn’t as big an anathema. But to those who believed in principles of freedom and equality and self-determination as well as those who had a greater exposure and had seen better, British had to be ousted at any cost. Likewise, today, for the section of Indian women who have clear thoughts on equal marriages, it is a period of struggle till men and the society at large come around and start sharing their justified worldview.
But I also wonder – is ignorance a bliss? Not knowing better – isn’t that a reason why so many women (and hence men) seem quite happy and satisfied in their marriages? I admit that for some of these women, they do know better but don’t have any other choice due to various reasons (kids, financial dependence, social stigma etc.). But a lot of women I see around me in this segment seem genuinely satisfied with their lives. They were fed a certain image of a marriage right from their early days and they seem to have no heartache when that image turns out to be largely true, even if to another section of women such marriages may seem like patriarchal horror stories.
All of this has led to three questions in my mind and it may be good to hear views of readers of this blog on them:
1) Is the happiness I have observed only superficial? Do the women in such population segments also feel shortchanged in the Indian marriage setup?
2) A marriage with a partner of choice, after a lengthy and healthy period of dating could be wonderful and bring immense happiness. Or it could cause a lot of grief later due to high expectations on both sides. On the other hand, in a traditional family arranged marriage (with similarity of social, cultural and financial backgrounds and predictable expectations) the “happiness quotient” is consistently decent. Any marriage is a gamble eventually and so if we draw a normal gaussian curve of marital happiness, the “choice marriages” are mostly likely to end up on either of the two extreme ends while the traditional ” family arranged” marriages are mostly likely to end up somewhere in the thick middle. Is that a fair assessment? Of course each marriage is dependent on the two individuals involved but I am only considering the impact of two big variables: compatibility (high in choice marriages, generally of a certain minimum level in the family arranged ones due to similar backgrounds and upbringings) and expectations (high in choice marriages, moderate in family arranged ones).
3) I would like to get married but I haven’t “clicked” with someone so far (more than a year since I started looking). With all my expectations from marriage – a friend, a companion, love, compatibility etc. have I set myself up for discontent and disappointment? Would I have been better off if I too had shared the traditional view of marriage – same as that of the majority in the population segment I live in?
– A confused male
And, Please watch Queen.