Don’t patriarchal gender roles get doubly reinforced for children who have grown up watching their fathers beat and emotionally abuse their mothers? When do they start grasping how much of what they have lived with is not ‘normal’ or right?
When do they begin to see and then wipe away almost everything they have learnt about relationships? Please note the abuser could be a very involved, controlling and a very ‘demanding’, perfectionist parent.
It can’t be easy to totally wash away the conditioning and to start rebuilding the part of their brain/thought process that helps them understand relationships, rights, personal space, equality, happiness, gender roles, family values? It would be like a mindset overhaul.
And then imagine doing this when almost everybody, most media, most family elders (generally trusted for knowing better), the legal system, friends from the same generation, colleagues, siblings and worst of all, even the victim – can’t see any need for ‘these trivial issues’ to be taken too seriously.
Sharing some answers to comments from the courageous young woman who wrote: “My in-laws don’t hate me at all. But ‘love’ isn’t about all this. ‘Love’ is about letting your loved one ‘live’.” –
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Thanks for giving my story a chance to go up. There are some comments from the viewers, and I realized I haven’t been clear about this issue.
1. Why did I not do my research before marriage?
I did. I knew my husband. I knew his family. I knew all the fine print. But, could I simply break up with the one man I loved just because his father drunk? Was it his personal flaw that his father was like this? Did it dampen our love? The answer to all this is ‘no’.
I know this is controversial. I will go ahead.
2. How can you love someone who is sexist?
My husband isn’t sexist. He is a perfectly ‘normal’ person as every other feminist out there.
3. How can you claim this when he clearly didn’t support you in your trouble?
I reflected upon this and I asked my husband about this yesterday- “If you are really the nice person that you are now, why didn’t you support me then?”
Here is the feedback.
Every time I was away, my husband used to fight with his family for my rights. He fought through all the emotional drama, alone. He was branded a “gooja thookaravan”, the Tamil equivalent of JKG. He took it in his stride and still fought on. Nobody relented.
But, he never told me what was really going on, thinking he was protecting me. Sadly, he was also not very mature to deal with this situation very effectively and couldn’t bear this all alone- me complaining, his parents complaining. So, he’d get frustrated.
As to telling me to “adjust”, since his family clearly wasn’t giving up, he tried to persuade me to keep low until we figured out a solution. I must admit, it was my mistake too that I just panicked and freaked out instead of dealing with this situation as a mature adult should. I don’t mean a mature adult “adjusts”. A mature adult tries to find out workable solutions. I wasn’t mature. I just cried and like I said, tried suicide. I should have fought back in a decent but firm manner. I didn’t do that, even though my husband encouraged me to speak it out openly and politely to my in-laws if I couldn’t obey all their wishes. I was so scared of their censure that I didn’t do it, and I came back to complain to my husband.
4. How can a husband be supportive if he doesn’t help around with the chores?
How can a husband help around with the chores if he doesn’t actually know how to manage a household? You have to teach him. What if he is constantly discouraged from learning housework? He is hesitant and slow in learning even if he doesn’t believe in pelting all the housework on the wife. What if the wife herself is too young to teach him things? The couple has to learn things together.
And, that is precisely what we are doing now.
We both were absolute rookies. Like I said, MIL was a slave. He wasn’t used to being actively involved in the house. He had eventually become addicted to TV and then, lazy enough to procrastinate. He had his own frustrations (coming to that subsequently). But, he believed in helping around the chores and had promised me that before we married.
Million dollar question: Why didn’t he actually come round helping me then? Because I never really asked. I was too scared to ask him to help, what with his grandma staring at me with hawk-like eyes and passing an odd comment that “this was a woman’s job”. You see, there was social pressure too. It is an object of ridicule in my community if a woman isn’t good at all this. All the women I knew were absolute pros at single-handed household management. I didn’t want to be ridiculed.
When I finally overcame this and did ask him for help, I discovered that although he wasn’t unwilling to help me, he was actually a very bad procrastinator. He was quite lazy. To get anything done, I had to remind him over and over and over again. Result: he’d be cleaning up the hall at 3 a.m. in the morning after watching movies all night. Sexist society + husband’s general procrastination/laziness led to him being perceived by everyone as a sexist.
To be fair I wasn’t very different when I was single. I would simply nod to every chore my mom assigned me and ended up doing it very late or never doing it at all. Why is it so different if it is a man this time?
5. How are your first write-up and the remaining story so contradictory?
Because that is exactly how reality works in most educated middle-class families. People are conscious that they don’t want to be called villainous in-laws. The result: Internal politics.
To this date, I have never had a fight with my in-laws. They have never scolded me directly. They have praised me to heaven of course, before my parents and everyone else. The “daughters” in this family are treated the same way I am.
Unbelievable? Believe it. This isn’t your usual Ekta Kapoor serial.
In fact, every time we meet, and the moment I turn on my charm (which, I must admit, I have a lot) people are too jovial and cordial with me to think about my flaws. My FIL openly declares to the world that I am his daughter not DIL. Though grandma does some “internal politics”, I’ll be the devil’s advocate- she’s 70 plus; you can’t expect her to simply snap out of her old-generation views. Grandma has affection for me, but she also wants to survive in this not-so-conducive environment. She is dependent on her alcoholic-wife-beating son even if she hates his behavior. But, she is helpless. She was also a victim in her days. Talk about vicious cycle. Anyway, I digress.
Whenever my ILs interact with me, it is so sweetly put, you would hardly figure out that they are actually encroaching on your space/being sexist/controlling you and most often, they end up convincing the listener. Eventually, you realize you are unhappy only when you have actually started doing what they said. My husband had warned me, but I took it lightly. I had no clue “politics” could be this bad.
For example, when my FIL told me to stop wearing jeans, he didn’t openly forbid me. He said, “Please wear salwar kurta/saree whenever you are going out with me. You can wear what you like when you and your husband go out alone. The society doesn’t approve of women dressing in modern clothes.” So, sweet and polite right?
Clincher: He was ALWAYS with us. Almost ALL our outings consisted of family trips. Finally we all moved in together. Result: I would get a cold stare every time I wore jeans, as I couldn’t “fulfill this very simple and reasonable request”.
If I cooked a bad meal, my FIL would sweetly instruct me to learn the right technique from MIL. Then he would call MIL and abuse her for “letting it pass her scrutiny”. I would feel guilty for having become the reason for my MIL being abused.
So what you all call “abuse” was so sweetly and nicely put and the folks were so openly affectionate otherwise, there was no evidence that their acts were making me unhappy. This is why my parents, who lived miles away and knew only secondhand information, persuaded me to “adjust”. I was also somewhat a spoilt kid, so my parents had no clue as to the “veracity” of my claims, as being very sensitive and emotional, I used to show more emotional responses than the cool reasoning of an adult.
In fact, it took me a very long time to discover the real reason why I was unhappy. There was hardly any evidence so I couldn’t pinpoint anyone. For the same reason, I couldn’t openly rebel or fight as I didn’t know how to subtly and firmly decline requests, without leaving evidence in my wake. I was either angry or happy. I didn’t have the tact.
One of my MIL’s SILs (my FIL’s brother’s wife) had openly rebelled and had got branded a “vamp”. My husband didn’t want that for me. Nor did I. (Now, we don’t care.)
6. How is your husband a worse victim of patriarchy?
My “abuse” was what you’d call an undercurrent and one had to really read between the lines to discover “abuse” in it, so the problems were more psychological than physical. With my husband, the “abuse” was full-on.
Since he had a work-from-home job, he was constantly bothered. He had to do the usual pick-up drop-at-even-odd timings routine even if people could simply take an auto to get somewhere. He was supposed to drive his parents around everywhere, including pilgrimage trips. They sent him out to get grocery, sometimes as many times as one grocery per trip, instead of giving a complete list. They spent exorbitantly, bending him with emotional drama. They made him run so many errands he was almost given a pink slip. Eventually, the company forced him to resign. He got another job, but it was recession and he couldn’t negotiate the salary as much for his experience. Then MIL says, “You dare not blame us for this. I saw your performance slip. You performed badly so they sacked you. It’s your fault.”
Much earlier back, they didn’t let him choose his own course, or a career. He was told to give up his job and move to another city to take care of his younger brother who had come to study there. He was told to send home his paltry salary of 6000, and as a consequence, he had to go hungry for a week. Despite all this, his younger brother was hailed as the best son and my husband was called “a misfortune to be born with my (FIL’s) blood”.
There is a lot more.
My abuse has stopped now. His hasn’t. Yesterday, he was down with fever. FIL called him and told him to pick him up and drop him somewhere. This would have meant a commute of 16 kms to pick up FIL, then 40 kms to the destination, then another 30 kms back home. My husband picked up his courage and refused. Result: My MIL was abused last night.
But, we have decided “not to interfere in their personal life”.
I know my husband has seen so much and he has a deep psychological trauma. The only thing that can heal this is true happiness- loads of happiness and freedom. Our primary aim now is to make each other as happy as possible.
BTW, I told him about this site and sent him a few articles to read. He enjoyed reading the “invisible person” blog.
Thank you IHM.