‘Unbelievable? Believe it. This isn’t your usual Ekta Kapoor serial.’

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’.” –

– IHM

* * *

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.

Related Posts:

‘An email from a daughter whose mother endured everything because she did not want to ruin her daughters’ lives’

“Ask your father if he has never beaten your mother!” Please adjust.

What makes some of us resent abuse victims instead of supporting them.

The invisible family member in the saas-bahu post.

“I put my blood and raised my sons. Now the daughters in law are enjoying the fruit…”

An email. Aren’t the sons supposed to have their own family lives?

More than half of young Indians believe it’s okay for a husband to beat his wife.

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

An email from a Divorcee’s Daughter.

“A message is required to be sent, loud and clear that wife bashing has no place in a civilised society and violent husbands deserve no mercy,”

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Why Scandinavian women make the rest of the world jealous.

Swarup Biswas shared this link, and not surprisingly there were some comments about India’s ‘glorious past‘ where men who abducted  ‘other men’s wives’ lost their kingdoms. It seems women today expect a little more than that kind of glorious life. Do read the article to read what can make women (and automatically those who share the planet with them) happier.

Let me share some bits from, Why Scandinavian women make the rest of the world jealous

Icelanders are among the happiest and healthiest people on Earth. They publish more books per capita than any other country, and they have more artists. They boast the most prevalent belief in evolution – and elves, too. Iceland is the world’s most peaceful nation (the cops don’t even carry guns), and the best place for kids. Oh, and they had a lesbian head of state, the world’s first. Granted, the national dish is putrefied shark meat, but you can’t have everything.

Iceland is also the best place to have a uterus, according to the folks at the World Economic Forum. The Global Gender Gap Report ranks countries based on where women have the most equal access to education and healthcare, and where they can participate most fully in the country’s political and economic life.

….

To understand why, let’s take a look at religion. The Scandinavian Lutherans, who turned away from the excesses of the medieval Catholic Church, were concerned about equality – especially the disparity between rich and poor. They thought that individuals had some inherent rights that could not just be bestowed by the powerful, and this may have opened them to the idea of rights for women. Lutheran state churches in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland have had female priests since the middle of the 20th century, and today, the Swedish Lutheran Church even has a female archbishop.


Or maybe it’s just that there’s not much religion at all. Scandinavians aren’t big churchgoers. They tend to look at morality from a secular point of view, where there’s not so much obsessive focus on sexual issues and less interest in controlling women’s behavior and activities. Scandinavia’s secularism decoupled sex from sin, and this worked out well for females. They came to be seen as having the right to sexual experience just like men, and reproductive freedom, too. Girls and boys learn about contraception in school (and even the pleasure of orgasms), and most cities have youth clinics where contraceptives are readily available. Women may have an abortion for any reason up to the eighteenth week (they can seek permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare after that), and the issue is not politically controversial.

Overall Nordic countries devoted fewer resources to the military – the arena where patriarchal values tend to get emphasized and entrenched.

The public sector grew, providing women with good job opportunities. Iceland today has the highest rate of union membership out of any OECD country.

Over time, Scandinavian countries became modern social democratic states where wealth is more evenly distributed, education is typically free up through university, and the social safety net allows women to comfortably work and raise a family. Scandinavian moms aren’t agonizing over work-family balance: parents can take a year or more of paid parental leave. Dads are expected to be equal partners in childrearing, and they seem to like it.

The folks up north have just figured out – and it’s not rocket science! – that everybody is better off when men and women share power and influence. They’re not perfect … But Scandinavians have decided that investment in women is both good for social relations and a smart economic choice. Unsurprisingly, Nordic countries have strong economies and rank high on things like innovation – Sweden is actually ahead of the US on that metric. (So please, no more nonsense about how inequality makes for innovation.)

Maybe one day we’ll decide to follow the Nordic example. But at the moment, we seem to be moving away from Iceland and closer to Yemen. Is that really what we want?

Related Posts:

The “Motherhood Penalty:” The Pay Gap Between Working Moms and Childless Women

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

DIscussion: If you look at the system in Sweden, many of these suggestions are in place.

Each child’s parents have 480 days of parental leave (can be used till the child is 8years). Of which each parent is entitled to 240 days, but one parent can transfer upto 180 days to the other if needed, but s/he is not allowed to transfer 60 days. Child care and education is free, but child care is not available till the child is 1 year old. So the parents have to (between themselves) take care of the child for its first year. It is as common to see a man pushing a pram or taking the children to the play ground as a woman. The government pays the parents during this time. Sweden is one of the best places to bring up a child, but, also has one of the highest taxes in the world. [comment by Nisha]

“India – A dangerous place to be a woman