4 Things We've Been Wrongly Teaching Our Girls

Indian culture loves women. 

It encourages dressing them up in the finest silk, painting their hands and feet with ripe red alta and donning articulate jewelry made of gold and silver on them. Indian women, packaged beautifully in these pretty clothes and accessories, are then transferred from obeying their fathers to obeying their husbands on what is meant to be the happiest day of their life: their wedding. For the parents who are unfortunate enough to have had a daughter, this is the end of the road. By finally handing their little girl over to another man, they snag themselves a much-coveted position in the Got-Daughter-Married-Off-Now-Our-Job-Is-Done club. While the rest of us struggle to find a purpose in our lives, these Indian families are so lucky to have checked off all the things on their to-do list after one wedding! 
 

The lack of freedom some women receive in choosing their life partner is a simple but huge reminder that our society is inherently unfair to us on some level. While the bigger picture illustrates a myriad of problems, we as Indian women are disadvantaged on two major accounts: our gender which denies us equal pay, leadership opportunities and other related problems, and our culture which burdens us with patriarchy and an invisible domestic role. This makes for a tiresome existence, with the only benefit being the lack of chatter from members of society. But it’s important for Indian women to know that their only purpose in life is not to get married and that there is a life beyond having to succumb to one man or the other. So today, I want to highlight 4 unfair expectations of women that has now become mainstream but shouldn’t be. 

Expectation #1: The Woman Moves Into The Husband’s House After Marriage But The Opposite Is Not Expected
Despite consulting family elders and looking this up online, I am yet to find concrete evidence supporting why this is the norm. Some try to reason by saying that men need to take care of their aging parents and be there to inherit family property, but this falls short considering women are in the same position. Apart from laws preventing women from inheriting anything in some parts of India, there is nothing else justifying this blatant favoritism of the man. In fact, the bride’s side is equally susceptible to aging parents, especially if there are no other children in the family to take care of them. 
 
[source: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/british-rule-india-foreign-domination-ritual-wrong-doing-daughter-husband-marraige-bidai-3730037/]

This tradition has proved to be neither beneficial nor essential. In fact, most couples in other parts of the world tend to move out of their parents’ house altogether to start a new, independent life together. This is a much less bias alternative and both the bride and the groom are given significant freedom to visit their parents as and when they please. This eliminates the scope of the woman being emotionally targeted by her in-laws or feeling isolated and helpless for not being able to interact with her parents much. Women are not portable objects, so why should their gender dictate the harsh treatment they receive? If you think a man should not go through this, then it is equally unfair for a woman to experience this!

Expectation #2: Women Must Do All The Household Chores
After a tiring day of work, most of us want to just crash on the couch, or relax with a nice bubble bath and meal. But most Indian married women cannot relax even at the end of their exhausting days simply because they have to manage household chores too. The level of stress of these tasks can range from having to pick up kids from their extra classes to cleaning the entire house and making dinner.

I remember thinking that this is one of those problems that Singaporean Indians have managed to handle very well because the couple lives away from their families in nuclear settlements. But I’ve still heard of many women in my neighborhood who fight against the burden of chores. In fact, there was a lady who lived a few floors down who had a very hard time, especially since her husband’s mother was in town and enforced this expectation tenfold. Yet she had the gumption to stand up to her mother-in-law and demand why she had to do the work alone despite putting in the same efforts as her husband during business hours. This served to not only stop the imposition of the 
 
[source: http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=14100]

The sad truth is that in most households, the men don’t volunteer to help out and the women in turn never ask for help either. The wives are hence disproportionately burdened and take on more stress than necessary, and since this is expected of them it is not discussed in the marriage and they hence don’t have an outlet. How convenient is it that the ‘men are physically stronger’ argument applies to deny women a lot of things except actual physical labor!

Expectation #3: Women Must Prepare Themselves For Marriage, But The Same Is Not True For Men
While in the western world girls dream of their weddings and plan them out at a young age, in the Indian culture, a young woman’s every action is scrutinized and straightened out to forcefully prepare her for marriage. This also includes learning to cook and do the household cleaning, abstaining from men altogether and gaining other domestic attributes that will bring the woman many suitors. While this is still understandable as these are essential life skills, men are not expected to do any of these things. This links back to the expectation #2, that women have to do all the chores and men can cruise through life without getting their hands dirty. Why are women are expected to be pristine virgins who can dance to anyone’s demands at the time of marriage while the only valuable thing men learn is that they can order women all day? 
 
source: http://www.youthincmag.com/course-cry-vidaai ]

The truth is, things need to change in the way we raise both girls and boys. We cannot inculcate the idea that women are subordinate, or that men are dominant. A marriage is a partnership and there is something that both parties bring to the table. Despite feminism being a global problem, its manifestation through a marriage has never been a concern for many other cultures. Why are we still holding on to an outdated mindset then? 

Expectation #4: For The Occasion, A Woman Is Always Expected To Wear Traditional Attire But A  Man Is Not
I’ve often had long conversations with my parents about donning traditional attire, and I see their point when they say every place has its own dress code and just like we don’t walk into the workplace in a bikini, we must wear traditional clothes to the temple. But what my parents failed to account for is the fact that this rule seemingly applies only to women. If you walk into any Singaporean temple today, you’ll see the men dressed in a pant and shirt but the women always dressed in their finest churidar or salwar. Even little girls will wear a ghaghra or lehenga but the little boys get away with a simple kurta, that looks more like a shirt, paired with pants. The concept of the dress code is the same, but why is it implemented differently for a male than for a female? 

Our women are not uncultured if they choose to wear a dress that is knee-length or a sleeveless shirt. But if you want to believe that they are, then the men who wear shirts and pants are just as uncultured! So next time you attend a wedding or go to a temple, don’t just sneer at the one woman who isn’t wearing an elaborate traditional dress; also comment on the several men who aren’t donning the ethnic attire!
 
[source: https://everylifecounts.ndtv.com/a-major-nrega-success-is-women-empowerment-foreign-media-thanks-1963]

Like I’ve stated before, Indian culture loves women. It loves to cage them, and shatter anything unique and brave about them. I’m an Indian woman and I’m lucky to have grown up with parents that don’t share these ideas, but I’m scared to imagine how so much could have changed if my upbringing was polluted with ideas of subjugation. I am my own person, independent and liberal regardless of my gender, and this is true for all the Indian women out there. Maybe someday we can all be part of a culture were Indian culture respects women. 

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