As a woman in India, I find that the society is changing a lot in terms of acceptance of the many roles of women as professionals, as bread-earners in families and as independent thinking individuals. The traditional Indian woman has evolved to prove herself equal in many professions as well as proved better suited than men in others. The situation for the changing role of women is improving fast.
On the other hand, female foeticide, dowry deaths and domestic abuse provide a macabre background of primitive barbarism. In the typical Indian Society, you find that there are still expectations and assumptions about women that are not so much relevant to their current status, but a clear hangover from our supressive past. This may be more obvious with traditional women or women in rural societies, but it is extremely prevalent in urban ones as well.
I am speaking of “running the home” kind of stuff. Regardless of how hard the man and woman of the house work, when it comes to women and society, there are certain areas of the home that are the woman’s province in happy times and her nemesis in not so happy times.
“As the woman of the house, you should….” is a familiar refrain for most women in India.” Indian Women’s clothing is another externally imposed recommendation backed by vicious judgments. A pregnant woman is a public drop box for intrusive recommendations. I think, it is high time that we as citizens of modern India took a good hard look at our automatic assumptions and investigated which among these are still applicable today, and which ones we simply need to let go.
Typical situations we see include the woman bringing a cup of hot tea for her man returning from work, or the woman returning home after her husband and heading straight to the kitchen to cook dinner, and so on.
On an average, in any home where women are working, their income is also important to the well-being of the home and the living standards. Where it is not a question of money, it is generally possible to employ someone for the work in the house. So when we speak of a traditional role of a woman being responsible for the efficient running of her home, it is something we need to be aware of as an additional expectation made from her.
The traditional role of a man has been the one of earning the money for the running of the home. This has changed to a great extent. Working women contribute to the expenses of running their homes as well. However, there has been little contribution from men in terms of shouldering some of the responsibilities of women.
One interesting insight I received into this was from a friend. He said, “See, women find the outside world challenging and attractive. They like the freedom it brings to them. So they enter the world. There is no reason for a man to find the women’s traditional role appealing, so he doesn’t. No one has forced the women to step into the man’s role, and no one should force the men to step into a woman’s role”.
On the surface, this seems to strike sense. However, the flaw lies in an assumption of curent roles that are the same as traditional roles and that the women are entering “a man’s territory”. This simply doesn’t hold true in most cases today. Women are educated and often have their careers well before they get married and it is as much their right as the man’s work is his. However, the other part, where the men don’t find the house work appealing enough to invest effort in still holds true.
This is something that needs to be taken an honest assessment of. If we abandon the traditional perspective of division of responsibilities inside and outside the home (since it has already been broken in the outside the home area), we come to a situation where the couple are both inhabiting a home and earning and contrubuting toward its running. What we need to find is a sharing of responsibilities inside the home as well, that allows both some dignity.
This would also help resolve many situations where a man feels threatened by a working woman. Why wouldn’t he. She earns, she spends, she invests, and on top of that, she is independent in terms of being able to manage her own existence completely, including running of her own home.
There is no point pushing the women down. What needs to happen is the removal of the “un-machoness” associated with responsibilities at home and recognise it as the actions of a responsible and independent individual, whether male or female. This would actually add some power to the increasingly “lazy” image of men among women and empower them with some self-respect, while empowering the women with acceptance and support from the one source that matters the most.
Please not that I am not speaking of every man out here. There are many couples who are already on this journey and find themselves comfortable both inside and outside the home, and the mutual respect and closeness can be seen a mile off in such couples.
I sincerely think that this is an important adaption that is the need of today’s times.