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4

So many things to write about, so much to do. I describe myself as a nomad. The life of Nomad is one that is home everywhere. Many things are happening in life, and some synchronicity is leading to insights about myself as a woman. The role of women in Indian society is all crap, as we know it. Each person has their own fantasy of what society "allows" without halting to reflect that it is them that collectively create society. Anyway, all that is irrelevant to my current ponderings.

I read Germaine Greer's book - Sex and Destiny, where she talks about the role of our sexuality in out life and the impact of the world on us based on our gender. The book is an awesome read as well as a life changing line of exploration, but what is currently on my mind is the chapter she wrote on "a child is born". She describes a "western culture" which admittedly is unfamiliar to me, yet some observations strike a chord. I have started seeing this whole business of contraception and family planning as a wholesale cultural hatred and negation of a woman's fertility. Identifying goals as a working woman in a relationship with a man has taken a whole new meaning. No? Think about this:

Pregnancy is a normal state of being for a woman - yes/no? If it is normal, why doesn't anyone trust a pregnant woman to know what's best for her?

We see having more than the "prescribed number of children" as a socially embarrassing thing and consider an excess of children to be a drain on personal and national resources. Never mind if a rich man can afford a hundred kids, or a poor man can't afford one. No one thinks that a rich man having plenty of kids will eventually lead to an increase in the population of rich people, or the division of the wealth between them will lead to decreasing differences between the rich and poor. Thinking is superfluous - the statistic is the allowed fertility.

  • A woman's fertility is unacceptable and needs to be allowed only in the form of "planned pregnancies" where the focus is not so much on her being a fertile woman as it is on planning ovulation, contraception and then living by the word of some expert (earlier it was midwives, which graduated to doctors, and now its, gynaecologists, sonography techinicians, etc) who knows better what she should do with this alien state of her body till it is rid of its alienness through birth of the child.
  • Contraception is a way of removing the consequences of intimacy and reducing the requirement for commitment. Yet, how many females want to remove the requirement for committment? How many males are willing to take responsibility for their intimacies? I don't know, but my hunch is that by solving the symptom on the physical manifestation level, we have left an entire culture vulnerable to emotional consequences.
  • As I sit here staring at my screen, I am wondering what impact these insights will have on my life. Will it mean a more meaningful intimacy with my husband, where awareness of the implications of the intimacy between us as man and woman open up an entire world of beauty? Or will it be a hesitation to rock the boat, where we continue to see fertility as a thing to be "controlled". Can we acknowledge that as a woman and man, our fertility is a part of it?

Call me old fashioned or ignorant, but I am well aware that I am not entirely cues in to this feminism thing. I am female. I am a housewife, a mountaineer, a professional in multiple areas at my whim. They are all aspects of me. Why should it be that my being a housewife is wrong or makes me weaker in anyway? For that matter, why is there a need to have an exclusive label, if equality and empowerment is the idea?

Does being protected make something stronger? Is that equality? I think feminists are the biggest danger to women power, because they demand that separate platform, rather that empowering women to simply be themselves and powerful.

I think that this whole thing is so hyped and people are so aggressive about it, that all sense of perspective is lost. The original idea of setting women free from social pressure has now given was to the pressure of expecting a woman to reject all that is "traditionally" allotted a feminine connotation. That's plain silly.

No matter how many women burn their bras, its going to be a hell of a long time before there are as many female construction workers as males and if it happened, it would be plain stupid and a mismanagement of human resources.

Rejecting traditional female roles and beginning afresh is like reinventing the wheel. I am a woman, and only one who doesn't understand people at all will imagine me to be weak. That strength didn't come from competing with males or insisting that I be the same as them. It came from being myself and if some expectations crashed, either from the traditional end or the feminity end..... *shrug*

Males don't get PMS. Women have multiple orgasms. On the other hand, orgasm for a male is guaranteed. Men have more muscle mass than women, women do have breasts, and I'm not even going to get into the psychological differences. Just grab a copy of the Mars and Venus book.

I can understand how it is important for a woman not to be oppressed and how it is a violation of her personal rights. What about the rights of those who are expected to accept women even where they don't believe it works?

I think woman power is not about "Equal-to-man" power. Why use men as a scale anyway? Are they an ideal? I think its not about woman power even. It is about being yourself and having the guts to go through with it, whether you are male or female. There is no point dragging gender in as a measure while claiming that the ideal is removing it from the public domain.

So people, figure out what exactly it is that you are trying to say. And yes, this is a kind of direct response to a "burn-the-bra" type who had the guts to look down her nose at me for being a housewife. I am a housewife, because I don't want to land up for work everyday. What's more, I have managed to figure out a life for myself where I can work 10 days a month at the most and afford to live happily.

I refuse to believe that my feminity requires me to slog 30 days a month to prove I'm powerful. If I can't ensure my freedom, what power do I have?

70

A look at modern urban women and the gender dynamics of a society caught between modernity and outdated stereotypes. Is there a better way?

 

Shy smile of a bride in a Hindu wedding by kunjan detroja
Shy smile of a bride in a Hindu wedding by kunjan detroja

As a woman in Indian society, I find that the world 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".

[bctt tweet="There is no reason for a man to find the women's traditional role appealing, so he doesn't."]

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.

[bctt tweet="It does not empower men to be left incapable of managing the home they live in."]

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.