Yes, I'm a woman...So?

‘Being married is like walking on a tightrope for a woman. She should be really careful for the next step she takes could be the very last, the one that results in the collapse of her relationship. Of-course she should get along well with the in-laws too. The husband doesn't need to do any such thing since he doesn't live with his in-laws.’ These were words spoken by a dear friend of mine and it got me thinking. Why? Why should it be so? Is the onus of a happy and successful marriage only on a woman? I don’t think couples think this way, at least not all and definitely not consciously. Hence I told my friend that I don’t agree with her and we had a long discussion as to why. But this philosophy or rather social diktat enshrined in our society isn't something that is going to change soon. However, don’t you think it’s high time it actually did?

I personally feel that certain aspects of our Indian society are skewed against women, especially against the married ones in this context. A lot of things are imbibed in us, through family and some just by being part of this society, that end up making a feeble case for married women in the long run.

The very first thing that comes to my mind is that a woman has to inevitably move in with her in-laws leaving her parents behind. If she doesn't then she is labeled a home-breaker. But my question here is that if a woman can be expected to move in with the husband’s family, no questions asked, then why can’t the woman’s aged and sick parents move in with her? And please don’t say it’s part of the culture and has been going on since ages. Sati was once a part of our so called culture but we all know now that it was simply preposterous. Things change, mindsets evolve, right? Like we certainly wouldn't jump off a bridge in the name of traditions, would we? So shouldn't we use that thought process and assessing capability in every aspect of our life too? Of-course, one can't do anything and it's utterly shameful too when some women use these archaic norms as an excuse to wash their hands off responsibilities.

When a married woman wants to take care of her parents it is frowned upon or looked at with surprise. And I seriously wonder why? Just a few days back when my colleague came to know that I was accompanying my parents for their treatment she asked me why? Really she did! She asked me that is it because I don’t have a brother? Why does this have to be the natural reaction? I would have taken care of my parents even if I had had a brother. Or, should people with no sons be left to fend for themselves in the old age? It saddens me that women ask me these questions too. It saddens me that they think this way. If they themselves are willing to let go of their parents then why would the society change right? Anyways, let me not digress here.

While it becomes the woman’s duty to take care of her in-laws the same is not expected from a man. Our great society doesn't think that is necessary at all and by society I mean both men and women. My question is when a woman is expected to take her husband’s family then why doesn't it work the other way too? Of course there are many good men and sometimes we just need to ask them to do it for us but don’t you think it should be something that doesn't have to be spelled out? Just a thought really.

Permissions and sanctions from in-laws or compromises to ensure that in-laws are not hurt are the next to-dos for women. The happiness of a woman's life is often handed over to the husband and his family. Sad part is some women do it voluntarily and then end up being treated like a doormat. Is it necessary to suffocate a woman to establish authority when she enters a new household? I wonder why does it have to happen? Why this need for control from what women wear to how many clothes they own? Or, if we look at it the other way, why the need to appease everyone but your own self if you are a woman?

I know even women get angry or irritated when their in-laws come visiting. But you know often that happens when a woman doesn't get the support from them or has bitter memories of them. Of-course, there are bad exceptions I don't deny that. But I know women who feel stressed for they have to tread carefully for fear of irking their husbands or in-laws. What if the situation at home becomes uncomfortable as a result of her hosting her parents or relatives? I know women who have even told their parents to avoid conflict at home. So I want to ask do men feel the added burden of ensuring that their spouses are not neglected or not taken care of when anyone from their side of the family visits? Do they feel uneasy as well? Actually this mental pressure on women irks me and I find it upsetting.

Isn't a marriage primarily between two people? Isn't it of utmost importance then that the two folks in a marriage hold each other’s hand, not just physically? Sometimes women, for the sake of peace in the household, keep to themselves when they feel smothered or hurt. But I don’t think they should. We women sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves. Sometimes we are to blame for we don't take control of our lives and happily hand it over to someone else. It’s important we live our lives the way we want to and I don’t think anyone should have any issues with that. But still if they do then they don’t deserve the attention, don’t you think? But yes the support of a partner, the active participation of ones partner in anything we do is something we do crave for. We might not say that aloud always but we certainly do.

So perhaps I can only ask the women to understand that their happiness is important too and it is up to them to ensure that. I want to ask all women to take care of their parents, wear what they want, eat and drink what they want no matter how much the society thinks they shouldn't. Women should go out, have friends and enjoy their lives the way they want to and not according to the choice of in-laws, no disrespect meant but that's how it should be. And yes every once in a while every woman should have a heart to heart with her partner for I’m sure he’ll understand her. And if he doesn't well then a woman must know what to do. Don’t you think so? Don't give up your responsibilities because you are a woman and also don't get smothered because you are one!

To all women - Stop following all the 'shoulds' and 'musts'. Only do what your heart wants.


PS: This post is not against men. I have two wonderful men in my life in the form of my father and my husband. And because of them I know great men do exist. I’m just trying to think out aloud through this post and maybe help dissolve the knots in the minds of some women who I know are going through turmoil owing to the equations at home formed by unfair societal norms.