“Why doesn’t she get married?”, whisper my classmates as she enters the class. “She’s over 30”, they continued, as they do every day during the lectures of a professor. “Why is that your problem?”, I shot back. One of them says- “You need to get married and settle down with somebody after a certain age”.
I sigh, thinking that this professor, like thousands of other women, will be made to sacrifice her career at the altar. Good education for a woman is just seen as a means of securing a better groom. Marriage is just seen as the ultimate goal, not just as an important milestone. From the time of birth it is drilled in their impressionable minds that the main goal in their life is to be a perfect wife and a perfect mother. We’re made to believe that home is a woman’s utmost responsibility and a man is just there as a co-habitant, not responsible beyond writing cheques. And when the time comes to make a choice, women ‘choose’ home over career as a conditioned response, which is actually anything but a free choice!
In a much dissected interview, Indra Nooyi, one of the most successful women in the corporate world, shared that when she came home to share the news that she was to be the president of PepsiCo, her mother immediately shot her down, telling her to leave her ‘crown in the garage’ and go fetch the milk. The interview started a big debate on whether women ‘can have it all’, but in many cases the problem runs deeper. It is not about how much you can juggle and at what cost, but also about how empowered you are to make a free choice without being judged by a predetermined yardstick.
While marriage or fatherhood doesn’t come in the way of a successful career for men, for women the same milestones become game-changers.
Becoming a mother is the most precious experience for a woman. Men too celebrate joy in becoming fathers, but our social structure ensures that only the woman is held responsible for rearing the child. Fathers are supposed to ‘support’ her by ‘allowing’ her to continue work and letting her seek professional childcare options. Fatherhood does not bring with it even a question mark for a man’s career, but for a woman motherhood often comes with a giant full-stop. Amongst the raging feminism debates, is this not a topic to be discussed? In any scenario she can attend to her career only after she has taken care of her first duty; the home and the family. Some may call it a matter of choice, but in reality, it is sheer hypocrisy. Sometimes, there is no choice at all.
A career is an indulgence until one ‘settles down’ in marriage. In a country strained for resources, there are thousands of women who are taking a homeward turn putting their elite education and hard-earned experience to waste. Is this a desired phenomenon?
We have nurtured the wrong notion for centuries and have become conditioned to it. It’s time for this chain to be broken. Both men and women must have their roles in the society re-scripted. It should be acceptable and normal for traditional roles to be switched. Men needn’t be providers everytime. They can stay home and be primary caregivers for children while the woman works and earns enough to keep the ship running. We have been discussing women’s rights for a long time, but not enough focus has been given to the duties that bind her. It’s time we change that.
LIMEWIT Canvas Editorial
By Writ Majumdar
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