It is often said that marriage is an important landmark in a woman’s life when she takes rebirth. After marriage, the majority of Indian women have to accept changes concerning the living space, family and kin relations, social norms, daily routine, rites and rituals, and marriage markers on the body. Soon after the marriage, a woman finds herself in a space where she is supposed to follow new ‘rules’ and carry herself differently. In short, she is a new person with a new ‘identity’.
It is not that marriage does not affect men. Although the institution demands changes in men as well, women go through major transformations as compared to men. However, this post is not about how women are being discriminated against by the society. We all are aware of this fact and try to manipulate and deal with the situation as per our capabilities. This article is about how we, women, look at ourselves. Are we able to address equality with the right perspective? How we identify ourselves affect all the other spheres of our lives. I explain this issue with the example of marriage.
Women, What’s Your Identity?
Certainly, women are expected to do more adjustments and sacrifices than men. Yes, they are brought up to be flexible to get molded in whatever environment they may get in future. Yes, we can blame our parents for pampering and protecting us and not allowing us to explore the world. Having said that,
- How many times do we take charge of our lives? Do we take pain and stress to figure out things that have an impact on our lives? These things could be as small as finding the right teacher, doctor, trainer, car, phone or laptop, or as significant as finding a life partner. Irrespective of the fact that we may face objection and criticism in expressing our interests in some cases. It’s our right as well as duty to speak for ourselves.
- Do we ever try to challenge the norms that looked like favoring us? Interestingly, we challenge practices that directly discriminate against us but how about gendered practices that favor us. Many girls do not mind being ‘trophy wives’ who get enough of money and material possessions. They enjoy taking gifts because they are ‘daughters’ of the family/kin group. Can you say no?
- How many times do we get out of our comfort zones? Equality does not only mean getting things we are being denied for. It is also to do with giving away certain comforts and protection. Are we ready to take our own responsibility?
- What do we dream of? Our reaction towards issues and incidents are very much affected by our dreams and desires. Of course, we have been given many boundaries and taboos not to be broken. What stops us from dreaming? Are we ready to break the gendered imagination of our future where we can be more than our bodies?
Our aspirations, dreams, efforts, reactions, statements, and behavior reflect upon how we identify ourselves. Think, what’s your identity?
Marriage as a Goal
In our society, marriage is one of the biggest goals that parents have for their children, both male and female. To achieve this goal, parents often focus on making their sons and daughters ideal models who can be in demand in future. Hence, this goal of marriage reduces children to mere commodities who should be ‘saleable’. So, the onus of becoming the breadwinners comes on the shoulders of the boys while girls are expected to learn all the skills required to run a household effectively. Parents feel proud when their son achieves a good career position and daughter learns culinary skills; reverse would not invite a similar degree of happiness.
Yes, we are parts of our society and reflect its nature, but it is we who make this society. Certainly, times are changing but even today many women young adults would not have a professional goal for themselves. Of course, many women take their career seriously, but even today their dream of having ideal men in their lives suppresses other dreams, be it professional or social. As a result, when you give something too much of an importance, you tend to have more expectations from it. Hence, it becomes the reason for increased frustrations. Companionship is important but who sets up the criteria for selecting a guy? Or even if you have selected your partner, what guided your choice? Think, are those criteria gendered?
What Are Your Criteria for Marriage?
Interestingly, if a girl is not married till a certain age, it attracts the attention of all the family members and relatives. My questions to all the girls out there are-
- Do you have the courage to set the criteria for your marriage?
- Be it age or the selection of your partner, do you question the age-old parameters set by the society?
- How often do you challenge the image of an ideal groom belonging to a specific class or profession, having specific masculine qualities, or showing gendered etiquettes?
- Have you ever thought why you should get married at all?
The answer to all the above questions will help you plan your life better.
Division of Labour/Work After Marriage
Nowadays, we often see women working and getting engaged in a professional career. We also see them demanding equal rights. Many men have also become sensitive towards women’s issues. As a result, for example, we can see them having paternity leaves and supporting in household chores more often. Things are changing gradually. However,
- Do we really see ourselves equal? I mean, are we okay if our husbands leave their jobs and we are expected to take the lead financially? Do we feel bad when people comment- ‘oh, but you have your husband to take care of your financial needs’?
- Do we see ourselves that equal that we do all the financial planning and take a toll in analyzing all the market trends? Have we made ourselves equipped enough to do financial deals, or at least participate equally in those?
- Are we ready to take our share of tensions that our husbands silently deal with or we would simply take refuge by saying that ‘we are women and hence, not trained for all these’? Certainly, we are not trained but are we ready to take that toll now?
- Are we okay if our husbands do not fit into that traditional role of the ‘head’ of the family?
- Have we equipped ourselves well to also ‘protect’ the men in our lives? This also requires a degree of emotional strength and maturity.
I do not intend to say that women do not do the above. They do, but only when the situation demands. Can we do the same with interest and happiness?
What I want to suggest here that the treatment we receive is not only dependent on how society sees and expects us to be, but also on how we look at ourselves. What dreams and aspirations we have? How do we identify ourselves? Do we question the practices that favor and pamper us? Do we sit back and reflect on how and why we behave in particular fashion in particular situations. We should be ready to question our own thought process to be able to bring the real change we desire for.
Certainly, we live in a society and we are affected by it every minute, but what I want to suggest here is to be conscious of our own selves and minds. It’s only after being aware we can know our selves better, which to me is the first step towards the real change. Let’s also acknowledge that patriarchy affects men as well. So, let’s understand each other better and be what we are truly apart from our genders.
Questioning oneself is perhaps the most difficult thing, so women, are we ready for a change?