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Even as we Indian women fight for our rights, can we also fight for our responsibilities as daughters?
The fight for women’s rights (in the Indian context) probably gained momentum some time around the 1970s and it has been around in various forms since then, with some of the key issues being property rights, freedom from harassment and violence, education and equal treatment at home and work. While that’s a good fight that needs to be fought, what about the fight for women’s responsibilities?
A friend recently told me a story about one of her friends, let’s call her Archana. Archana’s story is a not uncommon one today. She is a well-educated urban woman and the daughter of a single mother, who brought her up with great difficulty. 2 years ago, she chose to marry a man she fell in love with; someone she met through common friends.
Since the time she got married, it is clear that Archana’s mother can expect no support from her – not financially, and not in any other sense. For instance, if her mother is unwell, it is very clear to her that she can come down to help her only if circumstances at her new home permit. The needs of the in-laws must come first. The husband makes it clear that he would not be comfortable with their money being used to help her mother – although his parents can certainly depend on him. At the time of her wedding, she was working at a well-paid job, but a child followed rather quickly, and she has chosen to take a career break for a few years. Which means she has no income of her own at this point in time. Her mother feels insecure, but she is resigned to it – after all, once a girl is married, you can’t expect much, can you, she thinks.
What astonishes me is that this is not a typical old-style arranged marriage where the ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ just ‘saw’ each other and nodded assent. This is a case where two people have extensively interacted with each other before deciding to marry. Given how difficult her mother’s life was, and her even now precarious financial situation, how is that Archana did not discuss with her spouse-to-be the responsibilities of each partner towards their parents? And as I mentioned, this is certainly not the only such story I have heard of, where educated women, on getting married, completely shrug off their responsibilities to their parents. The excuses one hears are, ‘My husband will object’, ‘My husband is a sweet guy, but the in-laws are traditional’ or even – ‘After all, my brother is around to take care of them’.
Grrr, is all I can say. I’m sorry, but I have little sympathy when women with every advantage – who have been given the privilege of education, who have earned their own money, who have had the freedom to choose their man – cannot stand up to outdated norms like these. Worse, are some using them to conveniently abdicate responsibilities?
We want laws to protect our rights and make things work for us, we want society to change its outdated attitudes to girls, but what about the hard work of negotiating change at home? I’ve never been a fan of the Indian attitude towards caring for parents – not because I think the elderly should be abandoned, but because this caring is one-sided. It’s only men who get the privilege (and responsibility) of caring for their parents.
By all means, let’s fight for the rights and privileges that men can take for granted. But, let’s also fight for those responsibilities!
Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas and conversations to create change. She has been writing since she was ten. In another life, she used to be read more...
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I huffed, puffed and panted up the hill, taking many rest breaks along the way. My calf muscles pained, my heart protested, and my breathing became heavy at one stage.
“Let’s turn back,” my husband remarked. We stood at the foot of Shravanbelagola – one of the most revered Jain pilgrimage centres. “We will not climb the hill,” he continued.
My husband and I were vacationing in Karnataka. It was the month of May, and even at the early hour of 8 am in the morning, the sun scorched our backs. After visiting Bangalore and Mysore, we had made a planned stop at this holy site in the Southern part of the state en route to Hosur. Even while planning our vacation, my husband was very excited at the prospect of visiting this place and the 18 m high statue of Lord Gometeshwara, considered one of the world’s tallest free-standing monolithic statues.
What we hadn’t bargained for was there would be 1001 granite steps that needed to be climbed to have a close-up view of this colossal magic three thousand feet above sea level on a hilltop. It would be an understatement to term it as an arduous climb.
Why is the Social Media trend of young mothers of boys captioning their parenting video “Dear future Daughter-in-Law, you are welcome” deeply problematic and disturbing to me as a young mother of a girl?
I have recently come across a trend on social media started by young mothers of boys who share videos where they teach their sons to be sensitive and understanding and also make them actively participate in household chores.
However, the problematic part of this trend is that such reels or videos are almost always captioned, “To my future daughter-in-law, you are welcome.” I know your intentions are positive, but I would like to point out how you are failing the very purpose you wanted to accomplish by captioning the videos like this.
I know you are hurt—perhaps by a domestic household that lacks empathy, by a partner who either is emotionally unavailable, is a man-child adding to your burden of parenting instead of sharing it, or who is simply backed by overprotective and abusive in-laws who do not understand the tiring journey of a working woman left without any rest as doing the household chores timely is her responsibility only.
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