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Why is a woman's marital status so important that she must use "Miss" or "Mrs" to signal it to society?
The French government will no longer insist upon single women writing Mademoiselle in front of their name. The French do not have an equivalent of Ms., and so women were forced to choose either Mme. or Mlle.
Finally, the light has dawned upon the authorities there that the marital status of a woman is no longer relevant to any decision making in society, especially one where more than fifty percent of children are born to single women.
Why is a woman’s marital status so important? Almost everywhere women are asked to choose between Miss, Mrs. Or Ms., while men just have to tick on plain Mr. Clearly matrimony is not an issue for the male sex. Of course this is because it’s men who designed all communication in the past. Their prurient interest in a woman’s sex life was the reason why they asked for proof of matrimony.
Society has evolved in such a way that it’s no longer material whether a person is married or not, not even where children are concerned. Surrogacy, same sex marriages and live in relationships are doing away with conventional notions of living in sin. But the government in most countries is way behind social norms. What should a divorced woman call herself, ‘Mrs.’ Or ‘Miss’? And why is it anyone’s business?
Conventionally a woman’s marital status was an important of the social fabric. There were visual aids to help people figure if a woman was married or not. In India, the mangalsutra or vermilion in the hair, are the most obvious visual aids. In a wedding ceremony, the filling of the bride’s hair parting with vermilion is the culmination of the entire ritual, and a cause for celebration. No such transformation awaits the man. Is that why many men don’t consider the bond of matrimony sacred? Western cultures have slowly done away with the inequality in symbolism. Both men and women, if married, sport a wedding ring. The concept of widow’s weeds has become a relic.
In India we have a long way to go before women can achieve such symbolic equality. From guardianship of a child to the symbolism attached to widowhood, it is women who are firmly relegated to inferiority. How will things change? While some emancipation is happening in the cities, the media, a barometer of social trends, continues to glorify traditional symbols, instigating a blind following amongst otherwise socially responsible women.
Women whose cultures did not sport the mangalsutra, for instance, are now sporting one, and woe betide any widow who continues to wear hers. Post-modernists may cite this as the triumph of the unifying power of communication, but surely it’s high time some debate also happened on why women are expected to continue to follow stereotypes, whether inside the TV or outside it.
Pic credit: Velo_city (Used under a Creative Commons license)
I'm an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and now a published author. My first novel, Cloud 9 Minus One, was published by HarperCollins India in 2009. read more...
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For International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women, let's look at how we 'accept' mothers who avenge violence against their kids, but not wives who fight back.
The silver screen is replete with depictions of male rage and men engaging in violence, but when women engage in violence, even when it is reactionary violence, it doesn’t sit right with us. We allow mothers (as portrayed in Sridevi’s Mom and Raveena Tandon’s Maatr) to avenge their daughters and resort to violence when all else fails, but when the abuser is an intimate partner, the rules appear to be different.
Depictions of female rage on screen garner mixed reactions. We root for protagonists and films we agree with like Mom or Maatr, but there are also films like Darlings which drew flak for its depictions of reactionary violence.
This begs the question, which women on screen are allowed to fight back and why do we root for some of these characters while refusing to see where others come from?
This Generation To Generation Violence towards A Daughter-in-law Needs To Stop!
It is ironic how women in the same home do not think twice before harassing a woman who left her parents and family behind to live with her husband.
“My daughter needs a husband who listens to her. He should leave his family to stay with her after marriage. He should be well-off and not let her do chores.”
“I also need an obedient daughter-in-law, who will be an unpaid servant and a punching bag who shouldn’t have a life of her own.”
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