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The stereotype of the nagging woman exists for a reason – because women are expected to nurture others, even as our requests are not taken seriously, until we – nag!
As children we always had one parent who nagged at us – usually our mothers. She nagged us to eat our tiffin in school, she nagged us to drink our milk, she nagged us to walk carefully on the streets when we stepped out of our houses alone, she nagged us to study and she nagged us for countless other things. Often times we got so irritated by her nagging that we retorted angrily, “Mummy I know”, “Mummy stop saying the same thing over and over again”. As a child growing up, I found my mother’s nagging immensely irritating.
When we move out of our homes and stay in hostels during our college and university years, our mothers are the ones who nag us to eat on time, to eat fruits, to sleep early, to attend some function of a distant relative we don’t even care about and for many more such things. When I moved to college, my mom’s calls on days when I was sleeping till noon would irritate me, and so would her repeated pleas to me to eat healthy. I felt that she was nagging terribly when she kept calling me after every minute when I didn’t answer her call the first time. Of course I always thought that she was being ‘nagging’ and would most often never pay heed to her.
When we enter into romantic relationships, as women we often become that ‘nagging’ woman to the man we date, just like how our mothers are to us. Only, now we bear the brunt of being called that ‘nagging’ person, who calls too much, asks too much, inquires too much, cares too much. For most women out there, this might be their story – being labeled as the ‘nagging’ girlfriend. All of a sudden the things that we do for someone out of love or concern, become ‘nagging’ to the significant other.
We get bombarded by hurtful comments like, “Why do you keep calling? I’m busy”, “I told you I’m in office, I’m working late today”, “I told you I’m hanging out with my friends, we can’t meet today”, “Stop nagging, I was busy that time, that’s why I couldn’t receive the call”, “Stop nagging, let’s talk tomorrow”, “Stop nagging”, “Stop nagging”. Well, some women even get dumped by their boyfriends because they ‘nag’ too much, because they are accused of making a ‘mountain out of a molehill’. We suddenly become the misunderstood, attention seeking breed to the men that we willingly chose to date. And ladies, later when we marry, we fall into the ways of our mothers, and nag at our husbands and our children.
We are often led to see reality in binary terms. We often believe that men and women behave in fundamentally different ways. Books such as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus often work to stereotype gender differences. While men and children often label women as ‘nagging’, we should understand ‘nagging’ within the specific context in which it tends to occur.
My father certainly didn’t care as to whether I ate my tiffin or not, or drank my milk on time. In most households the fathers would stay out of the particular domain of upbringing of their children, which is left for their wives to handle. The mother is intimately responsible for her children’s day to day upbringing and their welfare. The father’s concern is the larger concern of his children’s welfare. When he wants his wife and children to do something, well, he ‘orders’. He orders that chicken be cooked for dinner, he orders his children to study, he orders his children to not get into trouble with his classmates, he orders his teenage or college going children to come back home by 8 o’ clock. When a man demands, his ‘order’ is non-negotiable, unlike a woman’s ‘nagging’. The father’s ‘order’ doesn’t compare to the mother’s ‘nagging’, for it carries far more weight. In most households the father is more feared than the mother. The father’s word is the last word on any matter. As children we come to view the mother’s demands as those concerning matters of far less importance than the father’s. We are also socialized to listen and agree to do our father’s bidding. A father doesn’t resort to continual repetition of his demands – which are usually met before they need to be repeated.
So ladies remember- don’t let the label of ‘nagging’ hurt you. We are just socialized to care for people more intimately, and all of us are ultimately socialized to consider women’s demands as somewhat less important than men’s, and as a result our voice and our demands are far less likely to be heard or met without our continuous effort at it, and hence we ‘nag’.
Image is of Farida Jalal with Kajol, as the perennially worried but powerless mom in DDLJ
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