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Haven’t you heard ‘Women do not support each other’, and that too not from just men but also women? If anyone thought this was true, I would say either ‘rethink’ or just ‘take a walk’.
Of late, I have been voicing my opinions a lot and not been able to remain just an observer, or be a silent bystander as I used to be earlier. Guess it has come after my warrior avatars on @twitter – #armchairWarrior, #twitterWarrior, #WomensEmpowerment, #EndVAW, #UnpaidWork, #wasteWarrior. May be because I turned 47 this year with a lot of ‘wisdom’!
In the last 6 months, I have managed to logically, and sometimes factually debunk this myth during conversations with friends and folks within my personal and professional network. A few among them, Shruthi Dinkar and Uma Aravind concurred with me, and while there was one lady Triya Sharma who held an opposite view, I had managed to change hers too, after an in-depth discussion on phone.
Having never networked in my professional career, I had realized its importance lately, and also realized that it’s inevitable on the journey of an entrepreneur – it’s like oxygen for them.
At one of the events I attended as a professional, I had another opportunity to voice my views on this myth, this time to a crowd. The event was the 12th Anniversary of eWit – empowering Women in IT.
During a panel discussion headed by Padmini Sharatkumar, I was chatting with my new found friends, and heard Padmini’s roar: “Is there no one who is going to counter this? Is it true that women do not support each other?” in response to a statement made by one of the panelist gentlemen Mr. Amar.
I just sprung up from my seat, and did not even wait for the mike. “That is not true,” I said, and started narrating an anecdote that happened a decade before, and to my own surprise was able to narrate it completely after a one microsecond of hesitation, and had every one there clapping and applauding with concurrence. There was also another lady who had summarized it aptly, succinctly as “Women are outnumbered at workplaces”.
Here is the anecdote – during a meeting that I was a part of, 3 women and 7 men ( including onsite and offshore ) – my lady ATL (Associate Team Lead ) had fumbled once during some discussion and so did the male TL but he was backed up by one of the men. Later, my ATL was asking us women why we did not support her. I was new to the team, and had no clue how to, what to do. The other lady said – “I would have, if I could have”.
That was then, and many years later, I recalled it and analysed that same situation, and here is what I figured out –
Out of 6 men, a male team member gets backed up by only 1 another man. So, what’s the ratio? Out of 6 only 1 is able to support.
Going further, what if that one man did not back him up, would the needy have got backed up by some other man? What is the guarantee that men get supported by other men all the time, in all circumstances?
But majority (including men and women) believe that while men support each other, women do not. So… where does this myth come from and what is the basis of this?
If that was true of men, then there should be no man on this earth who has not got support by other men, all the times he needed help. Can anyone take up this research and come up with statistics, with all mentioned factors? Please? Any takers?
Am sure, the research will be a revelation of sorts.
Women not supporting other women has reasons – considering the fact that they being gender-agnostic and having their time plate full with the double whammy of home and work, and many more such reasons clearly and comprehensively identified by Nirupama Subramanian in her article here.
How many times have we heard from both men and women, “aurat hi aurat ki dushman hai” – the recipe on which most Indian soaps depend, and have been making so much moolah.
In English, it is the mother-in-law vs daughter-in-law’s eternal power-dynamics saga in a family.
I feel that things aren’t as bad in western societies as they are in Asian and Indian households. And within Indian society, the situation is grave in households where patriarchy is more at play. The less patriarchal a household is, less friction among ladies of the house, yes that is the clear equation.
The DIL has to cook for the entire family not just for herself, but her husband, husband’s mother, father, sister, brother… the entire dynasty, while other members of the family will help her out if need be. And not only that, DIL has to serve the cooked food too. And take care of the entire household’s chores, elder care, doing what it takes to move in Social Circles, etc.
This is the daily scene in many Indian households, which are just so well depicted in those money minting shows on TV such as “Balika Vadhu” etc.
The moment a mother becomes Saas / MIL, she gets christened as queen and stops all household chores, takes custody of keys (keys of tijori), and also becomes an active member of decision making committee. No wonder, they crave for a boy-child. “Beta hoga to bahu aayegi, main raaj karungi” (which means, I will rule the household after I get a responsible DIL).
Expectations from a DIL are huge, even if she is a professional and is financially independent. Nevertheless, domestic chores are still her responsibility, so a working DIL will hire help for all that she is supposed to fulfill for her family. Some family heads object to hired help too, which has been one of the main reasons behind the disintegration of many joint families into nuclear ones.
May I ask the Indian Husband – “upon your visit to your sasural (in-laws place), or let’s say you stay in your sasural, will you cook for yourself, your wife, and your wife’s blood relatives?”
Have you ever seen a single Indian husband, happily cooking and serving food to his wife’s blood relatives? Please don’t quote ‘Cheeni Kum’. That is only a movie. Even if there are men like that, they will be very few. And a few do not decide the facts. I earnestly request them to put in genuine efforts in changing the mindset of other men folk instead of putting up a #notMe, #NotAllMen card.
There may be a few men who would agree to serve their in-laws’ family for a day, may be, but then the next question is, can they do that for an entire life? The answer is known loud and clear: “I won’t do it, that is not my work”.
So that is the real cause, the Division of Labour that prescribes domestic chores to women.
DIL vs MIL issues are way less in nuclear families – wherein the DIL does not have to take care of the blood relatives of her husband and the entire household.
So, it isn’t a women to women issue, but it’s the division of domestic labour that is inherently patriarchal in nature, that is the root cause of the friction between MIL and DIL.
In households where domestic chores are equally shared among all members of the family, friction among the women will certainly be less, even if the husband and wife have their own issues, which are there in every marriage.
Connecting the 2 dots above, the domestic chores burden is one of the causes for women being unable to support other women at workplaces due to lack of time on hand.
With this article, I intend to voice my views and smash the patriarchal mindset of both men and women. If it reaches out even to a few, my goal is achieved.
Header image source movie 2 States
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