What does a professional Indian woman need? Other than the requisite skills, a supportive family. For married women, this should mean a supportive husband.
Finally, I submitted my PhD thesis recently. It was really a tough task, as I had to struggle really hard against the final deadline to submit it. Not that I was lazy, but I couldn’t prioritize my academic growth before other family commitments.
So, I had to use all my time, energy and dedication in the last phase like hitting a six in the last ball of the match. Actually, it is a moment of joy, satisfaction and a sense of achievement for me now. But, I am in a fix and the ‘feminist’ in me asks this question- why has my life partner not eased my work pressure, like I do it for him always, whenever he has professional tensions? To be more specific, he couldn’t comprehend my physical as well as emotional stress of working against the impending deadline of submitting my thesis, along with carrying out my routine family and professional duties. Moreover, this is the first important academic venture I took after my marriage and he failed miserably in my eyes.
What I understand from his attitude towards my profession is that, for him, my academic career is just a salary earning 10 to 5 job, without any extended work carried forward back home, beyond working hours.
I am not blaming him specifically for his apathy here, or that of men in general. But, it is a patriarchal mentality that most men in India grew up with. So, it makes them insensitive about understanding what a ‘professional’ woman partner needs from her life partner. They just take the woman’s support for granted and give back nothing in return. There may be a few exceptions of ‘feminist gentlemen’. Possibly, there is more support for each other, if both partners belong to the same field of work as they understand the work culture. But, I am damn sure they are very few.
So, in this context it is very important to set right our expectations from each other in a relationship. Maybe I am asking for too much.
From my understanding, a man accepts all the support he gets from his woman partner, without being thankful to how major her contribution is, to his success outside. As a result, we see around and hear only about successful men. Though, there are a few exceptional women achievers, if you take a close look at their support system, it includes either their parents or siblings, and the role of a ‘supportive (sacrificing?) husband’ is missing in most of these success stories of women. Further, the case studies of women achievers (in any field for that matter) reveal that, either they remained single or had to become divorcees to fulfil their career aspirations or to reveal their true talent.
Therefore, it becomes important to ask for herself; what does a woman aspire to be in life?
Given a choice, would she stay ‘happily’ within the enclosures of her house and remain a support system to her husband and children and taking care of her extended responsibilities? Or would she juggle between family duties and professional aspirations like the most professional women are doing now? By doing so, letting go of opportunities for professional growth to choose family commitments, in a way curbing her professional growth by drawing a boundary or to call it as a self-constructed ‘glass ceiling’ over her head? Through this juggling process, a woman puts herself into all physical and emotional ailments in her early 40s and invites premature aging.
The third option would be, to keep herself free from these socially accepted and expected attachments, without feeling guilty for not fitting into the ideal womanhood status and concentrate on her self growth. By doing so, she has to forego a number of common pleasures too. Moreover, many eyebrows would rise up and bring uneasiness in the well established and neatly designed gender roles and equations. Left alone, this new woman has to act, behave and talk tough. Many a times, this is a fake identity she has to create to avoid loose talk by people around her, with only a few selected friends knowing her true self. In most cases, such women are misunderstood and misinterpreted in the public view.
Hence, a woman has to decide what role she likes to fit in. Is it a goody goody woman who stresses herself every moment, to painfully create a ‘great’ image of herself before others, by swallowing all her wishes and dreams within? Or a woman who explores her life, no matter what color the world paints her?
Perhaps, a woman would want to have everything like most men have been enjoying since ages. If given a choice, she would like to balance her personal life as well as professional aspirations, with some help from her partner. But, the big question is, are we mature enough yet, as an inclusive society to give her own space to explore her full potential? Sadly, we speak of big terms like ‘gender sensitization’, but keep mum to inequality meted out on a daily basis still. For now, the change in this attitude and outlook is painfully slow and miles to go.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: Twitter
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Dr. Jyothi, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University College of Science, Tumkur University. Has been
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