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Irrespective of how much these women contribute in terms of effort, the business will always be known by the name of the men in the family. Unfair.
“Ma’am, I am not sure how my in-laws would react to me starting a youtube channel in my own name, can we open it in my husband’s name?” I received a phone call at 11:20 pm at night from one of my mentees living in Kanpur.
This is one of the most common responses I receive from my women mentees when I ask them to launch their YouTube Channels as part of their business marketing strategy.
For my readers’ knowledge, this channel opening is strictly from a business perspective, to build a personal brand. It has nothing to do with creating an independent fan following of any sort. So, when they sign up for this course, they go all out to participate, until I ask them to get in front of the camera and start recording. That’s when I face a lot of apprehensions from them.
These women have been silently working in their family businesses, invisibly for years. Their nameless contribution is a common norm. It is something that is expected out of them.
Irrespective of how much they contribute in terms of effort, the business will always be known by the name of the men in the family. Just like a woman gives birth to a child who then takes on the surname of the man.
Why are women in our society so fearful of being known by their name amidst a family run business? Why does it always have to come with a fear of being judged and the guilt of being a bad wife/daughter-in-law?
I am not saying that all women face this problem, thankfully some are blessed with a family that respects their individuality and identity. However, in my several years of experience as a personal branding coach, I have received this nervous phone call multiple times from multiple women, across ages and economic classes.
Often during the course, I literally have to make them see themselves as human beings with dreams, desires, and identity. I tell them that it is ok to have an identity for themselves. That this should make them happy & not fearful.
Though some families really turn around and support their daughter-in-laws in taking this step towards recognition, the behavior of some families is really disturbing.
I fail to understand the insecure feeling that plagues a family when the world outside begins to know the woman by her name, becomes aware of her contribution.
Sometimes these women overcome their initial inhibitions, muster courage to create, record and upload their videos on relevant industry-related topics. But then, someday someone from their in-laws’ family or the extended family happens to watch them and is odd enough to brush their effort off in a gossip ridden low sounding chuckle.
These not so friendly whispers reach these women, drowning them in self-doubt.
I wish to ask those men and women sitting at home, don’t they even realize the damage one unkind comment can do to a growing seed? Or is it that they do realize this and yet find pleasure in doing so?
Is it correct to say that still, most Indian households do not provide a very favorable environment that lets the women’s ambitions nurture? Even today, a woman’s primary responsibility is considered to be taking care of the family and home, invisibly. If she happens to have her own dreams outside of making a family, it’s her problem.
If this impacts her self-confidence, her mental health, her beliefs about herself, her life’s meaning, why is it only her problem? And why is killing her dreams the most ‘obvious’ solution to any conflicts arising due to raising a family?
Why is it acceptable in a progressive society that someone kills their dreams to avoid judgments from their own family?
I look forward to a day when my women mentees (just like my men mentees) would never require to make that apprehensive call and would stop doubting themselves.
I wish I could tell this to every woman out there that they have the right to dream and grow. And it is ok if they want something other than a family, it is ok if they love their work just as much, this is nothing to be ashamed about. If the same quality can be celebrated in men, why not for women? Their growth doesn’t have to come at the expense of generating any sort of guilt.
Every woman is born free, free to dream, learn, and think of her life’s purpose before anything else.
Image source: a still from the short film Natkhat trailer.
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