The notion that a woman is another woman’s biggest enemy needs to change. We need to support and understand each other.
A woman is someone everyone is related to. She is someone’s mother/daughter/sister/ wife/DIL/MIL/SIL. As rightly portrayed by some poets, there is no existence on this universe without women.
A woman, can either be a creator or the destroyer of something, depending on how she is being treated. She is the creator of life in the form of a mother. Meanwhile, she is a destroyer in the form of the powerful Shakthi, who kills the demons in our mythology for the welfare of this universe.
The mighty wars in the epics Ramayana and the Mahabharatha happened indirectly because of the powerful women in those epics.
In Ramayana, it was Surpanakha revenge that made her brother Ravana plan the perfect plot to abduct Sita. Or it was the love and respect that Ram had for Sita that made him wage a war against Ravana. Ultimately, the reason for the war was Sita, a woman.
In the Mahabharata too Duryodhan probably misinterpreted Draupadi’s smile and took it seriously and felt insulted. Alternatively, had Duryodhana spared Draupadi and not humiliated her in the assembly hall, she may not have followed her husband Yudhishthir’s path. And maybe then, the war may have never happened. Whatever was the reason, the war happened and it destroyed the Kauravas.
Unfortunately, though, there is a famous saying, ‘A woman is a woman’s biggest enemy.’ Why is it so? Isn’t it how we see things or issues related to our fellow women?
As mothers, daughters or wives, we see things from a different perspective but as DILs, MILs or even SILs, our perspective of the same thing changes. Often, we also fail to understand our MILs, DILs or SILs like we understand our mothers, daughters or sisters.
A woman doesn’t let any injustice happen to her own daughter, she can barely imagine it happening to her. However, quite often, she doesn’t see anything wrong when the same happens to her DIL. This may cause a rift between the DIL and MIL and in some cases, between the husband and the wife as well.
The husband, during disagreements, without any guilt, will follow the patriarchal norms of society and ask his wife to choose between him and her parents. However, will the same society accept or forgive the woman if she asks her husband to choose?
Even when the DIL treats her in-laws like her parents, they barely acknowledge her efforts and keep their focus on finding faults in her. She may not have done anything wrong but they often do it to test her patience and to make her understand that her in-laws will never be her parents.
Often, in anger, the husband or in-laws tend to verbally abuse the DIL, sometimes insulting her parents and siblings too. However, once the argument is resolved, they go back to behaving normally while expecting the DIL to do the same.
It is good that they don’t hold on to the anger, but will it be the same for her? She is at receiving end of it all, how can she not be hurt? And how can she go back to ‘normal’ immediately, especially when she doesn’t know what her fault is! No one has explained to her what went wrong, neither her in-laws nor her husband.
Irrespective of their occupation – whether she is a homemaker or a working woman, she has her own identity. She has her own self-respect. A lot of older people often say what we value more plays an important role while choosing between a relationship and our self-respect. In some cases it may be true – the relationship may be long-lasting and will be given more importance, but what about her? What does this relationship cost her?
Sometimes, if she stays silent and chooses the relationship over her self-respect, it may make the husband and in-laws feel like she is accepting her mistakes. And they may feel proud of themselves for giving her a chance to ‘rectify’ her mistakes, They would easily forget that she wasn’t really the one at fault.
There is a story from the Ramayana about Lord Hanuman setting Lanka on fire when he’d gone to visit Sita. But what everyone forgets to mention is that he did so only after his tail was set on fire. Similarly, a woman is always blamed for her reaction or response to everything while no one ever questions what led her to respond the way she did.
A woman choosing to live away from her husband may be a good decision for her. In society, no one cares for her when some issues arise, but they will care and spare time and efforts to react to her decision to live apart.
This isn’t the plight of one single woman or a section of women, this is something a number of women go through. It is our perspective that makes a difference.
Some women ignore all this and lead their lives their way – they follow their own opinions and don’t care about what people have to say. There are some other women who make some amendments to their opinions for the peace of their mind and that of others. Some rebel and fight the situation and the injustice meted out to them. Meanwhile, others stay calm and patient and tolerate whatever is coming their way.
Nothing about this is right or wrong. A situation in someone’s life could be right but the same situation could be totally wrong in someone else’s life. It is just the woman’s ability and bringing up that makes a difference.
Women who are strong-headed and willed are often labelled adamant or arrogant when they question the injustice done to them. Or if they question their in-laws and husbands how they would react to their daughter or sister being treated the same.
It is the woman’s ability to tolerate certain issues and her ability or need to struggle to exist in the family that marks the severity of the issue. However, overall, it is the same in all households.
Having gone through these myself and having heard the experiences of women around me, I feel there is a lack of empathy for problems in women’s lives. It’s not just a woman being unable to understand another woman, it is also her relatives who are to be blamed for not understand the woman who has entered their lives through marriage. They need to be able to empathise with her and try to think how they’d react if the same were to happen to their daughter or sister.
The notion that a woman is another woman’s biggest enemy needs to change. With changing times, women, irrespective of our education, social exposure, and common sense must be able to understand the pain and agony of other women in our family. We need to support each other, instead of defending our brothers and sons because we are related to them by blood.
Before blaming someone, try to empathise with her and understand how it would feel to be in her place. I hope that with changing rends our thoughts change too. And one day, women won’t be women’s biggest enemies but each other’s biggest support!
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Yeh Rishtey Hain Pyaar Ke
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