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Her in-laws were aware of Vanya’s plight. Her MIL used it to control her, while her SILs never had empathy for her. In such situations, do women really support women?
We do talk a lot about patriarchy and male dominance. Every other story or article one reads about feminism points towards inequality created by the other gender.
We have used hashtags #womensupportingwomen #girlpower, posted black and white photos on social media supporting a drive towards supporting women. When I see, hear, observe the surrounding, the reality seems very different. Isn’t it true that the injustice women deal with as a daughter-in-law is more often created by either mother-in-law or the grandmother-in-law.
Vanya, the only child of her parents is married into an affluent family as she turns 24. She’s got everything to flaunt about, a handsome husband who was the most illegible bachelor once, in-laws who mark a stand in the society, a big house, pets and so many helping hands at every step. Her husband Aditya was well-read, well-travelled, had 4 elder sisters and understood ‘what women want’. Days passed by and in no time, she realised the reality was so different from what it looked like from the outside.
The obsession that Aditya’s family had over him was unreal, intimidating, detrimental. His parents would applaud all his flaws and mistakes saying he’s the son of the soil, an alpha male. He threw plates if the food had a little more spice, he punched his staff if they didn’t do things with ultra-perfectionism. He couldn’t stand Vanya having an opinion about something as small as where to place the flower pot.
Each conversation about a change wouldn’t go down well with him. He had never been argued with, he had never been corrected if he did wrong. His whole family did whatever he wanted and that became his whole way of living. He didn’t know the other way. He didn’t know to listen, to understand.
Obviously for Vanya, at first, this whole attitude of her husband was strange but like any other girl in newfound love, she was ready to address challenges, wanting to make this marriage beautiful for the both of them.
She looked within, corrected her ‘mistakes’, practised effective communication, therapy, counselling, reiki. Even after months of effort she still found communicating with Aditya the same as walking on eggshells.
Their family was very well aware of Vanya’s plight. Her mother-in-law saw it as an opportunity to have her under control. Her sisters-in-law never had empathy towards her. They would tell her to cook, clean, keep herself groomed, dressed to her best 24/7 to win his heart. She did everything just to spend one normal day as a ‘normal’ couple. Some days were lucky but some days that weren’t used to make her coming weeks worse. Thousands of apologies also couldn’t make it right and ‘normal’ again.
She started losing confidence, she had no self-esteem left. She did not feel beautiful. She felt a big deal to even get out of her bed every morning, but of course, if she didn’t then that would have caused more damage. The ignorance and arrogance she received from the ‘women’ of the house shattered her soul completely. In such situations, do women really support women?
Her parents on seeing her felt how the girl they raised to be a loving, empathic and positive person was no longer the same. Surviving each day is a challenge, facing arrogance, backlash, blame games etc.
She lived with the majority of women in the house but all they did was support Aditya’s actions and doings. When on one hand the Indian joint family system is preached about so much stating the support and care it comes with, Vanya received none of it. Aditya on getting applause and support over his anger and bad words never changed his attitude towards her.
Vanya, having given up on love, marriage and relationships that come with it, is on a journey to find her inner peace through her writing. Expressing herself on a blank paper which doesn’t judge or misunderstand her. For when she writes it’s only herself, her true emotions, her desires and her beliefs that are unbiasedly accepted.
Image source: Still from English Vinglish
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It is easy to give in to patriarchal expectations from a married woman and lose your self in a marriage, but the path to happiness is in keeping your independence.
Marriage is often described as the joining of two individuals’ bodies, minds, and souls. Upon getting married, you are expected to share everything with your partner, including time, money, and all other aspects of life. Your life should revolve around your spouse from beginning to end.
But is it necessary to spend every waking moment with the spouse? Are you not supposed to have a life apart from your spouse? And do these rules apply only to women or men as well?
Although both men and women may face this situation, women are generally expected to give up everything once they get married. Despite progress in several areas, expecting women to abandon their interests, passions, and friendships to align their lives with those of their spouses is still considered the norm.
The rising numbers of single women choosing this life shout out clear and loud that patriarchy and sexism will no longer break or chain us.
Another book on singlehood? It seems to be the season for books on the joys and freedom of being single. But Demystifying and Dignifying Singlehood: Life Journeys of Single Women Across the Globe by Uma Jain is different. The book does not glorify or glamourise the lives of single women in any way. These are real stories – with the good, the bad and the ugly, all there.
The book tells the stories of 15 single women across the world. A feeling of deep understanding and empathy fills you as you read the book and understand the challenges faced by the women who are single – by choice or chance. Some of the women chose to be single because they faced discrimination and even abuse as girl children. Some others had abusive marriages and sought divorce.
The tag line ‘Crafting pathways on rough terrains’ on the cover page is enough to tell you that this is a serious take on the issue of singlehood. If it focuses more on the rough than the smooth, that has been the reality for the 15 women.
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