Why Indian Women Can Never Be Gold-diggers!

The boys' parents and in some cases the girls' parents are implicitly the real 'gold diggers' because marriages are socially sanctioned transactions in India.

If you are active on social media platforms, you may have seen a lot of posts on ‘gold-diggers’ either as reels by comics or even as comments by trolls. In case you are unaware, gold-digger is a derogatory phrase used to describe women seeking to love and marry men of disproportionate wealth for their financial and social status.

Men are busy blaming women who they ‘spent’ a bomb on while dating. Women influencers are mocking the financial status of such men. Many of these posts are from young people in their 20s and early 30s who are unlikely to have garnered the kind of wealth that western sugar daddies in first world countries throw around. So, why is there suddenly so much name-calling in the context of women seeking wealth?

Here are some of my views, expanded from a recent Twitter thread I wrote:

India is not the USA and USA is not India

In USA, men talk about ‘gold diggers’ because high divorce rates, burden of alimonies due to an active judicial system and media coverage of celebrity pre-nuptial agreements has instilled fear where men can get ripped off if they are wealthy and note careful. Add to that the high frequency of remarriages and repeat alimonies and child support to multiple women.

In India, monogamy is the norm, alimony is restricted to bare minimum support, child support battles turn ugly and drag for years and most of our celebrity discourse is around Sabyasachi lehengas at weddings and not million dollar payouts. Indian alimony systems are balanced and this article gives you a good sense of the division of assets.

Spending money on dates isn’t ‘financial coercion’

A lot of urban, young men complain about spending money on women and having regrets about this later. They feel that these women are gold-diggers and want the best of everything – fancy restaurants, shopping trips and travel. But, are they? Everyday costs such as taking someone out for a nice dinner or buying them flowers or small gifts have long been part of the wooing process. And it’s not just romantic. The same men would happily pick up tabs for friends and acquaintances to show gratitude or respect or just as a show of etiquette.

An increasing number of women are happy to split the bill and even if they weren’t – it is important that men realize that it is their decision to overspend to impress someone and often this can be resolved by improving decision making and boundaries.

And, if things don’t work out, it’s better to reflect on why things did not work out emotionally, financially, sexually, romantically or socially with a partner, than calculate return on investment and bitch to your family about them.

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Dating is not free for women either

Most men operate under the belief that women have it easy while dating because men drive them around or pay for dinner. That’s not true.

Even when (largely urban) women do not pay on dates, they spend a lot of money on grooming (waxing, nails, outfits, makeup) in preparation (because this is ‘expected’ of women who are dating) and run both higher social risk (getting labelled negatively as ‘easy’) as well as opportunity cost (women get more options in the dating scene, and have a shorter window to choose a partner if they want children).

Most Indian marriages are transactional

Few Indians date with matrimonial intentions anyway. While people have more exposure than before and have relationships during school, college and via dating apps – this is out of normal hormonal urges or peer pressure. Even educated, elite Indians are still marrying out of sheer convenience – pick any arranged marriage. Be it social adjustment (same caste, dietary preferences) or financial security (settling down) in the first place! Where is the scope of a woman being a gold-digger when the entire social construct of Indian marriages are driven by social quid pro quo and keeping up appearances?

The social stigma of being a divorcee is so brutal that women take it up as the last recourse, and often trying to get back your own jewellery is a herculean task with mudslinging.

Often, men and their families can be gold-diggers too

Barring a handful of enlightened people and communities – stree dhan and dowry flow into men’s families that benefit from generational wealth of the woman anyway.

In this context, men have a right to complain if the girl’s family is chasing a high salary – only if they aren’t implicitly or explicitly taking any favours – like asking them to bear wedding costs or dowry or ‘gifts’.

Lavish Indian weddings are just a show of wealth and social power. In the west, ‘gold-digging’, attractive women would be surprised by the budget of one ritual during a big fat Indian wedding. The boys’ parents and in some cases the girls’ parents are implicitly the real ‘gold diggers’ because relationships are socially sanctioned transactions in India with pre wedding shoots and large-scale drama to just mutually benefit and maintain respect in society.

Is aspiring for financial comfort wrong?

I personally believe economic freedom is the only true freedom for women. However, should women not want wealthy spouses at all?

Think how hard it is for the average Indian woman to work –

  • gender discrimination and casual sexism is the norm,
  • family expectations mean women have to relocate and leave work when they marry,
  • social pressure to multitask,
  • childrearing even when corporates have little by way of support.

Having money takes a lot of stress off your back leaving you to focus on living a better life together. This is especially true for women who want to have children (and most women may have no say in the matter of ‘bearing a male heir)) and know that they need their husband to back them for a couple of years when they are out of the workplace.

While women may look at financial stability of their spouse as a key attribute, they also look at how the person is. No woman will respect, love or want to stay with a partner who is abusive irrespective of how much wealth he has. Often, young girls see that the wealthier man is more respected, productive, fulfilled and can command leisure time due to having wealth. It’s not just the cash to buy a Rolex that’s attractive. It’s the lifestyle that aspirational women can hope to build with someone.

No social mobility, no gold-digging

Unlike the social mobility afforded by marrying a rich man in the west, Indians marry within their caste and social class almost all the time.

So, there is actually no aspirational jump here, which is the core of what it means to be a gold digger, or a transactional person trying to benefit via romance.

Personal Disposable Income is not Generational Wealth

Indian men in their 20s or 30s spending this cash must also realize that they aren’t wealthy. They have high personal disposable income or generational wealth probably but having your own car and few ETFs doesn’t automatically make you a Don Juan.

Gold-diggers get access to generational wealth via alimonies, lavish gifts – a trip to Thailand doesn’t automatically make the woman richer. It makes the man poorer.

Everyone wants something out of a relationship

Indian men do bare minimum chores, childrearing etc.

Often the wife manages her emotional needs with family members like her mother, sister-in-law.

Men largely are financial providers and lovers, and the default name to fill in govt documents. So, women and their parents try and optimize for at least financial stability so that if their daughter doesn’t work ever again, she gets taken care of.

Women who drive happiness, comfort and love from a partnership would perhaps look the other way for money if they had the freedom and support to make their own cash.

Words transfer, cultural context doesn’t, so it is useless to apply the same words. Gold-digger is definitely a word like that. It is devoid of meaning in our social situation and is just a casually sexist label to downgrade aspirational, urban women if they choose to not always financially reciprocate. I am not saying that there are not women who have been deluded by attention from SUV driving, Rado wearing idiots, but sooner or later everyone realizes that current income is not a proxy for future potential, respect or love.

Image source: a still from the series Made in Heaven

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About the Author

Ayushi Mona

Ayushi Mona co-leads Broke Bibliophiles Bombay Chapter, India's first offline reader driven community. She is a poet and writer who evangelizes Indian writing in English at the India Booked podcast and has also read more...

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