Why Are Working Women Expected To Be ‘Superwomen’ Handling A Double Burden?

If her home and family seem to be impacted by her career then we expect her to prioritize her ‘responsibilities at home as a woman’ and leave her job.

The entrenched patriarchal norms have always perpetuated certain roles and responsibilities as falling specifically in the domain of either men or women. Traditionally, women have been associated with the domestic sphere while men have been considered the bread winner of the household. This division of roles has become so ingrained in our lives that we seldom come to question it. However, while not being questioned does give the system a certain level of legitimacy, it in no way proves its veracity. 

The public-private divide

This systematic division has resulted in a widely accepted notion whereby the public sphere is demarcated as a men’s zone and the private sphere as belonging to women. Consequently, women are expected to stay at home and manage the household chores while men are supposed to go out and make a living with no interest whatsoever in the running of the household. 

This divide is said to be grounded in the intrinsic nature of men and women. Women are believed to be compassionate, affectionate and loving and these supposedly ‘feminine’ qualities make them the right fit for caring roles. Men, on the other hand are allegedly more sturdy, strong and bold and hence, the ones to deal with the ordeals of the outside world. 

While with changing times, there has been a substantial increase in the number of women getting educated- as per the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20, the GER for female students was 27.3% against 26.9% for male students – the same does not hold true in case of employment, especially employment post marriage. 

The NFHS 2022 revealed that only 32% married women in the age group of 15-49 were employed against a staggering 98% for men in the same age group. Even if they are allowed to pursue an education, marriage still continues to be the ultimate reality for a large proportion of women in the country and post marriage they are expected to devote themselves completely to the nurturing of their homes. As per a paper by the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), more than 90% of the married women in India are engaged in domestic work

Once married, their personal ambitions and desires are supposed to take a backseat with their marital and filial responsibilities consuming most of their time and energy. 

For women who choose (and are allowed) to work after marriage, there definitely is some level of independence and control that they come to enjoy, but one will be gravely mistaken to assume that they are in any way relieved of their traditional patriarchal responsibilities.

Why does she have to be a ‘superwoman’?

While conversations about equality in the public sphere have been making the rounds for quite some decades now, when will we start talking about equality in the private domain? A woman with a paid job is not just expected to prove herself at every step in her career but also to be a superwoman who can efficiently manage job and home both. 

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When men come back home from work they expect to relax and have some leisure time but what about working women who come back to piles of dirty dishes and loads of other tedious chores that they have to cater to no matter how exhausted they are? 

Research by a professor from IIM, Ahmedabad states that women in the age group of 15-60 years spend 7.2 hours on unpaid domestic work compared to 2.8 hours spent by men. Even working women spend twice the amount of time as compared to working men on such unpaid domestic labour. For wage earning women this is like a ‘second shift’ after their job hours. The research also pinpoints that working women are 24% more likely to have less leisure hours when compared with men precisely because of the time they spend on the domestic chores including cleaning, cooking and caregiving. 

This data is alarming because it raises pertinent questions. If both men and women of the family are working then why can’t men also take responsibility for a portion of the household tasks? Why is it the sole responsibility of women to look after the household’s well being after an equally tiring day of professional labour? 

Sacrifice is believed to be the cornerstone of a woman’s existence. If her home and family seem to be impacted by her career then it is expected out of her to prioritize her ‘responsibilities as a woman’ and leave her job if no better way is visible. But how often do we see men letting go of a promotion or a transfer because their families will be impacted by it? Isn’t it more normal to see their families making adjustments in response to this new development?  

And if you thought that their financial independence would give working women some leverage then NFHS 2022 data will prove you partly wrong. As per the survey, 85% of married women who earn mostly take decisions on how to spend their earnings jointly with their husbands. For 14% of women, their husbands are the sole decision makers in this regard and only 18% women take this decision on their own. So not only do they have extra burdens to handle but they also cannot spend their hard earned money as per their wish.    

It’s time that we start questioning the unrealistic benchmarks that we have set for women. We need to recognize that they are humans too and need some breathing space in their otherwise overly hectic lives. They need not be perfect, can definitely make mistakes and do not need to feel guilty for anything that they do for themselves. They can have the ‘privilege’ of being a little selfish.

Image source: by filadendron from Getty Images Signature Free for Canva Pro

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About the Author

Shambhavi Srivastava

Shambhavi Srivastava is a Mass Communication master's student. She is an avid reader and believes in strongly voicing her opinions on various issues of national and international importance. She is a women's rights read more...

6 Posts | 1,494 Views

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