Marriage or Career?

While most of the women living in the modern society will choose career over marriage, why is the society uncomfortable with their choices?

Image Souce: YourStory

Women have evolved from a dependent gender to a representative individual in the society. When most of the women earn their living on their own, there are many people who keep on forcing them to give up their career choices. Why is society so much uncomfortable in accepting the independent state of a woman?

You might be thinking that in what era am I living in; aren’t things like these extinct already. But in an answer I would like to say ‘NO’. Even today society wants women to stay at home because ‘Agar zyada padhi likhi hogi toh zyada zubaan chalegi iski’ (If she is more educated, she’ll have more opinions) Wait… What? Why do you want to have a submissive, Why do you want women to follow your orders, Why such dominance over a specific gender?

These are some basic questions asked by every woman at one or the other place in her life. Sometimes these questions have brought revolutions in the old customs and sometimes these questions fade in the screams of domestic violence, rapes, molestation, etc.

With the spread of awareness, many women are getting justice against these crimes but who will get justice for women who are suffering everyday because of their own family members?

Yes, you read that right. These wrongs aren’t highlighted but one in every three woman in India faces the pressure of marriage. She is forced to continue her studies after the marriage. Women aren’t allowed to have jobs in which they earn more than their subsequent other. Fathers and Husbands want their daughter to be dependent on them because they think that the day she becomes independent ‘Ladki haath se nikal jaegi’ (We’ll lose the hold of our daughter).

I’ll tell you one story which took place recently with me, One of my friend stopped talking to me. All of a sudden, She blocked all my calls and messages. I stopped contacting her after trying for a while. After few months, I get to know the reason. The reason left me speechless. Loosely putting in her words, ‘When I placed my desire to have a part-time job, Mom scolded me and told me not to contact you anymore. She thinks you are a bad influence and all these seeds of being independent are sown into me by you.’

Amazing! Isn’t it? And I’m not building up this story for this article. This is a true story of me and my friend. If speaking up for yourself makes someone a bad influence then we really need to re-consider our thoughts and customs.

Family needs to choose between a submissive unhappy daughter and an independent happy daughter. Because its high time we start to address the issues which bachelor women faces not only from the society but their families as well.

On this International Family Day, I’d like to address every person with a family to treat their daughters as their own family and not like ‘Paraya Dhan’ (Other’s wealth); I’d also like to tell the daughters to stand up for themselves and not make any decision due to family or societal pressure.

I’d like to conclude this feature with the words of a famous singer:

People are going to judge you anyway, so you might as well do what you want.

Taylor Swift

‘Where is my BEST HUSBAND Award?’

“She’s not even appreciating me for doing the household chores and managing the kids myself for the whole day…!!!”

Excuse me, What? Are you asking for an award just because you did the work that women have been doing almost everyday since ages? 

This might sound astonishing to you but this is what our society has been fighting for. By ‘Our Society’, I indirectly mean to point out ‘Our patriarchal Society’. 

Image Source: ThoughtCo.

We hear this word ‘Patriarchy’ on a day-to-day basis now, but what is the meaning of this word? Patriarchy simply means the supremacy of the male members of the family. What it indirectly hints at is the inferiority of the female members. We have witnessed this patriarchy since we were kids. Don’t tell me you did not. When you were asked who your superhero is, Didn’t you respond- Dad? We have always seen our mothers working day and night at home doing all the household chores, managing the kids, cooking the food and yet no one has ever appreciated her work. This is a very minute example for the patriarchal system that continues to be passed on as a legacy to every next generation. 

But didn’t patriarchy exist before? And if it did then why was it not so much talked about? The simple answer to this is the lack of awareness among the women to acknowledge the wrongs being done to them. And one cannot fight the issue which is not even accepted as an issue. In the times of our grandparents, everyone believed this is how life ought to be and thus women accepted every dominance done by the opposite gender. 

Today the means of communications have excelled and it has become quite easy for us to know what is going on in the other parts of the world. Because of the developed communication, social media and other sources, the women are aware of what is wrong and as the common proverb of hindi says, ‘Bardaasht karne ki bhi hadd hoti hai, jab sanyam ka ghada bhar jaata hai toh wo toot jaata hai’ Loosely translated: There is a limit to tolerate and when enough of the patience is tested, it breaks. This can also be the reason why women are raising their voices against the patriarchal norms. 

While there are so many patriarchal customs being followed in our society, there are still many who deny it exists. For those denying these, some of them are listed below:

Dowry System: 

  • This is one of the major reasons why women are considered as a liability on the family. There’s a celebration on the birth of the boy child whereas the family mourns when a girl child is born because when she’ll be married the family will have to arrange the dowry. As a solution to this many girl children are killed as a foetus whereas others are drowned in the milk vessel after birth. 
  • If somehow the girl manages to escape the cruelty from their paternal family, she is killed by her in-laws if they are not satisfied with the dowry. This is termed as ‘dowry death’ in our Indian constitution. According to Indian National Crime Record Bureau, there were 8,239 dowry death cases, 1,285 cases of attempted dowry deaths, and another 4,890 cases with pending investigations in 2009.

Sati Pratha: 

  • ‘Shave her head, break her bangles’; ‘Who will take care of the child, you must remarry’. These are two different cases- First, when the husband dies; Second, when the wife dies.
  • It has always been believed in our Indian society that a woman’s life is nothing after her husband. After the death of a husband, a widow is seen as a public property by other men and as unluck by her own family. She is not allowed to enter holy events because her presence is considered inauspicious. Imagining the atrocities of this, many women wilfully gave up their lives by sitting alive on the burning pyre. 

Ridiculous, Isn’t it? But many of these customs have been eradicated with the help of new laws and orders regulated by our constitution. In modern India, people have derived modern ways of formulating the patriarchy. Some of them can be listed as:

Unequal Pay: 

  • When there is no inequality found in assigning the tasks to women, there is a major difference found in their pay-scale. This is one of the major issues found in the corporate world and even the movie industry. This issue needs to be spoken of. 

Lack of policies: 

  • While many companies offer paid maternity leave, there are still many companies who fail to provide the same. Left with no option, women have to leave their jobs. There is still the lack of creche facilities in every domain of the work sector. While fathers enjoy their fatherhood, we need to ask the mothers who lost their careers for their child. 
  • Many companies lack the policies to safeguard women’s right resulting in the rise sexual harassment cases at work place. Due to the lack of these policies today only 6% of urban women enjoy employment. 

Overburdening: 

  • Some years ago, women used to manage the household. With the increasing inflation rate, it has become almost inevitable for women to not work. Women are stepping forward to share the responsibilities of their husbands, but this case isn’t vice versa.
  • With women stepping into the work-sector their workload seems to just have increased. Now they have to manage their work at the workplace and also complete their household chores. Too unfair!

For how many is this overburdening going to continue? It is high time for every woman to speak against injustice. Our Society really needs to understand that, ‘Women are not the goddess of sacrifice neither are they a sexual toy to be played with.’ As our former Prime Minister said: You can tell the condition of a Nation by looking at the status of its Women, Women are not a liability for the nation, instead they are an asset.

New Media And Reporting Gender Based Violence

Trigger Warning: Mention of Rape and Sexual Assault

New Media has also changed the style of journalism, such as the rise of online journalism, where facts, information, and reports are produced and distributed through the internet. News in the New Media era is enabled to spread more widely and rapidly. News content is now enriched by lots of digital elements such as images, embed videos, comment box. These elements make the information presented becomes more attractive. One of the salient characters of online journalism is its dependency on speed in delivering information. When we talk about the emerging trends in media, we cannot afford to overlook the role of online media in changing the scenario in the context of women’s issues. The content that the online media produces reflects the pattern of value the society. The prevailing attitude of society gets revealed through the way subjects dealing with women are treated by the media (Arpita Sharma, 2012). 

Media has the choice of acting as both, a protagonist and as a perpetrator-it can either reinforce the gender-based discrimination by portraying sensational and stereotypical images of women or it can provide balanced reportage that empowers women and not degrades them while exposing acts of gender-based violence. Rape cases and sexual assault cases are not a recent trend in the society but sensitive reportage and wide coverage by media while also bringing these issues forefront are relatively very new. 

Gender-based violence or GBV is violence that is directed against a person because of their gender. Both women and men experience GBV but the majority of victims are women and girls. GBV and violence against women are terms that are synonymous as it is widely acknowledged that most gender-based violence is inflicted on women and girls, by men. The issue of GBV reaches every corner of the world. The numbers of women and girls affected by this problem are shocking. According to the World Health Organization’s data from 2013, one in every three women has been beaten, compelled into sex or are abused. One in five women is sexually abused as a child, according to a 2014 report.

In coverage of GVB, several stereotypes are often perpetuated by the new media. These include that rape is similar to sex, that the assailant is motivated by female lust, that the assailant is perverted, crazy or a monster, that the woman provokes rape or assault, and that only women are only victims. Scholars have found that these stereotypes and myths are pervasive in media coverage of rape and assault cases. Not only the language and the framing of the headlines but also the visuals used in the articles regarding GVB play an important role in the general perception of these issues.

In Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (UNESCO, 2012), under Category B- Gender Portrayal In Media Content, B1.5- Strategic Objective 5 states the indicators for the coverage of gender-based violence. Three of them are-

  1. Use of non-judgmental language, distinguishing between consensual sexual activity and criminal acts, and taking care not to blame the victim/survivor for the crime 

2. Use of the term ‘survivor’ rather than ‘victim’ unless the violence-affected person uses the latter term or has not survived 

3. Use of background information and statistics to present gender-based violence as a societal problem rather than as an individual, personal tragedy 

Terms such as ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ are often used to describe individuals who undergo these experiences. The term ‘victim’ reiterates feelings of helplessness and lack of female agency, while the term survivor connotes a sense of strength and resilience. However, the affected person should have a say in what to refer them as. The ‘victim’ terminology limits individual self-agency and identity. It is important to note that experiences of violence do not define the individual, but rather are a piece of a larger self-identity. Such labels focus on experiences of violence and presuppose an individual’s inability to change or undergo any personal development to transform their identity into a peaceful, empowered personality. 

Images of sexual violence in the media often depicts women as covering their face, being silenced by looming hands, teary faces, large shadows near the woman, are some of the visual examples. These images not only fuel the stereotypes of women as helpless and weak, but also these images are also extremely triggering for the survivors of sexual assault and rape. 

When media reports women who have been assaulted or raped as nothing but victims, society can disengage and fail to take the issue as a broader societal issue and fail to take responsibility for any individual or group action to change it. It is crucial then for journalists to report on GBV in an informed way and to have a good theoretical understanding of the roots of these gender based violence’s and what needs to change in society. Otherwise, they can do harm by perpetuating patriarchal stereotypes and falsehoods. 

FEMINISM

feminism Archives | Green European Foundation

With the aim to have an equal world for both males and females, in 1870, a revolution for change by the name ‘feminism’ emerged from France. It firmly believed in equal space for females at par with males. Feminism is a counter to patriarchy – a society in which the males dominate; which is a prevalent form of societal arrangement around the globe. As a movement, it focuses on pointing out the adverse and disastrous effect that patriarchy can bring to a woman to face, not only in the home but also in workplaces.

A constant refraining of females’ equality that they should have been subjected to, make them sceptical of their own self. They accept it as inevitable and devalue themselves. Even biology is widely used as a defence for male’s dominance over females, by limiting the abilities of women, categorizing what they can do and what they can’t. Thus satisfying the deep-rooted gender stratification which hierarchically ranks people in society based on gender. It’s just a very simplified way to stratify society into males and females. But feminist think sex and gender as two different things, sex on the hand is predominantly based on physical things and attributes, gender on the other hand concerns psychological and cultural differences between males and females. In such circumstances around the globe, feminism appears to be that driving force that drives women to stand and ask questions to these patriarchal norms, not themselves. The whole objective is making a change in behaviour and action of society towards females. It’s a journey from A (status quo) to B (female equality). 

Feminism, though being a common and well-heard concept to many, is often wrongly interpreted to mean ‘treating women over and above men’. In the pursuance of this misunderstood concept of feminism the aim sometimes becomes ‘destroying men’ instead of destroying the ‘patriarchal ideas’ that are deep-rooted into society. It needs to be realised that this movement is not about making men lesser than women but to make the women equivalent to the men. By meaning or calling men in any way inferior to women, goes completely against the whole idea and concept of feminism.

The very aim of Feminism is not to override men’s’ race and thrash it all together but to rather question and root out patriarchal thoughts from society. Based on these two interpretations, we have two classes of feminists, equality feminists and difference feminist. While the former focus on sameness, latter focuses on putting females somewhat on privileges over males. Formerly made highlights in 19th and 20th century, latter was prevalent near the 1980s and 1990s and afterwards. 

To conclude, until women subordination is “common” to both females and males, establishing a society of equality among them is a far cry. All Feminism can do is, it can reach to females and tell them their worth and encourage them for the demand for equality. But the interpretation and foot-steps of feminism must be carefully watched otherwise people will have to start a future movement to root out matriarchy.

Women in Indian Society

Through mythology and religious texts

Patriarchy is a social system in which the role of male as the primary authority is central. It refers to a system where men have authority over women, children and property. As an institution of male rule and privilege, patriarchy is dependent on female subordination. Historically, it has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic institutions of different cultures. Literally meaning ‘rule of fathers’(Ferguson, 1048), the term ‘patriarchy’ was initially used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modem times, it more generally refers to social system in which power is primarily held by adult men. 

Majority of religions have contributed their bit to perpetuate patriarchal norms. With such beliefs instilled into cultural mindset, women scarcely stand a chance of gaining strength in this male-dominated world. Patriarchy is also manifest in family traditions and gets reinforced through practices such as women adopting the surname of their husbands and children too carrying their father’s last name. 

There is considerable ambiguity about the status of women in Indian society. Some sacred texts accord them an exalted status by stating that gods live where women are worshipped. In her various manifestations as Mother Goddess, namely Durga, Kali, Chandi, woman is believed to represent power or Shakti, and evoke both fear and reverence. She can protect and at the same time can also wreak vengeance. If pleased, she can fulfil every wish, but when annoyed, she can unleash unimaginable terror. Male gods at times find themselves helpless before her and cannot dare to intervene especially when she has decided to act as power incarnate. Most of her attributes are believed to be embedded in every woman. However, there is yet another profile of woman established by religious writings and folklore wherein she is believed to be fickle and fragile. She is represented as sensuous, tempting, given to falsehood, folly, greed, impurity, and also thoughtless action. She is also regarded as the root of all evil. It is because of her supposedly inconsistent character that she has to be kept under strict control. Being fragile, she needs protection at all stages of her life, for instance, in childhood by her father, in youth by her husband, and in old age, after the husband’s death, by her sons. As evident, these two images are contradictory. 

The patrilineal Hindu society expects a woman to have certain virtues, chastity being one of them. Before marriage, a woman is not allowed to think of any man in sexual terms. Secondly, she has to be a devout wife—the notion of Pati-Parmeshwar or ‘husband as God’ reigning supreme in the popular mindset. Women observe several fasts to ensure that they get the same husband life after life. Such fasts also include prayers for the long life of the husband, so that the wife does not have to undergo the ‘sufferings’ of widowhood. The infertility of a woman is considered a curse as in patrilineal groups she is expected to produce a son to continue the patriarchal lineage. 

Rammohan Roy stands out as the figure who took a firm stand against the practice of Sati. Sati was the custom through which a woman was condemned and pressurised by society to sacrifice her life by dying alongside her husband on his funeral pyre. Lata Mani in her book ‘Contentious Traditions- The Debate on Sati in Colonial India’, highlights that sati was not about whether the Vedic scriptures prescribed such self-immolation nor was it about the individual women’s wishes and desires. Rather, it was a part of the traditional behaviour that Indian women had internalised within themselves. Many of them saw it as an essential part of the ‘·’duty” expected from them as a good wife – to sacrifice her life in order that her husband could gain ultimate salvation. 

According to Hindu mythology, the Manusmriti is the word of Brahma, and it is classified as the most authoritative statement on Dharma. Manusmriti is considered as the divine code of conduct. Laws of Manu insist that since women by their very nature are disloyal they should be made dependent on men. The husband should be constantly worshipped as a God, which symbolized that man is a lord, master, owner, or provider and women were the subordinates. It legitimizes that a woman should never be made independent, as a daughter she should be under the surveillance of her father, as a wife of her husband and as a widow of her son (Chakravarti, 2006). While defending Manusmiriti, apologists often quote the verse: “yatr naryasto pojyantay, ramantay tatr devta”  that is “where women are provided place of honor, gods are pleased and reside there in that household”, but they deliberately forget the verses that are full of prejudice and hatred against women. 

These texts justify a woman’s inferior status in society. Each of these verses shows how the Brahmanical ideology reduces the character of a woman to the number of sexual partners she has, and her purpose as child-bearers. The obsession with knowing the lineage of offspring, virginity and the narrow definition of character led to the imposition of restrictions on women and artificially stunted their status. And much of this continues till today.

We celebrate Dussehra to mark the victory of ‘Good over Evil’, Navratri in the honour of nine Goddesses, Durga’s victory over the buffalo demon and worshiping Lakshmi on Diwali, we are decked up in festivities and celebrations. But do we really celebrate them? To find the answer to that question, you need to look no further than mythology and religious scriptures. It’s a clear indicator of what the fabric of society, its structure and norms would be like.  

The implementation of patriarchal norms and values depend to a great extent on the strength and weakness of control mechanisms. For instance, articulation of patriarchal values and the prescription of norms through religious texts command natural observance. At times, family honour is protected by wife-beating. It is all too visible in the lower classes, but also persists in upper strata of society. Even after six decades of independence, one frequently reads of bride burning and dowry deaths. Other forms of violence are: heaping indignities on the wife and her relations by the in-laws, making her do physical work beyond her capacity, failing to provide her adequate nutrition, and even torturing her mentally on several pretexts. Even highly educated and well-placed women are amenable to such maltreatment.