Thursday, March 10, 2011

And, why do women need liberation?—1

“I am quite pissed off with all this bullshit about women’s day and women’s rights! After all, who are they fighting against, or from whom do they want these rights or liberation?” declared a colleague this morning, as I was reading this powerful and sad letter that a neglected, hurt wife had written to her husband. Stifling the urge to bang my head on the desk, I began explaining to him the various facets of women’s rights, the radical beginnings of the IWD (International Women's Day), and how women’s rights cannot be reduced to mere male bashing (now that’s actually a compliment to men, if women's liberation/rights are equated to just male bashing!).

A lot of people believe that women today are quite empowered, in fact, even liberated. But, is it really the case? Firstly, let’s consider the case of women who work in the IT companies. Most of them are quite educated in terms of the degrees that follow their names. And, some even command salaries in the range of 8-12 lakhs a month. Of course, they have the freedom to come home at anytime, provided they come from the work place; not after a late night dinner, a get-together, or a party! I have seen many beautiful, ambitious young women succumb to the drudgery of domestic work and house keeping within days of marriage. As if that’s not enough, many of them abdicate or are made to abdicate their bank accounts to their husbands or in-laws! Most of them don't even think even for a moment before they append their husband's name to theirs! Some of them stop wearing make up because their husband doesn’t like it; and some wake up at 4 to cook three different dishes because the mom-in-law has diabetes, the father-in-law has hypertension, and the husband doesn’t like bland food! Well, it’s another story if the girl doesn’t know how to cook; after all, just knowing how to code a bug-free program or writing the most thorough business report is not enough to lead a happy family life if you are born a woman. And, like a small consolation comes the pocket money from the hubby, which some women use to buy concealers to hide the black and blue marks of ‘marital bliss,’ which come as a bonus from the new home. And, the new age man thinks why do the women need freedom/liberation and from whom!

Secondly, let’s look at the women who work in government offices or those who make a nominal salary, which is most often essential to give their children a better education. Since these women do not make much money, the disposable income in their hands is much lesser, which they end up using to buy things only for the ‘family,’ which is the one they married into; not the ones they were born into.

In my train/bus rides, I draw some of these women into a conversation to understand a little about their lives. A lot of these women complain of the time they spend at work, primarily because it interferes with the time they could spend with the family, especially because their husbands are also away at work. It’s completely a different issue that the men do not spend time with the family. The idea that the family is the sole responsibility of the woman, no matter how educated you are or what position you hold at work is drilled deep into their psyche! As if their own doubts on their professional capacity isn’t enough, the companies themselves hold an anti-woman view. Let me illustrate this with an example of an incident that happened in my mom's office. At the time of the incident, I was too young to even realize the underlying misogyny. There was an important audit happening in the office, and lot of people (including some 4-5 women) had to stay very late (and that’s 8 PM) to finish some reports. The husbands of four women came to office by 6 and stayed till the work was over and took them home. The remaining one lady had to stay till the next day morning because of lot of work, lack of trains after 10, and her husband not being in town to pick her. This one incident captured the imagination of all the women (and the men) of the office, and they spared no opportunity to brand her a slut! That was the end of any woman wanting to do well, work hard, or even climb the management ladder in that office! And, a lot of people still think why do the women need freedom/liberation and from whom!

Finally, let’s look at the wage laborers, domestic helps, vegetable vendors, fish sellers, and agricultural laborers. In fact, the subjugation, oppression, and exploitation that these women go through can never be compared even remotely with what the other women go through. Here, class plays a diabolical role, which men from upper classes with the tacit sanction of patriarchy unleash unspeakable violence (physical, mental, economic, and social) on these women. There’s no need for one to go searching for stories to prove this claim; you simply have to open the newspapers to see how the murdered corpses of a dalit girl and her mother were raped by upper caste men of the entire village or how a woman girl is strip searched for alleged robbery. And, a lot of people still think why do the women need freedom/liberation and from whom!

More to follow in future posts on housework, unaccounted labor, and street violence.


Nithya said...

Well written, needs more depth though. Live the pain baby, words will then feel like fire on paper.

Anonymous said...

Powerful post. Yes as you said in most families the Wife's bank account is operated by husbands.

....Write more...

Deepa said...

A little hurriedly written, may be? Could elaborate on this sometime.

// as I was reading this powerful and sad letter that a neglected, hurt wife had written to her husband. // So you can read Tamil, then? I didnt know that. :-)

(P.S. Cud u pls remove word verification from ur comments settings?)

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