What does a woman want?

I strongly believe that most Indian men have not yet upgraded themselves to the changing role that their life partner plays in the contemporary world. From playing the traditional role as a housewife or homemaker, as we call her now, to becoming a multitasking woman, she has travelled a long distance painfully, juggling multiple responsibilities.

Though a man expects his wife to ease his financial responsibilities by expecting her to work outside, he doesn’t give her a helping hand to ease her domestic work burden. He stills feels that he has the right to get all the care once he comes back home, but fails to understand that his wife, too, needs rest and relaxation like him.

What I understand from this attitude of a man towards his wife’s profession is that, for him, her career is just a salary-earning 10 to 5 job, without any extended work carried back home, beyond working hours, unlike his. It is an extension of the patriarchal mentality that most men in India grow up with.

So, it makes them insensitive to understand what a ‘professional’ woman partner needs from her life partner. They just take the woman’s support for granted and give back nothing in return. There may be a few exceptions of ‘feminist gentlemen’. Possibly, there is more support for each other if both partners belong to the same field of work as they understand the work culture and demands. 

In this context, it is important to set right our expectations from each other in a relationship. Maybe I am asking for too much, but from my understanding, a man accepts all the support he gets from his woman partner without being thankful to how major her contribution is to his success outside.

As a result, we see around and hear stories about successful men only. Though there are a few exceptional women achievers, if you take a close look at their support system, it includes either their parents or siblings, and the role of a ‘sacrificing husband’ is missing in most of these success stories of women.

Further, the case studies of women achievers (in any field for that matter) reveal that either they remained single or had to become divorcees to fulfil their career aspirations and to reveal their true talent.

Therefore, it becomes important to ask for herself: what does a woman aspire to be in life? Given a choice, would she stay ‘happily’ within the “four walls” of her house and remain a support system to her husband and children while taking care of her extended responsibilities? Or would she juggle between family duties and professional aspirations like most professional women are doing now?

Would she ‘happily’ let go of opportunities for professional growth and instead choose to fulfil family commitments, curbing her own professional growth by drawing a boundary, a self-constructed ‘glass ceiling’ over her head? Through this struggling and juggling process, a woman puts herself into all kinds of physical and emotional ailments by the time she reaches her early 40s and invites premature ageing.

Not conforming

The third option would be to keep herself free from these socially accepted and expected attachments, without feeling guilty for not fitting into the ideal womanhood paradigm and concentrate on her self-growth. By doing so, she has to forego a number of common pleasures, too.

Moreover, many eyebrows would be raised and would bring uneasiness in the well established and neatly designed gender roles and equations. Left alone, this new woman has to act, talk and behave tough. Many a time, this is a fake identity she has to create to avoid loose talk by people around her, with only a few selected friends knowing her true self. In most cases, such women are misunderstood and misinterpreted in the public view. 

Hence, a woman still has to decide what role she likes to fit into. Is it a goody-goody woman who stresses herself out every moment, to painfully create a ‘great’ image of herself before others, by swallowing all her own wishes and dreams within? Or a woman who explores her life, no matter what colour the world paints her in? 

Perhaps, a woman would want to have everything, just like most men have been enjoying since ages. If given a choice, she would like to balance her personal life as well as professional aspirations, with some help from her partner. But the big question is, are we mature enough yet, as an inclusive society, to give her space to explore her full potential?

Sadly, we speak of big terms like ‘gender sensitisation’, but keep mum in the face of inequality meted out on a daily basis. For now, the change in this attitude and outlook is still painfully slow, and we have miles to go.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of English, University College of Science, Tumkur University) 

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