Waiting for masculism?

Waiting for masculism?

Is it OK for women to choose to stay away from money matters, asks Krishna Kumari  

Pic courtesy www.thoughtcatalog.com

February and March were the months I never liked, especially in the early part of my career. The newspapers were filled with what would be the potential focus areas of that year’s national budget. And then, on the budget day and the week thereafter, even TV channels followed suit. TV channels had panel discussions around this, much before panel discussions replaced the 9 pm news slot! During tea breaks in the office, the guys around me never stopped discussing the budget! The only variety was in the form of talks about preferred tax savings options. I just stayed put, not having the courage to display my ignorance, but rather comfortable showing my lack of interest in these topics.

Much later, I noticed it was not just me, but almost all of the women in our gang who chose to keep quiet during such discussions. We wondered why these guys were at these boring topics. This was the same kind of silence the guys adopted when we discussed what is usually seen as women-only topics. That included recipes, daycare challenges, kids’ homework, maid issues and so on. That is gender conditioning, you see.

Now, as part of some basic research I did, I got to learn that most Indian women, even if they are financially independent, leave the money-related decisions to the men in their life. The woman chooses to stay away from investments, telling themselves various reasons, the topic is complex, boring, whatnot. And it doesn’t stop there. Most women, regardless of whether they earn an income or are fully dependent on a male family member financially, do not know whether the family is financially secure. This involves not knowing about the liabilities including home loans, loans given and taken, investments, insurance including health insurance and many times not knowing even the income earned by the male member, or even the bank account/ATM details.

So what is wrong, one may ask? The most obvious one is about how the woman gets suddenly thrown into a dangerous situation when some unfortunate event happens. I understand this is true even for the upper-middle-class families where the disposable income is supposedly high. And this is a loop because women stay away from this topic, we don’t get to see women’s websites having ads about investments/personal finance/insurance and Google and social media recommendations only take us through more and more of what we look for.

It is also wrong at many other levels. For example, the need to have basic financial knowledge is rarely seen as a life skill. Many of us women consider ourselves responsible for taking care of the family, making sure everyone is fed properly, the house is managed properly and so on. And we expect men to actively participate in this. Of course, a valid point, considering we are not in joint families anymore.

We talk about discrimination against women in various areas. In this area — is it discrimination or a self-chosen set of excuses to stay away from money management? When we expect men to cook, do household chores, take care of children, isn’t it time we started to realise we need to know about money? Or are we waiting for masculism (yeah, searched and found out this word exists — equalising men’s rights with women) to throw this point at us?

(The author is the host of a podcast that examines challenges faced by today’s Indian woman and proposes actionable strategies set in the Indian context.)

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