The Feminist Times
When Women Work
I am Anon. I belong to a class of society (baniya) which, first of all, do not want me to go out and work; even if I want to, I will have to remain at the boundaries of home. I am 25-year- old and in the second year of MA, weird, isn’t it? I did my graduation when I was 21 and bagged a job the very next month. The pay was low, but after 2 weeks into the job, my father asked me to quit it for two reasons:
1. Women of our class do not go outside of the home to work and earn, and
2. What’s the need to work for such low pay when I am earning so much already?
And I did quit.
Us daughters are taught to oblige our parents irrespective of what we desire. I was that dutiful daughter once; I am not now. But this came with a lot of repercussions. Today, here, after 4 years, I found the courage to tell my story; I found the courage to confront my parents that I will resist marrying until I am financially independent. It’s mentally stressful when you are a 25-year- old woman with no job, unmarried and still studying. People say that women of middle-class and high-class have certain privileges, I agree, we do, but those privileges are followed by various disadvantages. Imagine this: a woman of a lower class who goes out to earn to support her family, and a woman of a middle or high class, who goes out to earn to be financially independent; none of these two women earn respect from the society. If a woman’s father or husband is earning well and taking care of the family, what is the ‘need’ to go out and earn? I have faced this question every day since I turned 21. Earlier, as naïve as I used to be, I didn’t have an answer to this or rather I chose not to talk back because they are ‘my parents’. But I have come to an acceptance that our parents should be treated with rationality as people. That we women do not necessarily go out to work because we need to but because we want to.
Women of the world have started to cross boundaries laid for them. But this is not true for every woman; even the women who have emancipated themselves face hatred for choosing themselves over their family and ‘duties’. I see in my family how my working aunts are disrespected for not taking care of household chores while working. No one is there to support her dreams and worse, ask her ‘if you can’t handle both the things, quit the work’. We see how the men who take sides of their working wives are considered ‘less manly’ by their family and friends. I see how a woman, whether she is working or not, is treated with less respect than her male counterpart in the matters of, for instance, family affairs. And these problems do not have a class basis, they are omnipresent and unfiltered by class.
There is a post on Instagram that I recently came across that quoted actress Ratna Pathak where she says, “A woman has been made to become a woman’s worst enemy. Because she’s the one who socializes within the family and lays down these horrible laws. They are not laws she has made. They are laws she has been told to enforce. Women have been used as watchdogs of patriarchy for centuries.” I don’t think anyone could have said it better than Ratna Pathak and in limited words. One of her recent movies, “Thappad”, talks about this same issue of working women in a smaller context. Amrita was a good dancer and she said how her parents asked her to let go of her dreams and get settled and make a family. Why? Because it is a ‘better thing’ to do. Then she said how our mothers teach us to bend and adjust for the greater good of our families.
These are the weeds that need to be plucked out, this is the internalized misogyny which has been deeply rooted in women’s minds and have never been uprooted but rather, watered. If a woman wants to work or be at home for her family, it’s her choice and not someone else’s. I know friends who want to be at home and I know friends who had dreams which remained unfulfilled. A choice should be given to all the women whether they want to work or not or do both things. If she chooses both then be supportive instead of bashing her every day.