The Women Empowerment Myth!
Education, higher qualifications, status, money, place of living – none of these can help a woman to become empowered!
Yes, you heard it right! We might think that having higher educational qualifications or having a high-profile job or even living in the most advanced cities in the world can make women empowered! Oh my, you got it all wrong! I get to meet PhD holders and highly qualified software engineers and other professional Indian women in the US who are still victims of patriarchy and do not have the freedom to take decisions for themselves! I have also met high-profile employees like Bank Managers or College Principals while in India, whose husbands decide whether they should go to an official conference or what to do with the money they make, or even what type of dress they should wear!
Pause and reflect: isn’t it disheartening that even such accomplished women residing in the land of opportunities like the United States or any such advanced countries, can still find themselves trapped in the clutches of patriarchy, devoid of the freedom to shape their own destinies?
While living in India, this conditioning was probably deeper where they have to be afraid of what their in-laws or neighbors might think! And they were expected to “ask” and “take permission” from their husbands on things related to their profession or passion. If the husband doesn’t “allow”, they don’t do it!! But, how come they continue the same even after they are in a totally different place / in a relatively “free” culture?
Picture this: women, surrounded by the liberating air of a different culture, yet bound by the expectation to seek permission from their husbands for decisions regarding their profession and passions. Their dreams hinge on the whims of their partners. How peculiar, for this pattern of “permission seeking” is conspicuously absent in other cultures. It is a phenomenon unique to Indian women, as they continue to navigate these strings of patriarchy. It seems surreal, but regrettably, it is true.
But why? Why do these strings of patriarchy continue even in 2023?
Sadly, these women have been conditioned to believe that their husbands hold the key to what is “right” and “good” for them. They have internalized the notion that they mustn’t dare to act against their husband’s wishes. The irony lies in the fact that most Indian husbands prefer to preserve their comfort and the privileges that come with their wife’s servitude. They don’t want their wife to grow beyond them or do things that are “difficult” or will create “imbalance ” in the family – for eg: starting a new business! They like to “allow” their wife to do anything that doesn’t disrupt the family life or that doesn’t disrupt the children’s needs!!! They are “OK” when the wife doesn’t sit for Zoom meetings in the evening when she is expected to set the dinner or feed the kids. They are content as long as their wives remain within the confines of domestic duties, readily sacrificing professional aspirations or personal growth. They are a “nice husband ” as long as the wife listens to them.
And, to add a twist of irony, if a wife does manage to secure “permission” within the aforementioned conditions, she is then expected to exclaim, “My husband supports me wholeheartedly!” Failure to glorify her husband’s contributions instantly labels her an “ungrateful” spouse. It’s astonishing! Arey wah!! Salute the great Indian marriage ecosystem and patriarchy. You have won so well, even in the Western world!
Dear married women, true equality within a relationship dawn when you can independently make decisions about your career and pursue your passions without seeking permission from your spouse. Until that moment arrives, you remain in a position of servitude. A relationship is NOT equal if you are discouraged from making decisions for yourself and if you are being asked to change your decisions to suit the convenience of others. You have the power to change your decisions, but never because your husband tells you to do so.
Dear married men, your wife is an independent human being with equal or different capabilities/potentials. By marrying you, she has not lost her decision-making capabilities. Trust her plans. She can handle it better than you thought she will ! If you think otherwise, remember, you are one of her decisions!
Let me make it clear: It is perfectly fine and beneficial to make decisions together with your partner through open and meaningful discussions. However, the final decision should always be yours, devoid of any direct force or manipulation. There is a vast difference between the two.
So, now do you understand, what I meant by “The Women Empowerment Myth” ?
Real transformation and empowerment do not come with having high qualifications or having a lot of money or living in the world’s progressive cities, it comes from within. It comes when you realize that “You” are no less to anyone! It arises when you realize that you are just as worthy as anyone else and that your potential knows no bounds. It also comes, when women need not be “allowed” by a man to pursue her decisions/choices in her life!
But again, many women are so blind about their own rights and conditioned so much that they live a life of servitude their entire life just so that their family life is intact. But in the process, lose their own identity and potential. Similarly, most men are also conditioned that they make better decisions and have the right to take decisions for their wives. In this process, they end up taking unwanted stress and in some cases, violence within the family.
Coincidentally, as I wrote this article, I also came across this poem recited by Anamika Joshi which puts across whatever I said above as a poem! As you enjoy it, do think about it as well!
Let us envision a future where women’s empowerment takes center stage, powered by true transformers of change. And we need more Transformers in the field of women empowerment!!
P.S: Though I mentioned my experience with Indian women and the culture, I think, this might be true for other patriarchal cultures as well. Since I do not have direct experience with such cultures, I am unable to write about them.
Universal Love and Abundance
(Dr. CeeVee is the pen name of Dr. Chandra Vadhana R, Founder of Prayaana Labs and Managing Editor, SheSight Magazine)