LA FEMME

Recently, I was watching a programme on “Aarti Home”, a home for orphans and “unwanted” children (read girl child). The owner of this organization had information about a lady who wanted to abort her child since she was a girl. She visited her in hope of convincing her to not take such a step. In the whole conversation that followed between the owner of the organization and the pregnant lady, the former had no words to refute the reasoning behind not having a girl child. To me, the reasoning was a perfect cost-benefit analysis.

Why it makes little rationale to have a girl child? (assuming that the family is poor, though the reasoning that follows can be for well-off families as well)
1. In absence of any future security, son is a best bet, the runner of the family’s baton, who takes family’s name ahead. What about a daughter? She belongs to her husband’s house, her stay at her parents’ home is only transitory. She takes his name; she takes his family and forgets her roots.
2.Dowry!! Yes, it still exists (in huge proportion!) in India. Thus, expenses on a girl child in her upbringing + marriage expenses come out to be quite huge. Returns? Apart from probable emotional bonding, since a girl does not usually work, there are no returns that follow.

I am bewildered that there are girls who think that the tradition of being part of her husband’s family is somehow exciting. Following traditions has become ‘fashionable’. Ignoring the set of girls that might not have had absolutely any exposure to the ‘new’ ideas, even the educated mass does not question such role accorded to women. They are happy following the traditions, being absorbed in their husband’s family, visiting her parents some days in a year. Why would parents not think of having a son rather? Atleast, a son would take care of his parents monetarily.

These days, there is a tendency to have small family. I am afraid that this might as well do more harm by selective abortion in order to have a son.

I am not able to put my thoughts in a crystal clear format and moreover dynamics might be different in a family with different income and socio-economic characteristics. But the basic thought is as follows: given our society, our beliefs about the role of a man and a woman, a woman has to essentially get absorbed in her husband’s family. On the other hand, a man has to earn the bread and take care of the family that includes his parents as well. Why can’t women think of taking care of their family including her parents as well? Why she (has to) loose(s) her identity and abandon(s) her past, her upbringing and her responsibility towards her parents. Why can’t she be an asset to her parents?

To all those who think that things are changing, women are more educated now etc. etc., please ask yourself how many women you know who would not forget their identity after marriage, an identity that includes concern for themselves and a responsibility and care for the past. Probably, the pressure to act according to the rules of the society is too much to think of acting against them..

If you are interested in this discussion, please do read the comments. And I will appreciate if you could share your views as well..:)

20 thoughts on “LA FEMME”

  1. these very questions have been troubling me for a very long time.?i think the main problem here lies with the false perception that has been hammered into us for generations that girls cannot be an asset for their parents,?that they are bound to leave their homes and go to their husbands and forget everything about their family and adapt themselves to their ‘new home’.?on the other hand, the guy and his family have got virtually nothing to lose and the height of it is that the mother-in-law blames the girl for stealing and manipulating her poor child !?the only answers i’ve ever got to all the whys i’ve ever asked are – ‘thats the rule of the society’ or ‘thats how the society functions’.??well a society based on principles that so callously flounder the very basis of rationality is nothing but set to be doomed.?but how did such a collosal error get incorporated in the fabric of our society in the first place??it is nothing but an accumalation of contradictions and adamancy in letting go of irrelevant old established practices. ??until recently i.e few centuries ago , the role of men and women in the society was clearly defined.men were supposed to bring home economic stability, social status and women had their hands on everything related to household and child rearing.education was limited to boys only because it was assumed that female duties do not need much education.thus boys were assets because of their ability to earn and the girls were an asset because of their ability to keep the household well and happy (which is no terms inferior to any ability).?now,?earlier on families used to be big, joint familes with lots of children and simple probability lending to the almost equal number of girls and boys.?thus even the ‘loss’ of a of a daughter by wedding was compensated for by the daughter in law and the sons were left to take forward the family name.?this was applicable to all the families.?thus the society was in a type of dynamic equilibrium.??but with industrialisation, urbanisation and migration towards crowded cities, smaller, nuclear families became more sustainable and this upset the equilibrium.?thus the loss of a daughter was an absolute one (due to cost of raising her, wedding expense, dowry etc with no compensation of any sort).??what should’ve ideally happened is that with smaller families coming in, the fixed role assigned by society to men and women should have dissolved, women and men should’ve worked and earned together (which was possible in the in the industrial society because work reqiured use of the mind more than that of the muscle)?and thus have an equal say over economic and social matters ( because as it is often said ‘if you live under my roof, using my money, then you have to live by my y rules’ )?this would have given her the responsibilty of supporting her parents as much as it of the man to support his. then a girl would not have been viewed as a liabilty but as an asset.?but obviously, that hasn’t happened and hence this mess.

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  2. ?a very basic reason for this shift not happening can be attributed to evolutionary influences.?you see, hundreds and thousands of years of evolution has led to the development of two types of instincts (please dont brand me a sexist, seriously, i’m not):
    ?the female instinct- which is to achieve stabilty, avoid conflict, propagate the species.?on the other hand the male instinct is to conquer, plunder , have sex with as many mates as possible.?(i refer you to the writings of sigmund freud for a more e in-depth analysis).?but a civilsation and all the progress we have had demands just the opposite of these instincts.?the male instinct has to be suppressed other wise it will lead to wars and conflicts.?the female instict if unchecked will lead to their domination by the male (which will be morally unacceptable).?but we are more that just our instincts.these instincts have to be repalced by rational thought (if we are to continue our enjoyment of the benefits of advancement).?but the problem with h this is that not only it is a herculean task to achieve such a dramatic change in the whole society, but we also have to consider the possibilty of unforeseen outcomes of absolute equality of the two sexes:?like there are hormonal imbalances (higher testostrone levels) in women involved in physically challenging activities which can definitely affect their fertility levels.?or what about the adverse effects of this change on the male psych??will divorce rates increase?what effect would that have on children???i dont know, but these questions scare me (b’coz altering the laws of nature and evolution has always led to far reaching and quite unpredictable consequences). ??a word on dowry- ?it has been there since time immemorial.it was amount/property/gfts given by the daughter’s parents for her security (because girls were not allowed to inherit property(you see how self-propagating irrational thoughts are)) in case her husband dies.?the husband per say had absolutely no right over the dowry.???but somehow (through brute force or love or whatever) they did get control over the it and just see what has happened now.?dowry has become such an evil that we snicker and shrink our faces even at the thought of it and it has contributed to the devaluing of the female ‘stock’.??and now you see, how flawed is the very premise for that ‘perfect’?cost benefit analysis which would lead a decision of female feticide.?such actions can only result in one ultimate effect (ahem drumroll please),: anhilation of the e species!?or it could just lead to a day where there will be just poor boys and rich girls!??ps:?feminism itself is also not so virtuous as it is thought to be.?refer to an excellent article ‘gender tribalism’ by peter schwartz.??pls let me know your views on that and all my bakwass!

    1. As for the ‘female duties’ not requiring education, I believe ‘female duties’ per say had been defined since time immemorial and such a division very well exists amongst animals as well (with a few exceptions). I certainly agree that keeping a household happy requires a good set of abilities in itself and I have no problem with a woman being a ‘home-maker’ than getting into a professional life. The issue is with the division of the duties, however natural it be. And it is for men as well. The pressure to earn, to sustain their family and carry on the name of family further. The remark that you made, “we are more that just our instincts.these instincts have to be replaced by rational thought” is totally apt.

      When we talk about industrialization and larger number of women getting into labour participation, it is sort of a misnomer. In Indian society, a working woman implies that there is not enough money to take care of the household and hence she is an added hand. You can appreciate this statement by considering two sets of women: one set which is in rural India (women labour participation in rural india is much larger for obvious reasons) and the other women of rich families of say Jain community or rich Gujarati entrepreneur! Thus working is more like a necessity than the need for being financially independent. And in former set, it is obvious that the financial returns acrue to the family and not the working woman and hence it is not ‘women empowerment’ per say.

      And even with nuclear families, it has often been observed that women give up their profession once they have a child. The responsibility to take care of the child falls solely on the mother in the absence of a joint family system and moreover because of the general role accorded to the females in our society.By no means I am implying that the happiness of taking care of a child is lower than carrying on with the professional life. Again, my problem is why the role has been so clearly divided. Why a man does not take equal responsibility in bringing up the child than expecting the lady of the house to give up her professional life. There are women who have done MBAs, MBBS, PhDs (i know atleast one within each category) and just when they had a child, they abandoned their lives. (Now, it can be argued that they are not abandoning their lives but that is what they want to do blah blah blah but I really do not buy this argument. All the women whom I have talked to with excellent educational credentials and having given up career admitted that they would have wanted to do justice to the kind of education they received). Somehow, the roles have become much more stark within cities. And when you talk about “this would have given her the responsibilty of supporting her parents as much as it of the man to support his”, it is just that nobody questions such roles. It is so much fashionable these days to follow non-sensical traditions and so called cultural values. Many women are just happy with the role society has accorded to them. They are happy to be taking care of their ‘new’ family.

      All this is something quite specific to our society. It is not the same in USA or European nations. There, regardless of the gender of the child, as he/she turns 18, he/she has to take care (monetarily) of himself/herself. Parents do not tend to support their kids beyond a point. Social security system exists (even if the sort of system is debatable, it is much better than the societal social security India has). Now I am not any fan of such a society but I like the fact that it is gender neutral.

      All the questions that you have put up, I agree that they do deserve considerable thought. But then just because we are unsure of what is going to follow does not imply that we do not correct the present imbalances in our society.

      And a word on feminism: I really do not think much on what is feminism and what is not. I believe that the thoughts should be more lined up according to what you perceive to be right or wrong. I shall read the article that you suggested and discuss it with you!!

      Thank you for commenting!! If you are wella enough, you may put up your views on this reply!! :)

  3. Very good discussion here.. On the point of dowry, these days it acts as a solution for handling property disputes. The amount given as dowry is a way for the family to buy out her share of the property. Because she has been given that amount, it is hoped that women won’t ask for a share when the property is distributed amongst the sons.

    1. @Dijo: I certainly do not agree on this one! Dowry hardly acts as a solution for handling property disputes. Had it been so, it would have empowered women and not been a demand from the groom’s side! Women would not have been burnt and tortured by in-laws and husband for dowry..and it would not have been illegal to accept and give dowry.

  4. The main problem is that girls don’t even think there is an option of doing this thing (long list that you mentioned :P ) . They are raised with this ideas and a very few like you who dare to think out of box dares to discuss this issues..Nice going my courageous sis..I am proud of you :)

    1. @Gaurav: Thank you :) It is nice to know that you accept such an idea..there are many people with whom I have discussed this but they are at best neutral to the whole issue! They would rather not prefer to be a rebel and have a life defined by the norms of the society.

  5. I do not think that it works as a solution. I just stated that it is used as one. They never adjust for the prices in the future, and that is just one of the problems. I do believe that it is stealing a woman of what is rightfully hers. What i stated is a rationalization that is used by most “modern”, “educated” households. I do not agree with any of it :)

  6. And while I agree with almost all of what you have written, the legality of any activity is not a very good indicator of whether it is morally correct or not. Not disagreeing with your ideas but its nice to refine them through discussions.

    1. @Dijo: Legality is not even an issue being discussed! Dowry per say is a curse to our society and the fact that it is illegal FURTHER explains that it is a disgrace.

  7. @ Riju : You know I am not going to follow anything imposed by this hypocrite society. Aur haan, the main problem is not the males but the females only. Vahi to hain who should come up for themselves.

    Aur haan the one thing that amazes me is when I discussed this problem in the family , women were the first to oppose.. It amazes me that then for whom we are raising this issues??

    1. @Gaurav: Well, things do not work one way, like they say, one cant clap with one hand. I agree that most of the women do not think about these issues and as I had already mentioned, these days it is ‘in’ to follow ‘traditions’. But let us assume that there is some woman who thinks out of the box and does not want to follow what society decides. Is she given a prompt yes to do whatever she desires to? Certainly not. It amazes me that I just know (I think) three guys who would accept his wife to be a support for her parents after marriage, to be with them even after marriage, just like men. Even the most educated ones would say, ‘oh, thats nice of you to think and it is out of box and it is good’. But I can bet that they would never like to marry a girl who opposes what the society imposes. They would have all the ‘liberal’ thoughts, would preferably want to marry a working woman but when it comes to giving up such traditions, there is an issue. Guys, in general, do not want a ‘rebellious’ wife. Wife has to be docile, if not outside, but at home. Take another issue, who takes the responsibility of bringing up a child when a child is born? Have you seen a single man who would give up his career for some time or reduce his working hours and take equal (or even 30%) responsibility of taking care of the child? It is always women..they literally give up their career to be with the child 24*7 and the male counterpart would come in the evening, play with the kid for a while and there the duty ends! Isn’t career important for a girl as well? Why is it wrong to expect from men to take equal responsibility of various circumstances in a couple’s life?
      Everybody is complacent (both women and men) in our society..being rebellious is not acceptable and least desired. Or even if you are rebellious, there is a threshold for it!

      1. I think the problem lies in the upbringing of the child. The differences start from the birth of child . It is expected from her to adjust for her brother for each and everything . She is told that “son” has to earn and you must know “Ghar Chalana” because you have to do that .The seeds of inequality rise from that point and most of them appear to be quite complacent with this situation and then they itself promote this type of upbringing for their daughters and the whole cycle continues…

  8. Hello, Riju.. :)
    A really thought-provoking article you have here. Yes, it is true that everyone is complacent in our society and that in such a framework, one is more likely only to support such liberal views than implement them, but isn’t our society responsible for that?

    Now, if we think of changing our society (traditions) (which as a matter of fact, is changing rapidly) do you think it would really do us more good than bad? Take the western countries for instance.. you would agree that a woman in one of those countries has far greater freedom and has no social obligations to be “absorbed” into a man’s family. That said, the divorce rates in such countries hits the roof ! What I am trying to figure out is how to change this society without losing its positives.. More on this soon..

    1. @Abhishek: Let us not create any causations between high divorce rates and women empowerment and conclude that changing status quo will do more harm than good. Let me explain. Why does a couple get a divorce? Well, simply because they do not think that they are good enough for each other and hence life without them is preferred over living with them. When can a couple get a divorce? When none of the individuals is dependent on either for any sort of support. Given this framework, let us talk about Indian society. So are indians are madly deeply in love with their spouses that they do not think of going for a divorce? Or are we ignoring something here? Simple reason for not going for a divorce even when a women wants it is because she is in most cases financially dependent on her husband (apart from the social compulsions). Thus, yes, it is true that women empowerment can potentially have the tendency to have higher divorce rate but it is simply because they can take such a big step as divorce because they are financially independent. It is not that all the couples we have in India are happily married and hence lower divorce rate. Besides, why such a taboo with divorce? It is more like a term that anything else.

  9. let us say that a woman is ready to shift to her husband’s place – it becomes difficultfor her to manage both the households.

    if by some miracle and proper management of time she manages to divide her time as she pleases, monetarily she would be helpful only if she has her own source of income.

    women stop working after they have babies – as per the demands of the in laws and even her own parents. reason given: proper education and quality time for children and also her own health (how’ll u cook, clean, take care of kids and work at the same time?.

    and once she stops working, she’s stuck at home with nothing to do except routine tasks, bickering about house help, no productive activities except managing the household which is a huge task in itself; and absolutely no time to keep in touch with the outside world.

    this makes her reggressive in her thought process. she accepts what the society has put her through. what she agreed and compromised for herself and and her family. the fight left in her dies. the individual in her is lost. she makes her exception a rule. the rule becomes the ‘reality’.

    she has a daughter. her daughter faces the same problems. she recommends and passes on what her parents had told her, and the viscious circle starts all over again.

    1. @Tia: Financial independence is very crucial for women. My point is that for women who are financially independent themselves do not think on such lines. Besides, proper education and quality time for children can be delivered by both the parents and also the ‘in-laws’. I know many children who have been brought up like this, it is certainly not an impossibility, all that matters is the willingness.

  10. somewhere among these women are the people who want to break away from this viscious circle. i am one of them.

    we intend to change the rulebook. so help us god.

  11. oh yes! who would want a girl to be born into their family? afterall the only thing she does is to sacrifice for her family,which is nothing big to do. she sacrifices her toys for her brother who sure as hell deserver more than her as he will be the one future bread winner of the family, then her parents and identity for her husband and then her time for her children. but, who cares ,sacrifices are what anyone can make but not everone can support a family u see!

    and yeah for all those parents who think of their sons as the future ‘family supporters’ , have they not heard of parents being thrown into old age homes or even worse ,being left on the road to survive all by themselves!

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