The unending feminist divide
Society rules. And Society divides. There are cultural divides, language barriers, gender conflicts, racism, economic differences, myths of status and hierarchy, religious differences; the list is endless. And to add to this never ending list of biases and discriminations is the Feminist divide. This has popped up roughly around the last two decades which is essentially nothing but female chauvinism.
While equality of the sexes is indeed necessary and good for the society, the current debate leads me to worry whether we now want to clone each other which then might be detrimental to society. Feminism, in some cases of backwardness and violence, is necessary; it cannot be the flag bearer of everything. Anti-men does not mean pro-women. Much in the same way pro-women’s rights need not be framed in one template: the Career template. The Heart of any “Right” is “Choice”. Whoever constricts this “Choice” into a narrow scope cannot be for “Rights”. So the debate has to be about “Choices” and not “Privileges”.
Do we need reservations for women in education, corporate organizations, politics, board appointments, etc.? Do we need the special seats reserved for women in buses and trains? Aren’t we capable of procuring them ourselves? Which brings us to the question that are women a minority? Not really. But then why do we echo the same paranoia that minorities suffer from? Do we let ourselves get treated as inferior so that we can get these privileges?
If we want to establish ourselves on a uniform platform with men, feminism (not femininity, mind you) is the first misconception we should get rid of. Like male chauvinism, feminism is also chauvinism; justified or otherwise cannot be the debate. Women should not seek out extra benefits, reservations, and any privileged “soft” treatment if they are and want to be equal to men. Why use the special seats reserved for ladies and then criticise the very society that creates them.
And from this battle for the equality of sexes has risen an even bigger inequality. The great “Career woman Vs the Housewife” divide. Women are being forced into this competitive gender race now that there is almost a social pressure for them to be equal to their male partners (Thankfully God has made us different physically). So more and more women have started working and going for jobs. Some of it is need driven, a few driven rightly by ambition and a fair share due to social pressure. That those who choose not to work are derisively commented upon by those who are careerist as “sitting at home”, is the social pressure I am referring to.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to have a good job, earning your own money and being economically independent. But what is going wrong in this module is the divide that is coming between the working woman and the stay-at-home woman. Both are capable, intelligent and productive. Both are managing finances, juggling balance sheets and manpower problems and engaging in people management. Only the fields are different. So is the remuneration. And the accolades. In fact this is one area in which all the myths of feminism fly out of the window. There is very little woman to woman empathy and respect for the “choice” made by another woman. There is a huge communication gap here and no one wants to bridge it. The career woman looks down at the ‘housewives’. Housewives are portrayed as those in bottom of the societal pyramid by the women who made the choice to be a career woman. They are derided as nameless, faceless, voiceless and hence ambition and identity-less.
I, having worked in one of the largest multi-national banks in the country, quit my job to take care of my family. By my “choice”, one of the best and wisest decisions I have ever made. I have never regretfully pondered over this decision. Having seen my fellow female colleagues juggle their time between their jobs, homes, kids, husbands, etc. (the list is endless), I started getting the feeling that these working mothers don’t take their work home. Instead they bring their homes to the offices! The hourly calls to the maid, the twice-a-day call to the school, the post ‘school returned kids’ calls, and of course the general fretting over how the maid didn’t show up or the kids are sick and what to do? I used to wonder having made the “choice” why fret and fume? So when I got pregnant, it was very important to make this decision as to what to do. I decided to be a full-time mom. I realised that at least for a crucial period my resources were critically required at home. I also realised that my home and my family required serious attention and management. Which of course ultimately gets tagged as a Housewife. This is not to argue that every woman should think and make a choice in favour of managing their homes. This was my choice. And many women make this choice out of free will.
So that became my occupation in all the forms that I have filled up since. Housewife. And in the designation column I write ‘Happy’. So I am a happy housewife. An educated, well read, intelligent, efficient happy housewife. A paradox for many of my ex colleagues and my working friends. They smirk, I know. Sour grapes, they say. Look at her, so dependent on her husband. Always with the children. Managing their school work and lunch menus! Instead of spread sheets, she manages the dirty bed sheets, so they smirk. Maybe. But look at what I wanted in the first place; my chosen ambition. The satisfaction that my kids get me whenever they want me (quality time and quantity time mean the same thing here and no need to ration either), they do their school work and other activities under my guidance, and tell me all their “I-have-to-tell-you-right-now” stories whenever they want to tell them to me. I am available 24×7 for them and they love it (I hope they do!). I am their teacher, mentor, counsellor and above all an entrepreneur who has invested in a start-up called family. I made this choice and I am comfortable with my choice.
Never have I regretted my decision to resign my job even once in all these years. Now I see the remuneration and the accolades that come to me in a different forms, it does not bother me that they are not tangible or green in colour. But nevertheless they have been earned by me and are the rewards of my enterprise. My return on investment (ROI), is multi-fold: the growth & development of my children, the quality time I have with every member of my family, the time I get to indulge in reading, to write and develop into being a columnist one day, to cheer my children when they win their medals just as a coach would, resolving conflicts and ensuring the immunity and health of my family as a doctor would.
This does not mean that I am on a tirade here against working mothers. I am not. Each one makes her choice and I respect the choice every individual makes. I worry about the presumptuous assumption that housewives who “sit at home”, are not ambitious and hence are not women of substance. I do believe that at the end of the day it is about the “Choices” we make which we should all respect without thrusting any particular view on anyone.
And in this, I am a feminist too. Husband, please go and earn the moolah. And let me be the uncontested boss in my domain!
(c) 2014, K. Ramkumar. Used by permission. Originally published at http://theotherview.in/