We are all this – and more, We are the women of India

The requirements for the Indusladies 2nd Annual International Women’s Day Blog Contest are as follows

We want you to blog about “A perspective on roles of Indian Women”. A Women plays a variety of roles in her life – daughter, sister, wife, daughter-in-law, mother, grand mother, employee and so on. Your blog post can address any particular angle with regards to those roles. Which role is the most important? Which role is she over-indexed on? Which roles limits her the most? Which role excites her the most? It can be a celebration, it can be a critique, it can be an aspiration, it can be an yearning, it can be anything.

With due respects, I have a big problem with the subject. Labels are so limiting and so are assigned roles.

Is a woman a sister? If so, then she only comes into her own when there is a sibling, and given the preference for male children in India, she only comes into her own neatly dressed and tying a rakhi on the wrist of a brother. Or perhaps someone whose honor a brother has to protect by fending away eve teasers. And given the sad truth of today’s India, someone, whose brother went too far and killed because that is just what she is to him, his honor! But that is not what a woman is. She is much more than that. She is a person, a real person who has as much right to live as her brother, and as much right to choice as he has.

Is a woman a daughter? Is she just that? Then she is just expense and a burden. Her poor parents would have to arrange for a huge dowry for her, get her married off to a “suitable” groom. Yes, they would have to buy a groom for her with that dowry … and then when the deal goes sour, they would have to keep sending her back to the house in which she is tortured by her greedy in laws. May be it won’t be that grim. May be she will be kept in comfort, even “allowed” to run the house for her in-laws, though they would strictly supervise her and monitor what she wears, how she cooks, where she spends her husband’s money, whom she befriends. After all, she is the “ghar ki izzat” And then the parents will be sad, since her visits to her parental house would be curtailed to a minimum, but they will console themselves by saying, “Daughters are paraya dhan, and they should let her be … since she appears to be happy at her in-laws”. No, daughters are much more than that, they are members of their birth family for life – and should be given equal rights and responsibilities.

A wife? Our shastras speak about a wife being an ardhangini, a valued partner. But is that the ground reality? A sex doll, a slave, a cook, a over worked home manager, and sometimes a punching bag. And if she is a working woman, an additional income to which she has no rights. I know of cases where a woman cooks for her stay at home in-laws, packs lunch boxes and then goes to work – and she does not even get to enjoy the money she earns, because her in-laws manage the budget of the house.

A daughter in law – well I have said what I have to in the para about daughters ….

A mother … hmmm You know what I heard once – A mother in law telling a daughter in law “Tu toh zameen hai, fasal jo upjegi, voh humari hai” Translation “You are just the soil, the fruit of your womb is ours not yours” Yes, this was my mother-in-law to me …. Is that true? Really? Of course not! But that is what the common perception is …

A grandmother – someone who is expected to serve, pamper, tell stories and other wise ignored.

No, I am not being negative. These are the ground realities in many situations. This is why I am against assigned roles. It is just like saying a man is expected to be a provider, and impregnate his wife and protect the honor of the women in his family. What if the man has a medical problem and cant produce babies?  What if he is unable to hold a job?  What if he is far away and God forbid, he can’t protect his women in danger? Does he stop being a man?

A woman is all of the above and more. She is the anchor of her home, she is someone who makes a home come alive. I have two sons, and believe me, my house became a home only after my son got married. The feminine touches, the giggles, the flowers in unexpected nooks, the shiny blue ribbon forgotten on a dining table – these are stuff that breathe life into a home.

A woman is the female energy that is needed to balance the world which is – right now undervaluing it completely. We worship goddesses but do not respect the same female form when we see it in real life. Yes we are women, Wives, Mothers, Daughters etc … but that is not all we are. We need to look beyond and truly believe, we are more. We are 50% if not more of the population of humans in this world, without us the world can not function. So let us not limit ourselves. We have important strengths

* mental strengths, such as the instinct to manage scarce resources

* identity strengths, which maintain strong values under pressure

* emotional strengths, such as anticipating the effects of decisions

* relational strengths, with an emphasis on win-win solutions

These have nothing to do with roles. These have everything to do with being a woman.

I tag the following

Monika Manchanda

Indian Home Maker



34 thoughts on “We are all this – and more, We are the women of India

  1. I agree completely. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A woman is much more than all the roles she plays. Her identity comes from within, not from without. A man plays as many roles as a woman does, but he compartmentalises them and is expected to do so. A woman is supposed to take all the roles into consideration while playing each individual role. No one is going to blame a man for focussing on his career. A woman is accused of neglect. Ajeeb daastaan hai yeh!

  2. Bloody hell, ““Tu toh zameen hai, fasal jo upjegi, voh humari hai”!!!! I see quite a lot of that attitude all around me.
    My answer:
    I don’t see the zameen get up and do anything! It just lays there on its back and those who want the fazal do all the pampering and work really hard so that the zameen gives the fazal that they want. If woman is zameen, how is it that she is running around in circles to please everyone else and then has to give the fazal too??!!! Like hell she is zameen!

    Ohhh, I am tagged??!! :O

  3. Ritu,
    talking of women emancipation,do you think it’s really possible as long as women continue to bear children? or have a heart which feels more profoundly than a man can ever fathom?

    dont u think there is an internal emotional conflict always present in women? with regard to men especially that forces them to sacrifice,make adjustments and comply?,one which kills any attempt of true liberation?

    • If one follows that argument mrcroco, women can never be emancipated. Does not work. We can be emancipated, we only need to break free of traditions and expectations of patriarchal society. The biological and natural factors will continue to function as they do – no one who messes with biology and nature can escape the backlash.

  4. Brilliant! oh I am really sorry to hear abt ur MIL’s words! I hate how the mother is considered nothing! I don’t know if these words were spoken to them too, and so they repeat the same or just wht is it?

    Sigh! yes u r right-roles do not define the woman, they limit all tht she really is…..great post!

  5. Beautifully written, I could not have expressed it half as well as you did. Loved this line ‘A grandmother – someone who is expected to serve, pamper, tell stories and other wise ignored.’ I feel like calling my Grandma right now and talking with her 🙂

  6. My favorite lines, “This is why I am against assigned roles. It is just like saying a man is expected to be a provider, and impregnate is wife and protect the honor of the women in his family. What if the man has a medical problem and cant produce babies. What if he is unable to hold a job. What if he is far away and God forbid, he can’t protect his women in danger? Does he stop being a man?”

    I feel the same way about any assigning of roles. Assigned roles create stereotypes. And stereotypes are generalizations, leaving those who don’t fit (and there are many who don’t) feeling left out or even forcing them to fit into set roles.

  7. Loved your final four points….and it has nothing to do with the roles….. if it has , the roles are for man and woman both .
    There are so many MIL’s caught up in the stereotype , mouthing such things as this zameen dialogue …disgusting !!! someone has to set the record straight….you were right whatever answer you had at that time.
    I so agreed that roles lead to stereotypes….loved Shail’s and IHM’s answers.
    Enlightening post in fact.

  8. i agree Ritu, personally this is the time when i just dont want to hear anything related to celebrating Women in diff roles.. Specially when Women’s day is just approaching. I mean what are we actually- an anniversary which needs to be reminded or celebrated…
    Why cant we like any other day. Sometimes days are good sometimes Dull….sometimes jolly sometimes angry and sometimes irritating toooooo…
    i want to be 365 days of the year, year after year…. & i do have capability to pick up any role in those days without being defined & dictated by others

    • Considering how suppressed women are … perhaps a day is good – it reminds people that there is unfairness all around. Men too suffer – they HAVE to be strong and unemotional (which is unnatural) and have the added pressure of being bread winner and protector. A true partnership would do away with all that

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