I think Sima aunty says it best when she says, “Indians are scared of bahus who are lawyers.” Because they are indeed. They cannot entertain the idea of a woman being fierce, independent and herself. Sima Aunty from Indian Matchmaking, a popular series on Netflix came to limelight with her cringeworthy but all too accurate portrayal of arranged marriage in India, revealing the truths behind the patriarchal customs that are veiled under the garb of ‘traditions’. For most of us too, we’ve come across statements that not only mansplain their way into our lives silencing our voices, but also undermine our very worth and skills so much so that we start internalising those beliefs.
This is perhaps truer of the idea of heterosexual marriages which is nothing more than a way of telling that ‘your happiness lies in your husband’s comfort and joy.‘ Whether you sugar-coat it or put it across as ruthlessly as possible, the question for woman almost always ends at ‘marriage.’ The recipe for fulfilment for woman is assumed to be one that discredits everything that they have done in their entire lifetime and boils down to one and only one point ‘how happy or successful is your marriage.‘
The question doesn’t end there, for these hierarchical arrangements have also decided upon the specific herbs and spices that go into making the recipe of ‘marriage’ a successful one so that your success is but a question up for public debate, gossip for chai time and an avenue for comparing other more successful endeavours (read: marriages).
Your in-laws are so progressive to allow you to work after marriage: ‘Allow’ me? They did not invest in my education to make that decision for me, first of all. And secondly, oh the double standards of your progressiveness! My parents didn’t have to ‘allow’ my husband to work, so why do you think they should decide if I work or not?
Are you having any financial problems? Why do you need to work if your husband is already working?: Umm there’s something called independence? Why is it always assumed for the husband to provide for me? I can provide for him too. In fact, my job pays better than his does. And I already see your eyebrows raised at my last statement! But it’s true, I wouldn’t mind him tending to the children while I go out and work.
Girls today are too educated and arrogant, which is why marriages fail so often: As far as I remember, I thought marriages worked through mutual understanding and efforts put in by both the partners. But you’re right. Education is important to teach girls to leave a marriage where there’s no respect and regard in the relationship. And if that’s arrogance, so be it.
You can work, but mind it, you will only be putting your child’s health and future at risk: No, you’re wrong. I’ll only be setting an example so that they too grow up and learn the essence of being financially independent. As far as their upbringing is concerned, who said I can’t be a mother and balance my career at the same time? Motherhood doesn’t define me nor does it limit me.
I’m very progressive. But what’s the point of wasting so many years in PhD? You won’t get good matches for marriage as you get older: Thankfully, unlike your progressiveness, that has an age limit and boundaries. PhD has none. So, I’d rather do the latter.
You’ve got to compromise and sacrifice a little for your marriage to work. So, it’s best you become a homemaker and let the man go outside and work: I’m both a homemaker and a paid worker. And while I still can’t wrap my head around why the former is still looked upon with disdain or something to be only done by women over the years, my partner here doesn’t even share in half of the household chores and is praised for doing the bare minimum.
You can work and have a career, but in terms of finances let your husband decide: I will use my money however I wish to. That’s a decision solely mine because I earned it. My money is my money and none of your money!
Also read: Indian Matchmaking: Capitalising On The Arranged Marriage Market & Its Anxieties
I bet it will be hard now finding a job that pays well as you just delivered: Unfortunately here, you’re right. The job market is already male dominated and for them stability only means more and more positions being filled by men. While women, especially pregnant women and mothers continue to get marginalised.
Girls can have a job but shouldn’t be earning more than the partner: Are male egos that fragile? RIP to ambitions? To quote a dialogue from Chori Chori Chupke Chupke, “Aurat ke ek nahin teen janam hote hai.. pehle job wo kisiki beti banker is duniya mein ati hai…doosra jab wo kisiki patni banti hai… aur teesra jab wo maa banti hai” (a woman takes birth three times in their life. First, when they are born as a daughter, second when they become a wife, and third when they become a mother themselves). Right boy, you can live in your delusions here while women continue to conquer the world and occupy powerful positions.
The list is exhaustive. Their institutional misogyny soars so high that everything else appears foggy to them (them being the patriarchal society). Bollywood has made this worse with dialogues and songs that are extremely sexist and misogynistic which further entrench these stereotypes and convince everyone into believing that women are better within the four walls. The casual sexism often thrown at us in the name of ‘jokes’ is nothing more than a manifestation of their deep-seated desire to silence women. To silence these voices that have struggled for decades to be heard.
These are not just men but also women who downplay other women. Mothers and mother-in laws often reinforce these patriarchal ideas as justification to keep the family together. As Simran’s mother in the movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaenge says to her daughter, “Sapne dekho, zaroor dekho, bas unke poore hone ki shart mat rakho” (You’re allowed to dream but you cannot bet for them to materialise). Like, no girl, we already have enough men to do that!
Also read: No Indian Judges, Marriage Is Not The Remedy To Sexual Abuse
Not to mention the heteronormativity that oozes out from these gendered assumptions and stereotypes. The very idea of heterosexual marriages as given and the definition of a woman solely in terms of motherhood perpetuate inequality and renders all other gender categories (queer) as unnatural or other.
Featured Image Source: Feminism In India