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Working Women – Careless Home-Makers or Victim of a False Narrative?

Medha (Name Changed to Maintain Privacy) is a very talented & coming of age woman. Born and brought up to be ambitious with high aspirations she has always worked very hard. Today she’s an accomplished PHD Scholar, a mother of a 2 year old, gives tuition and shoulders the responsibility of her entire home. Earlier it was thought that once women become financially independent they’ll get out from the holds of patriarchy. This, however, has not been proven true. For a lot of women like Medha, Work means an added responsibility while fitting into a traditional gender role too.

Everything was going fine with Medha, and though the workload was always high, she had high hopes from her PHD in Psychology Degree, until one day, her husband came and lashed out on her. According to him she didn’t take care of the household as good as his mother, she was careless and selfish in his perspective.

"Tum ghar ka dhyan bilkul nahin rakhtin, tumse koi kaam nahi hota, tum mentally unstable ho, isliye apne bachhe, ghar aur work ko nahin sambhal pati ho"

Suddenly Medha bore the brunt of humiliations that added more burdens to her already busy life. One day, when she had had enough, she informed her mother in law in hopes of she understanding what Medha was going through and she talking to her son. It rather ended up crudely by Medha’s Husband physically abusing her. Even more shocking was the fact that mother in law seemed totally fine with how Medha was treated by her son.

She exclaimed "To kya hogaya thoda sa maar diya to, husband-wife ke beech problems to hoti rehti hain"

When mother in-law was being counselled she said

"Kya hogaya thoda sa maar diya to, isko apni mummy ko call nahin karna chahiye tha"

Medha, a person who always had high hopes from life suddenly found herself in clutch of a domestic violence situation. Not only that, a classic gaslighting-like situation appeared when her husband declared she’s mentally unstable as she’s not able to take care of everything properly.The story ended up by Medha bearing the burden of home-care, emotional-labor, child-care, PHD, giving tuitions and her husband’s abuse. Thankfully for Medha, being a Psychology scholar meant, the first step she took was to seek therapy. But a lot of women do not have the means or awareness to take this route and for them the brokenness remain forever and scars become too much to ever be healed from.

How did women end up in such a situation? What happened to the notion of educated & financially independent woman breaking patriarchal norms?

The answer is years of mental conditioning about gender roles, and social norms that are not giving the kind of support women need, are two very strong forces that women have to fight. Working women have surely challenged the status quo but that also means they are at the receiving end of control and abuse accepted traditionally towards women who broke norms. The question that arises then is are we evolving socially?

According to a recent study, violence against women has increased manifolds; there are two reasons for this increase:

1) Women are now reporting the crime

Reporting domestic violence as a crime has increased manifold

2) Women are bearing the brunt of earning bread all by themselves

According to a report, it is found that many men who were raised to believe in gender roles hate to share their occupational territory. They view women as threat to their occupational power and dominance. They clearly don’t want to share the power. Such men end up hating working women, and they use tactics such as talking about working women in bad light, use intimidation by calling women names, declare women as careless home-makers, refuse to share household chores, try to dis-empower and discourage women to take up modern roles in order to subject them to traditional roles. Many a times if nothing works, they resort to violence.

Such people, in reality, cannot let go of the free-labor, both practical and emotional, that women provide. Apart from that they have serious insecurities of women leaving them and calling out on their behaviors once set free. Since they clearly don’t want to change themselves, or at times have poor introspection skills, they try to control and even break a woman who has high aspirations.

This clearly makes most of the women a victim of a false narrative of being a “careless” home-maker, a tag that our society readily expects.

What has to transpire in order for women to breakthrough these situations and be set free?

The change has to be a three-fold change:

1) The change is needed in the way children are conditioned when it comes to gender norms

2) The change in unspoken social norms and the way society perceives both the gender. At large society has to accept both genders as individuals capable of earning & thinking for themselves

3) The change in the way marriage as an institution is perceived. This would mean both partners agreeing to be fully functional individuals in marriage, responsible for everything in partnership and enabling each others’ goals.

Only awareness and de-conditioning can bring forth a society that in all inclusive and liberated. For that we need good guidance counselors, and counseling at every level for individuals who are now stepping onto the road of partnership in modern times.

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