“Has the woman really arrived?” I often question myself. With the state of women being very much linked to the social set-up, the advancement or deterioration in their condition reflects very much on the society in which they live. And considering the ‘fire’ raging within the system, confused signals trap women into the very rut that they are trying desperately to get out of.
Is it fine to go out in Bermudas to the shopping Mall? “Yes!” says the ultra modern woman. A resounding “No!” comes from the conservative woman. “It all depends on what my husband thinks,” observes the semi-conservative woman. Now, who is right and who is wrong? Logically, it’s a question of what dress we are comfortable in. Period. However, as a society, we have an obligation towards others too, to consider others’ views. After all, apart from other women, men too look at the female species. And if we ask the men, there are only two reactions: One, its fine for any woman to come to the shopping mall in shorts. What’s my problem? (It’s good to look at them!) Two, only, she shouldn’t be my wife or my sister!
But, this isn’t the only contradictory signal that the modern woman receives today. In the name of protecting the culture of the nation, political forces deprive women of the right to choose their options in life. She is reminded time and again of the enmity that has been existing for ages between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, stepmothers and stepdaughters etc, etc. For a woman, every other woman has to be a vamp, out to steal her husband, her son or her job! No wonder then, women themselves are confused about their position in society. In the Stone age when men hunted while the women cooked and begot children, it was all a matter of necessity – a sheer need of survival that goaded the man (who was created physically stronger than the woman) to provide, while the woman (created physically weaker than the male but emotionally stronger to handle the responsibility of bringing up a child) to take care of the children that came of that union. It was a time when there was no specific segregation based on gender. Both, the man and the woman generously put in their best to the cave learning of co-habitation without much thought of who was superior, who had to do what task, etc.
As time advanced, the knowledge that men and women acquired through the years of experience also expanded. Of course, since the woman possessed the natural gift of giving birth and mothering children, she stayed at home like her predecessor. The male used his physical strength to keep the fires burning at home. The only significant change was that unlike in the Stone Age, he was no longer completely dependent on hunting for survival. He now made use of his knowledge of nature and combined it with the shrewd tactics of human survival in a competitive society. So, it was a combination of both intellect and physical strength to ward off hunger and acquire protection from natural and man-made calamities.
Way back, the woman was the silent spectator, giving birth and providing emotional strength to her children and husband (having been kept away from the intricacies of the world outside). NOW, she actively possesses her very own world outside, where she is in charge. This transformation is no surprise. Facilities not invented earlier and unavailable in the past are now accessible. The new woman is no longer content to be within the four walls of her home. Like the man she too rightfully wants a share of the universe.
Today, the woman is all charged up. She is in competition with men in professions that had until now been male domain. From jobs that demand the use of intellect like teaching, medicine, engineering and scientific research to physical tests of shooting, athletics, weightlifting, hockey, tennis and piloting. Consequently, all duties that accompany a family like parenting, household management and beliefs have undergone a drastic transformation. The modern woman has arrived. Has she, really?
To step into a territory that was largely male dominated is both, exciting and disturbing. It is more or less like tasting the forbidden fruit. The urge to work and achieve outside the vicinity of the four walls called ‘home’ most often tends to obliterate all limits. It also brings with it a period of trial and conflict. Discrimination, sexual harassment is only some of the tribulations that the modern woman faces for letting the seed of desire and ambition grow within her. So, has she committed a mistake by wanting to step into the big, bad world? All the physical and mental turmoil has altered today’s woman into a changed persona, someone different from what she was generations ago. And, all this is for sticking to her desire and choice. She has had to change her beliefs and her priorities to survive.
Today, it is not just difficult but also unreasonable at times to expect a talented and ambitious woman to give up everything when she gets married. For better or for worse, many families today, tend to prefer a workingwoman in the family for that extra bit of income! Of course, there ARE millions of women who do give up everything. Some voluntarily, others forced. So, where does that leave feminism and equality? Contrary to claims, the immediate society still rules the thoughts and lives of the modern women.
Possessing lifestyles that are comparatively similar, or even better off than the males, may be considered an achievement, but can it be termed as one that is always qualitative? Materialistic success, we know is not everything. It does give us the benefits of living above the poverty line but it still strays clear of one vital requirement. Contentment.
Is the woman content and happy today? Having played many a role in the human ring of stress and hypocrisy, is the woman content doing the balancing act? Is she satisfied with the way she is currently leading her life? There are many women today, longing to give more time to their family but are unable to do so because some of them mistakenly believe that in doing so they would immediately revert back to the Stone age where the dominant male humiliated the female to exercise his superiority. So many women today, are in professions they are not interested in because they wish to exert authority or, they have strong desires to maintain a lifestyle that would raise their ‘status’ in society. They do not seem to be learning from the recurring errors of the men. Still others work to survive.
Today, the state of women is not something to gloat over. Agreed, that the woman has scaled great heights in innumerable fields but, at what cost? She is playing the game of tug and war with herself. Emotional bonds pull her in one direction while desires and ambitions tug her in another. In the process, she seems to be tripping on the very ropes that she is using to live her life. In spite of the great mountains that women have scaled they are still unable to protect themselves from rapists who cowardly run away scot-free, using muscle and political power. What do we have to say for that?
So, is the power that the woman aspiring for really reaching her in the right sense? It may be so in a minuscule quantity but does it serve any purpose when women are raped and humiliated in plenty thereby, losing their peace of minds? Consequently, most of us turn up doing COMPROMISES. We compromise on beliefs, we compromise on healthy living and we compromise on happiness.
Here, I definitely do not believe that working is the cause of it all. I therefore, would not suggest that all women give up working and sit at home. That would be a foolish waste of precious talent as it is a fact that most women are efficient workingwomen. Nor, would I advise all women to compellingly work for the sake of some stereotype feminist stand. What I do suggest is that the women of today’s world pursue a middle path. And that by no means, is a cowardly step as many of us may be bound to think.
It is a fact that women are basically emotionally strong species. They have the power to shape and influence persons and events. The woman must therefore, learn to polish the qualities that she is naturally gifted with. If a woman is emotionally strong then, she will be able to make the right choices in life for herself, for her family and for the society at large. And this need not involve any kind of deal or compromise. What more can a person want in life?
Life after all, is a game of survival and satisfaction. If the current means of survival, be it washing clothes as a maid or working as a computer software-consultant in a firm does not make one feel good from inside then, it is time to be alert. And, strive for that little extra in life. Only then, would the women have really arrived!