I have been pondering (as I am wont to do) the state of the Indian woman, and have been struck by how much like a child she is treated, and expects to be treated. Yet she is also expected to rise to the occasion and mother everyone in certain situations, which makes her seem almost superhuman. This strange mix- the powerlessness of the child with the burden of the adult- results in a form of passive aggression that ensures the continuation of the vicious cycle, and women exchange one gilt cage for another when they get married. Just as they had to walk on eggshells around their fathers in order to get what they wanted they do the same with their husbands. Keep the peace, they are told. And the religion emphasises the hierarchy. The woman who dares to speak out is seen as a vituperative harpy, and is put in her place- subtly, but effectively. Thus in many Indian households, the women do not come straight out and talk about what is bothering them. They sulk, refuse to eat and make everyone who cares about them feel guilty, until someone figures out what it is that is bothering them and sets it right. However much grief this causes, it is seen as somehow more womanly than just telling people what they want, or getting it themselves I know how this works, because I am an Indian woman. Yet it seems strange to me when I see it in action, and I lack the duplicity needed to engage in it myself.
Warren Farrell, in his book “The Myth of Male Power”, writes that society teaches women to act as helpless victims, and men as life-risking heroes. Thus while it looks as though men are all-powerful, in effect the social rules of a patriarchal society work as much against men as they do against women. One example- women attempt suicide more often than men do, but men successfully commit suicide more often than women do. Thus while women are generally crying out for attention with their suicide attempts, men genuinely believe that they will achieve more by dying than by living. Another example- women complain of a glass ceiling when it comes to corporate jobs and other high-profile careers, because these are dominated by men. Yet no one complains of gender discrimination in other male-dominated professions such as building construction and refuse disposal. There is, Farrell argues, a double standard at work here that clearly affects both men and women.
In the same manner, when the Indian Woman does what she is programmed to do- use emotional blackmail instead of direct communication- it hurts not only the woman, but the men who love her as well: husband, sons and brothers. It even hurts the other women in her life. In the same way that a child’s tantrum throws its parents into anxiety and fear, the woman-child’s array of tactics takes her whole family on a roller coaster of emotional turmoil.
I am not unaware of the dangers of generalisation- not all Indian women are trapped in this cycle, and among those who are ensnared in this way, not all are Indian. Neither are they all necessarily women. However, I insist on applying my Golden Rule here: my blog, my say.