For decades, women have been combating the ‘Angel of the House’ label. What exactly makes a woman an angel of the house? An oft quoted Malayalam proverb that has been thrown in my direction is loosely translated as “A woman is the lamp of her house.” Why exactly is she confined to the house?
Another proverb that is frequently used is “The hand that rocks the cradle is the one that runs the nation.” Now the stamp of motherhood has been affixed on womanhood. Take another one for example “Behind every successful man is a woman.”. The position of women as indicated by these proverbs is behind the veil of domesticity, motherhood and manhood. The glorified women across all literature and culture is she that has conformed to patriarchal roles such as marriage and motherhood. Any woman who has questioned the above or taken up a positions other than those solicited by patriarchy have been called ‘sirens’ or become token women. Take a look at Shakespearean heroines, haven’t they literally had to cross dress as men if they were to defy patriarchy?
The progressive career woman of today has some patriarchal odds to battle. When asked about how she maintains the work-life balance, Sheryl Sandberg has said that life and work were two categories that could never be balanced. And who dictates the life that a woman must live? The answer is clear: the nameless, faceless entity called ‘society’. The woman of today somehow seems to have to make peace with patriarchy in order to justify her breaking free. Bump into any career woman today and ask her who does the cooking. There aren’t too many instances in which the husband makes the career sacrifice to provide for the family. Why is it so?The number of Betty Drapers in our world are too many. If they sacrifice their career, they miss their job. If they pursue a career, they miss the child; such is the paradox of a career woman’s life.
If we take a closer look at what goes into the making of a ‘woman’ (even now), the ingredients are dismal. I happened to be in a group of ‘elders’ who were discussing the clearing of a marriage alliance. The oldest of the lot was a sober individual whose frustration crept through his features. He was accompanied by several others of his age. The discussion began and I registered the facts of it. “Oh, she is a very good girl.” he began “She doesn’t talk much and is very obedient. I think he has the perfect match.” Mind you, this is very very real. I needn’t explain the statement at all. The process of grilling a disinterested young girl with hours of kitchen and house maintenance chores goes into making a ‘woman’. In that case, what happens to those of us who disdain being a ‘woman’? What about those who don’t care a dime about kitchen work or servicing the needs of a man?
These are uncomfortable questions that have no answer. Isn’t it time the answers came?