Sunday, March 12, 2017

Never easy to be a feminist husband

Last night I walked up to my wife and said,  "Did you read what Mira Rajput said. She wants to be a full time mom. And she has a point." My wife was working on her laptop, probably writing a research paper or a making a presentation. She gave me the look that she gives when I utter bullshit. (I got the same look when I bought a treadmill I never used). Wives just know when their husbands are bullshitting. She just said, "Whatever one does, one shouldn't judge the other."

I, being, a typical husband, ignored her and went out to call my mom. She was complaining how after years of taking care of my dad, she still doesn't get the importance she deserves. She has to beg for even 1000 bucks to him. She is presently staying with my sister who works in HR and is presently on maternity leave. Mom said it was such a good decision to get her daughter educated. At least she has the freedom my mom never had.

I thought about my wife's mother too who often complains that she got nothing for her years of tireless service as a homemaker. She is a great cook and always wanted to run her small eatery business but wasn't allowed. Coz her husband was earning enough.

I am not a feminist. It is difficult for a man to be. But I supported my sister in her MBA and fought with my dad to send her to Pune for Higher studies. I never wanted my wife to sit at home and be a housewife. I have always wished for a daughter and now I am fathering one. I wouldn't like my daughter to be a homemaker as well. Yet I am not a feminist.

I was born and brought up in a chauvinist environment. Although me and my sister studied in the same school, and me and my wife studied in the same college, I was always treated better. The fact that my sister or my wife are successful professionals is mostly due to their own grit and their mother's support. Even now when both my wife and my sister are going through motherhood, their moms are helping them raise their kids so that they don't have to quit their jobs. I have often heard my mom as well as my mom in law say, "It doesn't matter how long I have to take care of your kids, but you must continue working. Or else the man will never treat you well."

They are right. We men have never been taught to treat women equally. When the fact remains that women can do much more than a man. My wife can take care of the house even after her job but I can't. Not that I don't want to, but I am not as good a multitasker as her. My weekend plan is mostly to relax while her weekend plan is to do pending household chores. While she can easily stay away from me without any discomfort, I am totally dependent on her.

But the fault is not entirely of us men. Our mothers are also to blame. When me and my sister were both being educated, she showed interest in cooking and she was allowed to learn it. I showed interest too, but other than few random dishes, I never was asked to cook a whole meal. I am no longer  a cook. My mother in law who takes care of my daughter and our house nowadays always prefers that I get my food on the table and don't have to venture in the kitchen myself. She thinks it would be inappropriate if I have to do some work despite her presence. Men are already lazy beings. And when pampered by such irrational mothers, the laziness gets justified.

I always wanted my sister to work but in all her quarrels with her husband, I have supported her husband. I have always wanted my wife to work, but I constrained her to live in my house and since I am confined to work in one particular state of India, I forced her to quit her assignment in Europe and search for one in this Indian state instead. I have tried to be feminist but I am still a chauvinist. When I allowed my wife to go to Germany, everyone applauded my gesture, as if I had the authority to allow or disallow her. And when I forced her to come back, no one criticized me. Only later did I come to know that both my mother and my mother-in-law supported my wife and not me in that dispute.

Today when I am the father of a daughter, I want her to break all the boundaries of society and sail free wherever she wants. I wanted the same for my sister. I also want the same for my wife. But I still am a chauvinist from within. It is years and years of upbringing in a patriarchal setup that keeps justifying my chauvinist behavior. The justifying of Mira Rajput's comments last evening was my latest such behaviour.

It has taken me one full day and two counter articles to accept that I was wrong. That everytime a woman sits home, she kills the chance of working for ten more women. The economy needs more working women than there are presently. And women need much more education and support than they get. And chauvinists like me need more correction in their mindset. I shall not become a feminist by just supporting my sister or my wife or educating my daughter. I will become one only when I accept that what they go through is tougher than what I have gone through or any man will ever go through. I will become a feminist when I stop glorifying mothers who are great cooks and homemakers and actually glorify women who have made a mark in their professional fields.

But chauvinism and patriarchy don't go in a day. It takes a lot of unlearning of the sick values of supremacy taught to us in childhood. I hope this generation of working women are able to teach their sons to be better husbands and less chauvinists. They should also keep teaching their husbands. I, meanwhile, shall keep trying to correct myself.


Suchorita said...

Hi CMT, really loved your write-up ! It takes a lot of thought and introspection to actually look into a matter like this from such an impartial and non-chauvinistic angle. I believe working or staying at home is a person's choice but in order to get more women force working , this kind of understanding is a necessity. I see a lot of men of our generation(read: Husband) who actually make an effort to stop such creeping chauvinism or limitations and appreciate and support women of both the worlds. Cheers to all of you !

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