Women have feelings just like men do!!
If you believe that women are sub-human or less important than men, don’t read further.
How a woman or girl should behave with her in-laws or after marriage is a subject discussed in bedrooms and drawing rooms and the media as well. Why, there is even a school in the Madhya Pradesh called the Manju Sanskar Kendra (Manju Traditional School) which teaches girls to become “ideal wives.” – They are taught to serve husbands with “with body and soul and win laurels from God” and often it is the future in-laws who ask the girls to enroll. There is a more sophisticated version of this school called the Priya Warrick Finishing School in New Delhi, which conducts workshops in “social etiquette”, “joint family values and nuclear family values”, “Understanding a man/women relationship” and “Interaction with future in-laws,” amongst other things.
I can understand why such schools spring up – a demand from traditional in-laws and and the opportunity to make money for the owners.
What I cannot understand is why educated columnists and “experts” dole out similar advise in national media. The article I am referring to appeared in a tabloid, but even that doesn’t make it less offensive. Okay, I admit, it made my blood boil.
Written by a professional counselor and psychologist, Uttam Dave, it tells girls that “In the Indian context, the onus for overall adjustment in life always lies largely with the woman” and well it’s implied that women have to grin and bear it as Indian men will not adjust! Oh yes, Dave does say that “some” men do try and adjust “after their emotional needs are met by the wife.” This isn’t the end of the regressive advise. Dave suggests that young married girls have to go all out to meet the emotional needs of not just their husbands, but also his parents, sisters and other family members.
What beats me is how a young girl, plunged into an alien environment, her name and life changed, be expected to muster up this kind of attitude? She is supposed to be more mature than even the elders in the house? Surely, it’s this girl-woman who needs comfort, because she is in a strange place…not her in-laws!! But no, she has been advised to go all out to try and adjust without reciprocation!!
That is the key phrase here, without reciprocation. It doesn’t matter if she is insulted, she has to put up with it! Mr. Dave says that she is to “make it a point to overlook small lapses made by the in-laws and try to understand them as human beings.” She is not supposed to make “constant comparisons” with her biological family as “every household has its own distinct culture and adapting to it and enriching it should be the sole aim.”
Dave’s other pearls of wisdom?? The new bride should not be “over possessive.”
Another gem – this Mr Dave the psychologist advises young women not to be friendly with or be “extra-talkative” with neighbours, maids, etc., because it can be “injurious” to relationships!! He is talking about the relationship with in-laws ofcourse. He obviously knows that being friendly and talkative with those outside the family will not be liked by the in-laws and he wants the girl to accept it. If the girl is friendly (now who is to judge whether she is over-friendly or not?) with others he says the family will be “wary” of letting her on to “family’s secrets and controversial topics.” So this psychologist is agreeing that a girl being friendly with outsiders will be frowned upon but he sees nothing wrong with it!
That bit about the in-laws letting a new bride onto family secrets seems nonsense to me. If the in-laws accept the bride as a part of the family they will let her on to the secrets regardless of whether she is friendly or over-friendly with anyone. If they don’t it’s because they don’t consider her a part of the family although she is expected to behave as if she is!!
The article also advises women to not try and change their in-laws’ beliefs on “major things like faith or lifestyle” and that they should try to control their “anger and temper tantrums” even if they “feel the need to complain” to their husbands.
Temper tantrums? What about the temper tantrums of the mother in law or the husband? Are they allowed ?
I wonder if Mr Dave even realised that by giving this kind of advise he has shown Indian in-laws in a bad light. It also makes me wonder why more women don’t go insane with these expectations from them! Well, at times they become desperate enough to kill themselves … 21 percent of all suicides in India are committed by housewives, second only to self-employed people (24 percent). Lack of love and respect at home, dowry harassment, mental torture at the hands of in-laws, abandonment and/or sexual abuse is often the cause of despair in women.
True, the expert does say that in case of physical and mental cruelty the woman should walk out and seek a divorce…but to my mind if a girl actually follows his other suggestions, she will probably have to walk out anyway. Either to live separately from her in-laws or file for divorce. Why do you ask?
Because the reality of Indian life is this:-
- Most married girls living in traditional joint families do make adjustments for marital harmony
- It is the in-laws who are more possessive of their son than the new bride of her husband
- The bride does not try to change the in-law’s lifestyle but it is the in-laws who expect her to change
- The new bride usually mentions her biological family only once in a while (not constantly) but even this is frowned upon
- In-laws do not let a new daughter-in-law in on family secrets, however pleased they are with her
So, if this is the scenario, why the need for bullshit advise? Oh didn’t you know…the advise is so that the poor girl can get along with abusive in-laws. Which finally results in the breaking up of the joint family.
And in any case, girls who swallow insults will get more of them. Why, I have personally seen cases up close where the in-laws are not satisfied with anything the girl does. The more she tries to please them, the more they demand of her. As it is she is in an unequal power equation and more often than not reluctant to break up her marriage. And I have seen a case where the girl took the ill-treatment and then took revenge on her in-laws when they grew old. Is this what Mr. Dave is advocating?
This type of advise can ruin the mental health of families. Living in the house can become unbearable with the tension and the girl will leave, most of the time to set up house on her own. In extreme cases she will leave her husband or he may leave her because of the interference of his parents. Or the girl will commit suicide or go crazy. Or perhaps if she will take revenge on her in-laws when her time comes…why she may herself become a mean mother-in-law.
The truth is that if the in-laws are decent people, Mr. Dave’s advise is not necessary. Decent in-laws will understand the nature of give and take and realise that the best chance of a harmonious relationship with their daughter-in-law is to be humane towards her. In fact any decent human being will know that just one person giving her all can never work in the long term and will give rise to suppressed rage and simmering hate.
Today we live in a strange sort of joint family, with just one son and his wife with his parents. In the olden days, when the joint family system worked well, there were always more than two women in the house…often 3-4. Several sister-in-laws, brothers-in-law, several older women. It made it difficult for abuse to go unnoticed. Today abuse happens within the small claustrophobic walls of tiny apartments with one couple (parents of the boy) lording it over a young, innocent bride. Uttam Dave’s advise will perpetuate the injustice that goes on.
Note: A reader (A. Iyer) sent me the link to the Mumbai Mirror article, with a request that I write about it. He wrote:
Recently I came across an article in Mumbai mirror that really got my goat. It was giving chauvinistic advice on how a new bride should conduct herself with her in-laws in her new home. As a dad to a teenage daughter I was upset at the backward stance of the article but my daughter was just furious!!… No one is against adjusting with your soul mate but why was there no advice for the husband who should go out of his way to make his new bride comfortable?
He also sent me links of two more blog posts which have criticized the article by Uttam Dave. unwantedgirlchild.blogspot.com/knot nice and chandni.wordpress.com/kahaani-ghar-ghar-ki-or-insert-a-k-serial
(Photos are by me and copyrighted)
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How women are portrayed in the Indian media
The historical reasons for women fasting during Karva Chauth
India’s skewed sex-ratio
Matriarchal societies – did they ever exist?