Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Man in Your Life

A piece got as a forward from one of my friends. The article talks about how a newly married girl copes with the difficult task of adjusting with her new environment, and implores the husband to be supportive to her in achieving this.

I felt the spirit of the piece very good and it makes its point well enough that I find it unnecessary to make any further additions. However, in the process of admiring the woman, at some points it repeats the old ultra-feminist mistake of putting down the man. This post is about that. Follows the poem, and then my comments.

I am making this post to address a wider problem of ultra-feminism. I appreciate this forwarded piece, and my words aren't directed only to that.

Note the points in the poem which I felt were in a bad spirit. The orange ones are which I feel just start being unfair, and the red ones are plain deplorable. Everything else is in good spirits and is appreciated.

Tomorrow you may get a working woman,
but you should marry her with these facts as well.

Here is a girl, who is as much educated as you are;
Who is earning almost as much as you do;

One, who has dreams and aspirations just as
you have because she is as human as you are;

One, who has never entered the kitchen in her life just like you or your
Sister haven't, as she was busy in studies and competing in a system
that gives no special concession to girls for their culinary achievements

One, who has lived and loved her parents & brothers & sisters, almost as
much as you do for 20-25 years of her life;

One, who has bravely agreed to leave behind all that, her home, people who love her, to adopt your home, your family, your ways and even your family ,name

One, who is somehow expected to be a master-chef from day #1, while you sleep oblivious to her predicament in her new circumstances, environment and that kitchen

One, who is expected to make the tea, first thing in the morning and cook
food at the end of the day, even if she is as tired as you are, maybe more,
and yet never ever expected to complain; to be a servant, a cook, a mother,
a wife, even if she doesn't want to; and is learning just like you are as
to what you want from her; and is clumsy and sloppy at times and knows that you won't like it if she is too demanding, or if she learns faster than you;

One, who has her own set of friends, and that includes boys and even men at her workplace too, those, who she knows from school days and yet is willing to put all that on the back-burners to avoid your irrational jealousy, unnecessary competition and your inherent insecurities;

Yes, she can drink and dance just as well as you can, but won't, simply
Because you won't like it, even though you say otherwise

One, who can be late from work once in a while when deadlines, just like yours, are to be met;

One, who is doing her level best and wants to make this most important,
relationship in her entire life a grand success, if you just help her some
and trust her;

One, who just wants one thing from you, as you are the only one she knows in your entire house - your unstinted support, your sensitivities and most importantly - your understanding, or love, if you may call it.

But not many guys understand this......

Please appreciate "HER"

I hope you will do....

My comments:

Can't agree more especially at this juncture of life. I am just watching day after day the host of irreversible and significant changes that are coming about everyday in my newly wed wife's life, and can't stop marvelling at how she's taking them all with a smile on her face. My love and respect for her rises exponentially everyday. No professional achievement can equal this unearthly mix of maturity, flexibility, modesty and sacrifice.

I wish to tell a little less known thing too. It's often talked about a lot what a great transition it is for a girl to leave behind her past life to join her husband. I think it's true. Very true.

What's not quite right is to imagine that the guy doesn't go through similar anxieties. Nor is it fair to project it as if all sacrifices are only on the girl's side, and none on the guy's side. It mayn't really strike you as significant, but for record's sake let me point out that it's not trivial to change from a boy to a man overnight. Till yesterday, he was all alone, free to move around in the world, exploring everything with not a worry in mind but his own whims and fancies. All of a sudden, everything starts revolving around another person -- you. Your concerns are his, and he is responsible for your happiness, health and everything. He brought you home from your house where everyone was crying and wailing so to making him feel miserable and guilty of causing so painful a separation in a family. And now, he is immediately responsible to make that girl, who is badly missing her family and is coping hard with her new life, feel at home and loved. Do you think it's any easier?! I wouldn't be so sure!

He is aware of your capabilities. He is proud of it. It's a different matter that your feminist predecessors have ground it into you that it's you who always protects his silly ego and that's your job. I think, it's time to dump that bullshit. Men are better than that. Go ahead and conquer the world in the way you want. Dump the household work on him. It's his responsibility too. It's his right to struggle like you do. And most importantly, what you mayn't know is that he knows it. Where expression of capabilities is natural, it will receive admiration and cheer from all men and women; where it gets adulterated with false egotism and the wish to prove a point, it will invite scorn, not just from men, but from women as well. I think, one should stop blaming men of chauvinism in this capability business. Men are no more egotistic than women.

In this (ultra)feminist world, it's becoming fashionable these days to write poetry saying laudatory words about women and their sacrifices (every word of which they deserve) and bash up men for their insensitivity, and selfishness (not all of which they deserve). Perhaps, the pendulum of male chauvinism has now started swinging back to the other amplitude in the form of ultra feminism. :(

I have met many men and women in my life. And I can say confidently that men are every bit as sensitive and caring as women. Their modes of expression aren't so sophisticated as those of women. Women have many vents to their soft emotions. But it's not fair to imagine lack of sensitivity among men just because they are not so capable of expressing them well. While you may call up home when you miss them, or shed a drop of two of your precious tears to vent the emotional pressure, your man will be out there suppressing all that, trying to look strong and unaffected, more out of a habit of suppression society has imposed on him than anything else. Do you really think it's all nice and good for him while you are making all the sacrifices. Well, think again!

To conclude, marriage (and every relation of the world) is not a one sided affair. It's based on love and respect on both ends. It's good to mention the good things on the one end, but it's unfair to make it look as if the relation is tailor made to serve all the fair and unfair needs of one party while to give a raw deal to the other (presumably the nobler one). Guys and girls! Marriage is a very personal thing between you and your wife. The terms of your relations are defined as you define it, not how a chauvinistic tradition or a feminist activist would like them to be. I believe that mutual love, care and respect takes a relation to heights which no amount of political correctness can. Here's a simple mantra: Let's be fair. That's a good starting point for a relation.

And to set a good example, I am saying this to all men, and women too.


Pritz said...

I totally agree Sujit. Yes, it IS a huge change for a woman, who's left her family and come to live in a house where she doesn't know people well. But the man faces challenges too. One very important factor that you may not have included is settlement of conflicts between the wife and the 'other' family members. The man's caught in the line of fire from both sides.

The woman he married expects him to stand for her whereas the rest of the family expects to stand for them as they've been with him for decades! I would NEVER say that it's a non-trivial job. One or the other side is likely to be dissatisfied and the man probably is walking a tight line here!

So, yes, calling the man totally insensitive and oblivious to his wife's plight IS over-generalization!!! And much like any over-generalization, I hate this one too!!! These restricted thoughts need to be modified according to the needs of the times......

Rumki said...

I dont know if I would sound feminist or not, but want to share this experience with you all. Four of my friends got married to guys settled in US. They dumped their career (for good or for bad dont know!) and left to join their husband to start a family. People say they made their own choice but was that a "choice", is what I still wonder. What choice they have when their husband stays in a place other than theirs?

Why going all the way to US, there are women who have left good jobs ( in terms of pay and prospects) to join husband even within India... Now people might comment that it was her willingness to do so.. But is that the truth always? What if she decides to continue to do her job and stay separate after getting married? The question arises "How long???" ...Let alone her husband, her own parents do set expectations (in laws.. no comments!!!!) Now if a girl after marriage chooses to leave a job, would we still say "she made her choice".... Probably yes!! :)

My friend made the choice of going to US, she was happy... rather I would say excited!!!... but I ll always remember her expression on her face when she said " three years I struggled to build up a position in my company.. I was so close to what I always wanted to do"... though thats all she said and moved over to what she plans to do at US!! Yes SHE made a choice!!

Thats all

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Hi Rumki,
Your point is valid too. It's really rather strange that the girl drops every career thing to go to her husband's place. And to me it appears unfair. It's connected with the age old bases of marriage where the girl married for security, hence marries a person who is stronger, richer and more successful than she. Now, security is slowly going away as the main basis of marriage. Moreover, women are doing as well as men in things which earlier men used to do exclusively. I think, our society is going through a painful transition where we all are slowly accepting things like 'women are as capable', 'it's possible for women to have their career too' etc. However, the transition will be incomplete unless we have such realisation too: 'Men understand', 'It's not these men who subjugate women; their predecessors did.' etc.

However, all people who bear the flag of a social movement have had to face the heat of resistance to change that is natural to the society. So, even today, if a couple has a guy who keeps the house,and the girl earns the bread, they has to train herself to isolate herself from social ridicule. Similarly, there might be more time spent in separation etc. But we see cases of single parenthood, live in relations and avowed bachelorhood among us. These are alternative social arrangements which defy the traditional marriage mechanism. Such changes are painful because they are against the very way we were brought up, and the society doesn't help us imbibe them. They are ridiculed, persecuted and threatened. If one decides to a revolutionary, one has to know what's ahead on the way. The way might be full of thorns, but the end of it, if accompanied by success, is glory.

Rumki said...

true very true... my comment had nothing about blaming anybody... If you see carefully , i just pointed out a practice which has become a compulsion (considered as a fact/ obvious) which is termed as a "choice she made".. Unfortunate that the choice is between "the person she wants to spend her life with " and "her job/ career" for the women and not both (atleast in most of the cases)

Why is not this for the men??? Its not even expected, ofcourse.How many men, who have come to the terms that 'women are equally capable' have thought of "uncertain future" or have feared "Oh gosh I have to look for a job there" when they decide to marry???....Quote me situations where men have left job/ changed jobs and have gone where his wife's working? one two three.... But If its the other way round.. its 10000 20000 30000 probably few zeros more after the digits!.

unfortunately transition is not happening, only the excuses are creeping in like live-in, plus some unfortunate / unfulfilled relations... And if you give a careful thought, who is at the receiveing end? "Both", but who has to bear the brunt of a broken relationship / separation.... not only mental but also societal!.... The women... so the fear of worse makes her take such decisions.... Would you (I mean all) still call that a choice?

About that forward .... no women, atleast whom I ve known, would need those sympathetic words. Whats the use afterall.? They are victims or not is something I leave the readers to decide! And if somebody decides to empathise, whats wrong? Someone's recognising the "obvious" that is expected of a woman after marriage, is being made noticcable in that fwd, which often gets unnoticed because its "obvious" !

Just the observations I have made:
why is the decision of leaving job is always taken by the married girl and is supported by her husband? Does the husband give a choice that he will leave his job and join her? Who decides that the husband is doing a better job than the girl? Why is this same decision taken together and is accepted the way it should be or it has always been? What if the girl decides to pursue her career and leave her husband alone in US/ another city in India to work? (I guess I myself sound pessimist in my previous statement but thats how it is !! ) The thorny path it is, but who walks on it the most? winning against all odds is not an easy job! Triumph after success... Doubtful :(

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Hi Rumki,

Your concerns are genuine. I repeat a hundred times. Unfortunately, there is no way I can convince you merely by saying that many guys (not just one or two) understand and appreciate it. A guy can't change the social condition around himself just with a snap of finger. Unfortunately, he too is to a large extent bound to submit to them. Even more unfortunately, he stands to gain by submitting, because of which it's hard for him to sound convincing when he says: 'I understand!' Please don't be unkind; please don't indicate: 'You don't! Because you aren't a girl. If you did, you wouldn't submit to the traditions.'

The issue requires a bit more objective treatment than keeping on citing unfortunate instances. First, we must understand that each person is different, and their priorities vary widely. There are many men who don't consider their career the most important thing in their lives. People leave lucrative options for various reasons: family, patriotism, philanthropy, love etc. Why it still doesn't happen so widely in case of marriage has social underpinning in the way people understand the concept of marriage. For trends to change in this regard requires deep rooted social changes, which will take time. They are happening. Perhaps not in the way you and I would like them to, nor at a breakneck speed. But things are changing. A handful of men giving up their job for joining their wives, or women marrying men who will keep their house, may indicate the beginning of a new age. But they are just a start. For such changes to become a norm, we must give the society a time significant in its scale. If one hastes things up too much, they will be an eyesore to the society and will fail to have effect (just like a medicine). To assist your doubt about whether changes are indeed coming in, I requet you to think about the state we were in 50 years back. Things 'are' changing for sure. They will keep changing. They mayn't reach a satisfactory level in your or my lifetime. But, you and I are specks of dust. Society's mill grinds excruciatingly slow.
We have waited long for such evils like poverty, illiteracy, wars, famines, pollution etc to go away. Perhaps these are not so significant as compared to the evils of a woman having to give up her career for marriage. But then, surely, they do indicate that it's not a lone problem which can be solved, but not without loads and loads of patience.
Let's wait, while doing what's within our reach, and without making ourselves bitter and miserable on things we don't fully control.

Dheepikaa B said...

I appreciate the attempt to write this post especially at a time, when a whole lot of women are wondering and doubtful about 'if the man is really concerned'.

After reading the whole post and the comments, I am left to say two things:

1. The first one being, this is a stage when women are redefining their beliefs about male chauvinism, (since as women community, I'm sure we had been instructed and allowed to observe by the elder women and the "good-willing" society, about ways to cope and keep our cores intact and flourish 'in spite' of the men); the transformation weighs the same according to me, when the man is also accomodating the women in a world, which has remained 'his' so far (It's a fact of the world, and I do not think any feminist should be affected about it!), and concernedly willing to enter the world which had remained 'hers'. The shift began to happen, moreso because women started moving towards the corporate edges, and not because the man wanted to remain home and cook or take care of children everyday.

I think it weighs the same, according to me, a balance of the emotional and economical shift the man and the woman make together.

2. In fact, I see that women's rights and issues are well taken care of by the VENUSians of our society for all the trauma of social and corporate life they encounter.
The unfortunate part of the whole scene, I see is, failure to even witness the pain and agony a man is going through on the emotional front. When I say the transformation to walk into a corporate world is difficult for a woman, it is equally difficult for a man at this point in life to have entered the 'whatver-be-it' woman's part of the life. In fact, I have always thought about it as more difficult for boys since most of the career-based jobs that demand women to stay in corporate echelons, demand girls to just have the same kind of education that a boy has gotten. But on the other hand, such a foundation is invariably not laid and even left unwitnessed in a man's case. It is important one sees, a man starts from the scratch to go there which I wouldn't want to call 'more' difficult since it's relative - but it looks, technically and logically a higher amount of emotional investment from the male community.

I respect this post very much. Thanks for letting the women folk know what you think. I am hoping that makes a difference. And, bows to all the men who are making that difference. It was possible not just because of strong women but also because of men who were concerned.

From the comments, as for the women who make the 'choice', I think they are liberated enough to make that choice but I wonder if they are liberating themselves from believing, they will still be wanted if they make that choice? That is a question of love. Seriously. And if they want to believe they are loved.

One very important thing I liked about your post is the lack of desperation to let the women know how concerned you are, and allowing that space showed sufficient understanding that it is a difficult transformation for a woman. That itself shows, I think, enough concern as a man. :)

Cheers and respect,