Friday, 17 February 2012

The Right to Choose

The battle of the sexes continues unabated. Never has the need to prove herself been more acute for the urban woman than it is today. Driven by the fire to succeed, she has broken all stereotypes to emerge victorious in even the hitherto typically male bastions. While these stupendous achievements are playing a necessarily substantial role in the general uplifting of the position of women, it has led to a new kind of stereotypical thinking.
“Are you working?” This is perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions by women to women when they meet for the first time. On the face of it, it seems a most innocent question – pleasant small talk, perfect to break the ice. But the answer to that question often holds the key to how she will be assessed and summed up. If the reply happens to be ‘yes’, well then she would come across as smart, modern, capable – the ideal liberated woman. And heaven help her, if the answer is ‘no’ then the reaction is ‘oh okay’, but the eyes give away that she has been graded a few notches lower. Is this kind of a reaction befitting of a liberated mind?
While it is of utmost importance that every individual, irrespective of gender, has the capacity to be financially independent, and every woman has the freedom to pursue her dreams and ambitions, it is just as important for her to have the freedom to choose that she doesn’t want to work without being regressively labelled ‘housewife’. If a well qualified woman wishes to put career plans on hold and play full time mom to her kids for a few years, so be it. It neither means that she is ‘wasting’ her education (if that can ever be possible!!), nor that she has all of a sudden turned into a docile, homely creature, devoid of ambition.
It is precisely this kind of thinking that is posing as a hurdle to the empowerment and emancipation of women in the true sense of the word. It has created a mindset wherein women have been classified as ‘working’ and ‘non working’ with the latter somehow being perceived as weaker, completely ignoring and undermining all the other valuable roles she plays. Does that mean that the respect accorded to a woman and her intelligence depends on whether or not she is working? Is that the sole yardstick to measure her acumen, her capabilities and the major criterion to grant her a place among the lot of “liberated” women? Is having a job a pre requisite to be considered empowered? In her quest for emancipation, by abiding to these now conventional parameters of judging, a woman is actually undermining her own kind. At the height of her accomplishments, she must remain humble enough to never underestimate another woman who may have chosen a different path for herself; a path that may not have brought her material success, yet given her an immense sense of fulfilment. That would be real freedom – the prerogative to know her own mind, make her own decisions and choose her own path.
The reverse is true too. Motherhood is a natural progression in a woman's life and certainly should not put a full stop on her career aspirations. These decisions are very subjective and personal and should remain so. Should she choose to resume her career after becoming a mother, it certainly does not mean that she is going to neglect her commitments to her family and that her children will necessarily "stray".

The truly empowered woman is well educated, self respecting, self confident, proud of her womanhood, and pivotal to the well being of her family. She is well aware that through her springs the happiness and the shaping of the moral character of her children. She is, in every which way, her husband’s strength, and together they can complement each other to form such a harmonious whole that there need never be any battle of the sexes. What is of paramount importance for the welfare of any society is that the woman is content and lives a dignified life – irrespective of whether she decides to pursue a career or chooses to stay at home. It is only when the woman can learn to respect herself for what she is and free herself from all kinds of dogmas and meaningless prejudices that she would be well on the path of real equality.
Therein lies her liberation and her empowerment.