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October 29, 2014

The Leaning Effect

Text by Sitanshi Talati Parikh

Women are choosing to take their time before tying the knot, thinking fiercely about a potential loss of freedom, the pressure to start a family and career compromises in an increasingly driven world, wondering who will be on top….

Setting metaphoric innuendos aside, enough has been said about a woman having it all and playing a juggling act with everything including her own sanity. With home being the woman’s domain and the workplace being the man’s, guidelines are crisply divided – the lakshman rekha is sindoor red. What happens when those boundaries are crossed? Everything becomes grey and the girl doesn’t want any sindoor red. The man feels emaciated and the woman feels burdened with judgement.

Even when it became socially acceptable for a woman after marriage to ‘stay busy’ so that she basically wouldn’t spend the family wealth shopping, it was understood that she would do so in socially acceptable places, with timings and choices and clothes that kept her family maryada in mind at all times. Mostly, she either ran her own home business or she worked out of her father’s or husband’s office. It was considered taboo for a woman of means to work outside the family limits. It’s not like she needed the money after all!

And what about wanting to do something that is more than being the household accountant and ironing out domestic problems? An educated woman, who has worked before marriage, is likely to have a desire to build a healthy career of her own – one that may not be convenient, or secure or easy. But how does a man and his family knuckle down to it?

And then the ‘supportive family’ arrived. In an age of inflation and an era of success stories, there is a greater desire for families to accept their daughters-in-law’s careers and achievements. But that didn’t mean that a woman would stop doing what she was traditionally expected to – she still ran the house and ordered groceries and tallied salaries and cooked and managed and juggled her career alongside it all. This led to people beginning to question whether women could have it all….

So, it’s not surprising that women are pushing marriage to later in life, because while it is possible for a woman to metaphorically be on top, is it possible for her to be on top of everything without spreading herself too thin? There may be a solution, as Facebook’s CEO, Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in her book, Lean In. It talks about making your partner a real partner, moving forward to accept shared responsibility of building a life and family together. In our celebrated patriarchal society where women are relegated as dependent on men, it is empowering to think that there can be a chance for ambition and salvation in the same sentence.

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