When I browse through the morning paper or blogs randomly, some articles catch my attention. While most are to do with my state of mind when I am browsing, many are about women and their issues—some mundane and some quite serious. I am not a feminist, but yes, I do want women all over the world to be empowered and content with their present situation. But, is this even achievable?
I have friends of all kinds – some married (and unhappy), some unmarried (and happy), some with children (and unhappy), some without children (and happy), some working (and unhappy/confused), some non-working (and happy). Beyond all these categories, what’s important is, whatever may be your present situation whether single/married/working/stay-at-home mother – are you happy? Is it a decision that is taken by self (for whatever reason) or is it imposed? Some of my friends are stay-at-home mothers and are very content, though they are highly qualified. But when you ask them, “do you think, you are empowered? Are you happy being at home, despite all the efforts you and your family took to get you that professional degree?” Their answer is “Yes”. Because empowerment doesn’t come about by just working in an office from 9-5.
I was confused. I took to the dictionary for reference to find the exact meaning of empowerment. And among several meanings that I could find, the one that caught my eye and got me thinking was from the Cambridge English Dictionary, “to give someone the official authority or the freedom to do something.” And I felt that more than allowing someone to do something, it is the freedom to do something that is important. As in, do something without fear or without being imposed upon. Why have empowering women caught up so much attention of late? Obviously, because they have been considered the weaker sex and incapable to be free to do anything on their own for generations now. However at present, we are at a juncture, where many, if not all women feel and are indeed empowered, but are they happier than their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and other older women in their family? Are they content? Most of them will probably say, “No”. Why? Women have access to education, employment, decision-making at home and outside – then what is missing? Our mothers and grandmothers should feel jealous of us. But are they?
The reason is simple. Many women think that being empowered means not just equality with men, but keeping men at least a level below them. This may sound surprising but is actually true. So, they are more demanding when it comes to getting married or finding a job. Post-marriage, women feel that working at the expense of neglecting their family or children is the new definition of being empowered. And so unhappiness sets in, one leads to the other and finally – depression, suicides, divorce and the like follow. This was exactly how men treated women earlier. The only thing is that the cycle has now reversed. Let me make this very clear – I am not against women getting their education or occupying important positions in office. And all women don’t feel this way. But, at the same time, we must accept that this feeling persists among some women at least. And they don’t really know what makes them happy at the end of the day. If this continues unabated, the cycle will be reversed yet again and the war will never end.
If you ask me, I would say that I am a stay-at-home mother and a freelancer and my husband allows me to choose and decide what I want and is supportive in the same way as I lend him the same support to do what he wants. We make sure we are available for each other, pursue our interests, and at times when necessary, give up so that the other can achieve something that is important for both us. In that sense, both of us are empowered, content, and happy with the thought that we do what we want and we also give the other what he/she wants.
Empowerment is not about only one person in the family growing at the expense of the other, whoever that may be. It should not be about giving always, but also take (when needed). At the end of each day, we must be content and look forward to (rather than dread) the arrival of the next day. That way, we will have a happy family to start with. This will obviously spill over and sooner we will all be empowered in the right sense of the term. All human beings have the right to be equal and both men and women should respect and help each other to achieve this without infringing upon the rights of the other. Once we all realise this, we will all be empowered.
Let us all remember what Rabindranath Tagore in his famous poem said—
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free….
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”
And awake we will…soon!