Chapter 4: Patriarchal Society, Women & their Marital Status

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‘When are you getting married?’
‘Are you dating anyone? It’s going to be difficult finding you a match at your age
.‘ 
Shaadi kab karoge beta?’
Shaadi ki Umar ho gaye hai’ 
‘Shaadi ke liye ladka dekhna shuru kar diya? Nahi kiya? Abhi nahin karoge toh fir ache rishte haath se nikal jayenge’

There isn’t a single ‘single’ woman out there who hasn’t faced these questions at least once in her life. When I first began writing this piece, I believed it was only the Indian society’s obsession with a single woman’s marital status; only to be later corrected that it is the world at large obsessed by its Patriarchal notion.

Marriage as a concept began as a medium of transferring wealth, property, and power along with the women. But even with years of evolution and changing trends, the concept of marriage still hasn’t evolved much. While more people today are marrying for love, a large chunk still suffers from societal pressure of not being married in their 20s and 30s, especially women. 

For years, woman have been fed the idea of marriage which has only been romanticized and exploited by movies and fairytales. Most women have grown up with the dream of having a beautiful, larger than life romantic wedding, because that is what movies (especially Bollywood) showed us is supposed to be the key highlight of a woman’s life, her ultimate destination. However, most women now are beginning to realize,

Wedding and marriage are two entirely different concepts. Wedding is an event and marriage is a life long commitment.

If you were to ask someone older as to why a girl needs to get married. A lot of times their answers would be because that is how it is supposed to be, that a girl needs protection that only a man can provide (first her father, then her husband) and a guy needs nurturing and care, & off springs that only a woman can provide. While this concept worked in the past where women were living dependent lives. In today’s day and age women have succeeded far more than society would want them to. They are independent with skills to provide for themselves and their families. Thus, they are unwilling to accept the flaws of society that doesn’t give them an equal status as the male gender.

Even when women are just young girls, they are groomed to be polite, gracious, giving, caring, acquire skills that would make her an ideal wife, a sanskari bahu (daughter in law). I remember when I would be rude as a girl, my grandmother would chide me and say, ‘I am supposed to get married and live in a different home where I cannot behave this way because nobody there would tolerate this behavior of mine’. Even though her chiding my rude behavior might have been right, the reason behind it was just bizarre to me.

The idea that women need to behave a certain way only then will they be accepted in society as an ideal woman is still so prevalent and ingrained into girls that any act against even a tiny rule laid by the society is considered an act of rebel.

Seldom would you have seen someone telling a man to behave a certain way where he needs to stand in a proper way, dress in a way that his skin doesn’t show, be polite or acquire cooking skills, home management skills that would be essential for his future. The essential job of a man as per society is to work and provide while for a woman it is to cook, clean, abide by her husband and make sacrifices. This disparity in expectations can easily be seen throughout the rishta hunting process. Even though families claim that they want their future daughter in law to be independent, have a work life (because they want to be part of the evolving societal mindset), it doesn’t come without the old baggage of expectations.

“Do you know how to cook?”

It is one of the most frequently asked questions to women, which is never asked to a man because it is not a man’s job to cook. Women are expected to manage their household to perfection while also trying to excel at their job. These expectations are never laid down on a man.

Society labels men who work and help at home as heroes, as ideal men while the same society labels women doing both as ‘ She is just doing what she is supposed to’. Society has led men to believe that they are superior to women. This distinction between the treatment begins since early childhood. The result of which is oppression of women in marriages.

Asking a woman to get married just cause she has reached that age is like making someone who isn’t prepared for an important examination, to still give an attempt. It is like putting yourself up for pressure and failure on purpose. Similarly, being ready to make a life altering decision of shifting cities, work, houses, lifestyle, leaving behind friends and family to start a new life from scratch cannot be reached at because the woman is in her prime age of marriage, an age that has been laid down by patriarchal society.

It is the belief of society that woman should be married off young, before they reach an age where they begin to develop individual thinking, opinions and start to question the society’s truth. Owing to her lack of awareness when young, it would be easier for society to manipulate her into adapting to her new household and the long-lasting patriarchal traditions. If she were to surpass that stage and develop a maturity and standing, she would be labelled as a difficult candidate for a marriage because she would refuse to get subdued by patriarchy and its pressure.

On a lighter note, if a woman could have a penny for every time someone said ‘they have a Rishta/guy for her’, she would probably be rich by now.  Marriage proposals keep flowing into her life since the moment she hits the right societal age of marriage. It only takes a marriage obsessed family a few calls to some relatives to find possible matches. These relatives turn into ninjas with superpowers to find you the most suitable bachelor out there. If that doesn’t work, there are now whatsapp groups circulating biodatas of eligible men and women. Going through marriage bureau is always an option and if not, let’s just call Sima Aunty from Mumbai (for the ones unaware – Sima aunty is a matchmaker with her own Netflix show – Indian Matchmaking). They all probably have more information about the youth than the youth themselves.

However, there is still a large issue with this process. There is a lack of understanding of who the woman is apart from what society would deem her as. Her individuality isn’t given much consideration when trying to find her a match, what is valuable are her features, degree, cooking skills, yet who she is as a person, her beliefs, ideologies, opinions are hardly thought about or what she wants. While it is the imperative for a girl’s family to find a good guy for her, but what is the point of it, if she cannot connect with the person, she is supposed to spend her life with? The supportive argument to this cannot be- ‘you’ll figure it out after the wedding’. It is the prime reason for unhappy marriages.

Unless women are seen and accepted for who they are beyond the patriarchal society’s view point, it is going to be a tough road for them to be able to connect with anyone.

Women are constantly told to make adjustments and compromises in all phases of their lives including the process of picking her future partner. No human can survive in this world without making some adjustments and compromises. However, when it comes to marriage proposals, it should be solely on the woman to choose what she can compromise on. I am not suggesting women should compromise and settle for any guy sent her way. But expecting and waiting for perfection is also not an outcome. Realistically, it comes down to whom you can connect with, without the pressure of your family and society on your back. While the families of women tell them to settle just cause it is a well to do guy from a good family, it isn’t enough to make the decision. We now aren’t living in a society where trust can easily be built. Our best shot is to take as much time as needed, to try our best at avoiding any unforeseeable future incidences.

Society has fed us the idea that in order to be happy, to feel complete, we need to find a partner, a husband. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be so many unhappy marriages and divorces. It is important to understand companionship cannot be forced, if either party involved are unwilling, it is only a ship leading its way to hit the ice berg sooner than later. I am not preaching you against marriage, all I am saying is, it should take place if you want it, at your pace.

At the end of the day, it is about the individual’s happiness whether with someone or by themselves. It is easy to get persuaded and give in because everyone around you is down the marriage path but let’s remember what our parents used to say when we were young, if everyone is jumping into the well doesn’t mean you have to. It is going to be one of the most important decisions of a woman’s life. May be the waiting will find you what you have been looking for. Meanwhile,

Focus on yourself, you are a beauty with potential to reach heights.

For years patriarchy and its traditions have been ruling a woman’s life telling them, telling us, how to sit, behave, what to eat, whom to marry, when to have kids, and the list goes on. But listen to me ladies, we don’t have to. We are the owners of our lives and we will decide when we marry or maybe we don’t but we will live our lives with love, joy and spread happiness.

So, to all my single women out there, please don’t jump into the shaadi bandwagon just because you are having FOMO. Wait it out, till you feel it.

Get married because you want to,

Get married because you are in love,

Get married because you feel ready,

Don’t get married because society is telling you, your marital clock is ticking and your time is soon to be up.

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