Saturday, August 07, 2010

Caree women and assertion-are they mutually inclusive?

“We hear of men abusing their wives all the time. Putting her down as being ignorant and stupid is quite common even among the educated men even if they know the truth to be quite the opposite. They feel threatened and inadequate by such a wife particularly in the in the presence of their friends and would prefer to have decked up dumb dolls rather than have a wife who can observe and understand whatever goes on in the world around her”.

This was an observation made by a friend and I was not sure as to whether I should agree with her or not. My own life was quite different and the encouragement I got from my husband to improve my qualifications could not be denied or ignored. But there were others in my circle who required their husband’s help to fill up income tax return forms or to apply for schemes that offered tax benefits. I often wondered why they chose not to try and do these things themselves. We have friends from another local college who would not be able to tell us whether they had received the increased DA allowance as promised by the government or not. They plead ignorance when asked if a particular circular from the university had reached their college saying that it was their husband that took care of their salary accounts and that their pass books had not been updated for months so they would not know if the increased DA had been paid to them or not. We sometimes checked with them to make sure whether such notifications had been issued but had not reached our college for whatever reason and I really feel annoyed and unable to take such answers to my queries. I sometimes wonder if it actually suits these women to remain ignorant. It has been three years since I started collecting tax return forms from friends to submit them in the IT office some 2 kilometers from our college. I heard that they earlier gave it to a peon who charged them Rs.100/- per form saying that the queue was long and that he had to take leave from work submit them. It took me less than thirty minutes, even on the last day, although forms had to be submitted in alphabetical order in three different counters. There was no separate queue for women but the employees were quick and did their job pretty efficiently. I did not mind doing it since the IT office is on my way home but I did feel pained that not one of my friends offered to give me company. If educated women want to act helpless do we have the right to blame our men folk for not according our job and career the importance that it deserved? It does not matter if you are a home- maker or a career woman it is important to carry yourself with dignity and make sure that your job cannot be brushed off as unimportant. Unless a woman learns to respect her work - even if it is just an honorary service – no one else will.

Having said this I want to mention the case of a relative of mine. Let me call her Veena. She was bubbly teen - aged girl when I first met her some 25 years back. She was a college student and had come over to my sister in law’s place during her vacations. I admired her for the manner in which she made herself useful. She entertained my sister in law’s kids then aged 6 and 2, helped her out with house work and was very pleasant to me although it was the first time she met me. Neither talkative nor withdrawn, she was the kind of person anyone would like to have for company.

As luck would have it Veena had a failed marriage that ended in a divorce. Her husband was having an affair with a colleague and all that her parents could do was to ask her to be patient and wait for God to bring about a change in the heart of her cheating husband. They asked to fast on certain days and pray to different gods at different times of the year in the hope that he would return to her. Even when she had no option but to divorce him after the other woman moved in to their house, her family did not offer her food and board. Parents were not willing to support her out of fear that their son and daughter in law may not like it. Veena took up a job in Bangalore and stayed in a working women’s hostel making herself available to her family when they needed help. However, her own brothers and sister would consider her presence inauspicious during family functions and her mother would not protest. She got married to a kind hearted man, two years younger to her, but his family refused to accept or bless the alliance. Finally when she felt that she had been at the receiving end for long enough she withdrew herself from her family. She stopped attending family functions. The couple moved to a smaller town in Karnataka where he does some consultancy work for an American firm and she spends her time teaching yoga and meditation to school children. Her husband visits his parents once a month, takes them to the doctor stocks up their kitchen and gives them money for their upkeep. He refuses to take her along since they never ask for her. They have decided against having children. He respects her for the person she happens to be and she finds solace in the love and affection he bestows on her. They do not complain or crib and would rather forget their painful past. She still feels responsible for her parents and says that the only time when she would want to go to them would be when their health failed and they needed someone to look after them.

I do agree that I am quoting two extreme examples. The former group of working women got support where they did not need but the girl Veena mentioned later was shunned by her own family using social pressure as an excuse. I do not for a moment believe that her parents did not love her but being orthodox they perhaps believe that it was against the prevailing custom to support the daughter and antagonize their son. They could not bring themselves to stand up for their daughter when she needed them the most. But I feel glad that she could at least gain the love and respect of the man she married. Were it not for him her story may have been different.

Now I come back to the point I started with. Is being assertive a positive or negative quality? According to the friend I quoted in the beginning men feel threatened by such a woman. So many of our educated young women would prefer to play a sub ordinate role in the family even if only to pamper the misplaced ego of their spouses. But Veena’s story gives an entirely different picture. She is neither dominating nor submissive. She is just the cool and balanced person that she always was. But, to my mind, she commands more respect than many others with notable careers and a six digit income per annum.


Phoenixritu said...

Veena is a self confident lady, the other lot you mentioned, they choose to be dependant. It suits them and their families.

Tys on Ice said...

i think being assertive can be intimidating irrespetive of genders but thats their problem. Speaking from my own experience, I think we tend to oscillate between assertive and dependent in a relation.Iam married to an assertive , independent woman, but then i too am assertive and independent; so where do we fit it? kind of depends on wht we want to get out of a marraige, a relationship..there are days when she needs my presence for protection, this gives a boost to my cave man instincts and i feel nice...then there are days when she goes and does everything i cud have done a whole lot better..then i feel kind of proud iam with someone like that...

there are days when i feel resentment but upon reflection it always tends to stem from my own insecurities...i wud have had a problem with a wife who is dependent upon me to make decisions for her...i dont think marraige shud be abt hanging up ur life on someone elses peg.

Sraboney said...

I believe that some women choose to be ignorant because either they like it or to keep peace...

Anonymous said...

Glad to have deiscovered your blog.. You share some wonderfully balanced perspectives on life.

Renu said...

I admire Veenas of our society..otherwise women always find extremes..either they are too submissive or too agressive, they nevr take the middle path.

There is a difference in aggression and assertion, if one can understand it well, life would be so much better.

Anonymous said...

Even in the job scene it seems to be the case. I was interviewed by a gentleman for a job (he called it a chat session) for four hours. When he spoke about how he gave up a job when they questioned his integrity and I then went on to add similar experiences from my life on most of the points he mentioned, he called up a mutual friend and said that I was a very strong minded woman and I cant be considered for the job though my skill levels match or even exceeds the expectations.

k said...

You know I am more educated and earning more money than he is because of his encouragement and my own talent. I can do almost everything without his help. I am independent but I could see that it is affecting my husband’s ego, he try to put me down in front of other people, like you said he feel threaten. I am on the other hand to bring peace in relationship try to tone it down but I do not know how to do it. What should I do in this situation?

Poornima said...

I think the world is going through a phase...that of getting accustomed to the assertive woman. Through the centuries, we have only seen assertive MEN, & the non-assertive one is the exception. There are the good, bad & ugly even among them, but we dont really debate it or even think of it...its par for the course.

The assertive WOMAN, on the other hand, is only STARTING to lift her head, & slowly causing the statistic of her gender to turn on its head. Hence her current classification as 'good assertive', 'balanced assertive','positive', 'negative', 'Veena', etc.

But soon her tribe will increase & turn into the majority. & THAT will become the way the ball rolls, no questions asked.

Give her some time..

Anonymous said...

There is a need for more Veenas, Veenas with a balance of assertiveness and dignity. For time immemorial woman is expected to be docile. A little assertiveness is labeled stubborn.


Ugich Konitari said...

HHG, I sometimes think it is all a function of how you (the women as well as the men) were brought up. I have seen career women, who play dumb in front of their husbands, so the latter behave indulgently towards them. Its about fitting into a slot that is defined for them in their husbands home. And the husband doesnt ever wonder why the wife's intelligence suddenly takes a beating in certain situations.

I have also seen women, who have the guts to disagree with the spouse. Even if the spouse is an enlightened type, the other women in the family make their opinion clear in no uncertain terms, causing friction amidst he couple.

Many times, due to exposure to wide education and other cultures, the spouse places great value on his wife's intellectual qualities. He is considered the odd man out.

But then I have also been witness to a situation where the m-in-law stoutly supported the d-in-law, and berated her son.

I actually think career and being assertive are unrelated.

starry said...

I also think there should be more Veenas in this world.It is not wrong to be assertive,some see assertiveness as a negative trait but I think in todays world one has to be assertive.and to have a balance in life.

zephyr said...

Career or no career, some women prefer being the 'ignorant' one because it makes life easier for them -- in terms of getting unpleasant work done by someone else, or to boost the ego of their male counterparts for obvious reasons. Either way I am hopping mad to see such women!

Hip Grandma said...

phoenixritu:welcome here and you are right. veena is a very confident lady however she kind of covers it up except where absolutely necessary.

Tys on ice;difficult situation when both are assertive and independent.Hats off to you guys.

'...i dont think marraige shud be abt hanging up ur life on someone elses peg.'

which peg?:-))!!

sraboney:peace at what cost?My own mother and her sisters represent peace with a capital P.there are times when i wonder whether they'd have been better off if they were less peace loving and moe assertive.

anon:Thanks.i hope you come back for more.

Renu:'There is a difference in aggression and assertion..........'

i agree but often one is mistaken for another since the line is thin and balancing is difficult.

anon:Don't worry about the job that you did not get. working with the man who interviwed you would not have been pleasant. He comes across as a diffident person and would never encourage your progress.

K: It is an unfortunate situation that you face and don't worry, most women who have a job that allows them to grow face such problems.You need not flaunt or tone down your achievements. It will be perceived by the world even if you just remain what you are.

Poornima:that was a good analysis.As you rightly say, the assertion in women is a new concept and society as a whole feels threatened.This may change but only with the passage of time.

Bhavana:There will be more Veenas standing up to hold on to their dignity. right now even women don't know where the line that divides assertion and aggression ought to be drawn. They need to mature and not allow the world to dictate terms.

But again the world dictates terms only when one's role is not properly understood.

suranga;Yes, it is all about the situation in the home front.And men may look up to their wives for moral and mental strength. but they will never want to acknowledge it.

Tys on Ice said...

@hip hop grandma : u naughty woman! u just made me blush..terrible.

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Hip Grandma said...

Tys on Ice:Now you're putting ideas into my head. I meant the peg you lovingly hold in your hand with whatever you pour into it.

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Sandhya said...

Read this post only today. It is one of the best posts I have ever read. It is very true "whether you are a career woman or a home maker, it is important to carry yourself with dignity". I have seen women who choose to be ignorant about things and let husbands handle most transactions. I have also noticed that women who speak their mind and are assertive are branded as rude and arrogant. One who is submissive and chooses to be dependent and ignorant is hailed as a good woman with feminine qualities.

Veena is a confident woman. I admire her courage in taking on the challenges that life threw at her. Sadly, women who are self confident and decide for themselves are branded as dominating and if they have a failed marriage, they are blamed.