Over last several decades, women have globally begun stepping out of their traditional ‘domestic’ roles and participating more in the public sphere. However, there has been little progress in the participation of men in domestic roles, forcing many women to continually perform two jobs – one at home and one at work. This lack of support affects professional women differently across the world but is a negative one irrespective of the cultural context.
In India, where the institution of marriage is stronger and women’s choices more restricted, women are quitting professional life altogether. Rather than suffer the exhausting tussle between the home and the work and be ravaged by the guilt of being an imperfect mother or wife, women are giving up on careers. A study by the International Labour Force in India revealed that the percentage of professional females dropped from 37 to 29 in the last five years. Out of 131 countries with available data, India ranks 11th from the bottom in female labour force participation.
In India, women are expected to care for their in-laws and extended family members in addition to their spouse and children. Cooking large meals for the entire family 2-3 times a day is a given and not one that a woman can easily opt out of! Co-operation or understanding from family members is often missing as her value is also tied up in being an ideal daughter in law. Couple this with the lack of safety in public transportation in India and there is little wonder that women are questioning the appeal of ‘having it all’.Rather than meet the demands of children, a husband and in-laws whilst having a career, a greater percentage simply opt-out.
A gender diversity article in the Hindu commented on this issue, “What is undeniable is the need to enhance the societal perception of domestic duties so that men can be induced to share in them. Women need themselves to come out of stereotypical notions of feminine duty and demand that their spouses share the burden of domesticity. And, as a society, we need to stop romanticising the woman’s sacrifices or glorifying her crazed attempts to do it all by calling her a superwoman.”
The ‘superwoman’ perception does not bode well for the future of humanity. As feminist and author Gloria Steinem observed in an interview to The Telegraph, “We’ve had the courage to raise our daughters more like our sons, but not to raise our sons more like our daughters.” Women need to see through the oppressive myths around womanhood generated by their own culture and demand equal rights everywhere.