Now, consider this scene I witnessed in a furnishings store. A woman in her fifties is shopping along with her son and daughter-in-law who are in their twenties. The DIL picked up a set of napkins and the MIL asked her if she really needed them. I was expecting the DIL to politely say that she liked it or that it matched the curtains etc. but she chose to meekly look at her husband and looked back at the napkins. She then unwillingly she put them back and then demurely looked at her husband. The husband then said to his mother “adhi emi chesukunte neeku emiti? Napkins theesuko”. Literally translated to “how does it matter to you what she is going to do with them. You can buy the napkins”. The husband paid for the stuff they bought and asked the women to fetch the stuff to the entrance while he would drive down from the parking. While the cashier was packing the purchases the DIL insisted that she needed a bigger carry bag. The MIL said that the bag was enough for their purchases. The daughter-in-law very assertively said that she wanted a bigger one.
I surprised that this same woman who was so helpless around her husband was very firm with her MIL and the cashier. I wondered if the husband knew that his wife was assertive.
Have you seen newly married couples in malls where the husband chooses dresses that are “modern” according to him? The wife tries them on clearly uncomfortable in the new set of clothes. A woman can look very trendy and smart in a nice pair of salwar-kameez or sari. The woman need not loose her personality to look “modern” in her husband’s eyes. After all one’s dressing style is a very important part of one’s personality. A woman should be allowed to explore and wear something that suits her personality and sense of style. But for many women their sense of dressing is dictated by their husbands. The woman’s choices are usually seen as too conservative/boring or too modern/slutty.
I don’t want to be too judgmental. I know marriages are not easy and all husbands/inlaws are not easy. My objection is to these compromises being seen as a smart choice. I have seen many movies specially made in the seventies or eighties, specially the ones where there is a lot chaos in the family and then a DIL enters to change everything, in which such messages where delivered. When a woman gives up her personality it is called adjustment and when she masks her personality she is called smart. I remember one Tamil serial in particular called Metti Oli in which the elder sister in the family is seen as a very samardhyam (capable) woman. She adjusts, changes, suffers, manipulates, and so on all for a worthless husband who never appreciates her and then when they are finally old acknowledges her, gives her control of the household and finances blah blah. Fruits of handwork are sweet kind of message. Yeah yeah I hated it but I still watched it because I didn’t have anything better to do :p.
I wonder if these are the different methods a woman must employ to have a successful marriage. If she really does, will she have an authentic relationship with her husband? Do we need to sugarcoat every word, mask our emotions, act dumb, act innocent and helpless and expect the MAN to do everything that poor me cannot do, manipulate, to have a picture perfect marriage/relationship? Why is the media conveying such messages?