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Some truths on Career Wives..........By: Chetan Bhagat


Saturday, September 15, 2012


'Some truths on Career Wives----Girls should read, but Boys MUST read... By: Chetan Bhagat

Recently, I saw the recently released movie, Cocktail. The plot revolves around a philanderer hero who has to make the tough choice between two hot women. The uber-modern movie was set in London. The characters drank, danced in nightclubs and had one-night stands with aplomb. They worked in new-age aspirational jobs like glamor photography, graphic art and software design. And yet, the guy eventually chooses the girl who cooks home food, dresses conservatively, wins his mother's approval and is happy to be the ideal Indian wife. In fact, even the rejected girl, a free-spirited, independent woman agrees to change herself. To get the guy, she is happy to cook and change her lifestyle to match that of the ideal Indian wife.

While the movie was fun, such depictions disturb me a little. When successful, strong women are portrayed as finding salvation in making dal and roti for their husbands, one wonders what kind of India we are presenting to our little girls.

Really, is that what a woman's life is all about to make hot phulkas? Of course, i shouldn't be so bothered, many would say. It is a Bollywood movie. The commercial pressure to present a palatable story is real. Above all, the makers have a right to tell the narrative they want.

Yet, when our most modern and forward cinema sinks into regressive territory, it is unfair to our women. It is also depressing because deep down we know such attitudes exist. Many Indian men, even the educated ones, have two distinct profiles of women the girlfriend material and the wife material. One you party with, the other you take home. The prejudice against non-traditional women who assert themselves is strong.

Let us look at another part of the world. Yahoo, a leading tech firm and a Fortune 500 company, recently hired a new woman CEO, Marissa Mayer. What's more, she was six months pregnant when she was hired, a fact she did not hide in her interviews.

Marissa will take some time off after childbirth and will be back at work later. She can manage both. There is something to celebrate about that. Marissa is a role model for women and even men.

I'd like Indian men to have an open mind about choosing their life partners and revise their 'ideal woman' criteria. Having a traditional wife who cooks, cleans and is submissive might be nice. However, choosing a capable, independent and career-oriented woman can also bring enormous benefits. For instance, one, a man who marries a career woman gets a partner to discuss his own career with. A working woman may be able to relate better to organizational issues than a housewife. A spouse who understands office politics and can give you good advice can be an asset. Two, a working woman diversifies the family income streams. In the era of expensive apartments and frequent lay-offs, a working spouse can help you afford a decent house and feel more secure about finances. Three, a working woman is better exposed to the world. She brings back knowledge and information that can be useful to the family. Whether it's the latest deals or the best mutual fund to invest in, or even new holiday destinations, a working woman can add to the quality of life. Four, the children of a working woman learn to be more independent and will do better than mollycoddled children. Five, working women often find some fulfillment in their jobs, apart from home. Hence, they may have better life satisfaction, and feel less dependent on the man. This in turn can lead to more harmony. Of course, all these benefits accrue if men are able to keep their massive, fragile egos aside and see women as equals.

Sure, there are drawbacks also in being with working women. But the modern age that we are in, the phulka-making bride may come at a cost of missing out on other qualities. Please bear that in mind before you judge women based on their clothes, interest in the kitchen or the confidence in their voice.

My mother worked for 40 years. My wife is the COO at an international bank. It makes me proud. She doesn't make phulkas for me. We outsource that work to our help, and it doesn't really bother me. If my wife had spent her life in the kitchen, it would have bothered me more.

Please choose your partner carefully. Don't just tolerate, but accept and even celebrate our successful women. They take our homes ahead and our country forward. We may have less hot phulkas, but we will have a better nation.'

Dedicated to the women we love ...
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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CHERIRIDDELL 11/4/2012 12:27AM

    I think this is a very well written article and very important to consider.I have lived a very non-traditional life .I have a great deal of education and started out as a career woman but because my husband is in the military and we had a daughter I stayed home to raise her as we moved from country to country .When she was older and I went back to work I just had time to rise to a position of authority and I was in a car accident and suffered a spinal injury but no one would make the mistake of thinking I was subservient .In spite of the fact that I can still be counted on to make poppadums, and naan and butter chicken and jalebi ! I also speak nine languages and have taught ground school to pilots ! Our daughter has her Masters degree from the London School of Economics in Political Science . Education and openness to learning are the best possible gifts we can give our children.My daughter while she calls Edmonton in Northern Alberta Canada home can see the beauty in Mumbai and has travelled extensively all through Europe, her Godmother teaches in Japan and her best friend is in Iowa. The world is her oyster.She is open minded if you ask her what she wants for lunch one day she may ask for palak paneer and naan ,the next day she may ask for French Canadian poutine. Her husband learns from her every day.Yes I am proud of our daughter !

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ZANNACHAN 10/1/2012 4:08PM

    Really good article, and on a subject matter that is not limited to Indian women. There is nothing wrong with a woman wanting to be primarily a homemaker--I know women who do (I've even known men who thrived in what is traditionally thought of as female roles in the home). So I have nothing against a woman choosing that route...for HERSELF. But it shouldn't be pushed on her from the outside, and if she wants to pursue a career... there are, as the article pointed out, advantages to that. I told my husband point blank before we married that I will never be a housewife; I'd be miserable, angry and frustrated; where is the domestic tranquility in that?

There is a concept in anthropology that I more or less subscribe to called practice theory. Rather than seeing culture as a static entity outside a person that makes that person's decisions (such as whom they marry, how they marry, when and what they eat, what they wear, etc.), practice theory sees culture as something that is constantly being recreated--or changed--through our actions.

That doesn't mean that culture doesn't influence our decisions; it creates assumptions that we operate within as well as helps establish priorities (by wanting to be respected and accepted, for example) and can limit options available (a woman in the 1940's had more limited career options than a woman in 2012, for example) but people still make CHOICES within that framework, and those choices can reinforce or change the culture.

Movies, like the one talked about in the article can either reinforce or promote change--they may not intend to and in fact most of the writers and producers probably never gave it a thought one way or the other; they just want to tell a good story that will make money. But that doesn't mean that they don't still have that influence. There's a long standing study of literature that looks at exactly that--at how literature could reinforce certain social relationships (imperialism for example) by admiring certain aspects of society (such as viewing the military as romantic figures or glamorizing the elite of the time) while down playing others (such as class barriers, slavery, colonialism, etc.) Others used literature to directly challenge these assumptions--Dickens, for example.

That's what happened here... intentionally or not, the movie reinforces the concept that a valuable, marriageable woman is one who takes care of the home. It reinforces those assumptions while the alternative--a woman with a career--is depicted as sexy but also not respectable, someone to flirt with, maybe even sleep with, but not marry.

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*MADHU* 9/18/2012 1:45AM

    emoticon article...very well said!

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