Unraveling the myth of the Superwoman

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I always admired my second eldest cousin.  She was the kind of person your mother always compared you to, saying ?Look at her..look at how good she is doing. And look at what you are doing..?  She was not only beautiful, but she was charming and incredibly smart.  She always achieved first class in her academic endeavors and  in 1993, when she graduated from college she found a great position with a foreign bank in India.

When I visited India in 1996, she had been working at the bank for 2 years.  She looked and sounded different.  She had less time to spend with us. She was away from the house from early morning and was not home till seven in the evening for dinner after which she would have her glass of hot milk and slip quietly into bed.  When I was able to chat with her she seemed more subdued and more serious. I did not know if anything was wrong or right for that matter.  What I knew from catching glimpses of conversations between my mum and my aunts was that she was working very hard and the work was keeping her very busy these days. In 1998, my cousin decided to enter the arranged marriage venue but she had one condition, which surprised me when I learned of it. 

My aunt had called one weekend and told my mum to ?keep an eye out for a good boy?the only thing was that the boy should know that my cousin was not interested in working after marriage.?  I was surprised.  She wanted to stay at home, be a housewife, cook and clean, and look after babies?  This was surely not what she went to college for, studied 2 years for her Masters?to stay at home and look after the house.  According to my aunt, she just didn?t want to work anymore.  Simply put, she was too tired of working.

These days a lot is expected of a woman.  As a girl grows up, she understands that she has to be a good wife, mother, worker, cook, and when we talk of Indian culture, she is also to be a good obedient daughter.  The expectation placed on women by society is that women should and can do it all without feeling fatigued, burnt out, dissatisfied or unhappy. Certainly you can also argue that some of the expectations come from one?s own self.  Nevertheless, the expectations fall short of nothing other than being superwoman.

Women have always worked since the time of mankind.  But they have always worked with other women or they have worked in a woman?s world doing work that women had always traditionally done.  They have been cooks and tailors, secretaries and typists, nurses and teachers. A brave few had ventured out into a man?s world, and been doctors, lawyers and politicians etc. in the past.  But today in an unprecedented fashion, men and women work together side by side.  Today more so than ever, a woman has entered a man?s world; working a man?s hours, leading a man?s life; a life where unity and harmony are replaced by power and ambition.  All the while still, the woman is trying to be the perfect wife, daughter and mother.

Can she do it all without cutting corners here and there?  Can she be the executive officer and still have time to spend the 3 hours in the evening to help her daughter learn to do fractions?  My cousin thought not.  She opted out of living in a man?s world.  She tried being a perfect woman in a man?s world and she became exhausted.  She chooses to live in a woman?s world that her mother lived in, and her grandmother and great-grandmother lived in before her.  Some consider my cousin lucky.  For most today there is no option.  In order to survive, you live in a man?s world.  And if you want to be perfect, you have to be superwoman.

Author: Natasha Pinto- Canada

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