Feminism has been a topic of raging debates over the last few years, the noise around it is rising with passing time as more gender imbalances and extreme forms of misogyny and crimes come to fore. A genuine social issue - ingrained not only in the Indian society but cultures across the world to varying degrees - has been finding a voice with changing laws, rebooted entertainment and media content, celebrity affirmations and has now made a way into our regular living room discussions with friends and family.
There is also a surge of women entrepreneurs and those in jobs – a new generation of women carving a niche across home and professional fronts. Several organizations are also opening to the idea of providing additional support needed for women to work, from creches to flexi-timings and work from home. And yet there is another stream of those working in individual capacities, either running their houses or contributing significantly to it.
However, a gender balance in its true sense encompasses several more elements apart from just work force reconstitution. It involves defining mindset changes brought around in a subtle manner, one at a time.
The concept needs to be redefined and promoted in its truest form – a freedom to a woman to choose the way she wants to live her life. Whether she wants to only work or only be a home maker or balance both roles needs to be her choice; in fact, a mutual choice supported by her immediate and extended family, without pressure and judgement. It needs to be about doing away with the stereotyping, bringing in a supportive and nurturing environment where everyone is entitled to live a life they want.
As of today, a conversation around the daily lives with the women around us brings out the struggles they face internally even as they appear confident and independent on the surface. They are under constant pressure to keep their chosen life afloat – from needing permission to work or justifying their need to excel if they choose to work; to defending their choice to be at home for their family and children. Unfortunately for most, the critique comes not only from the society at large but their own immediate family as well, where they begin to question the need to accommodate to a woman’s ambition. And then there are others, the apparently pro-feminism ones, who question the need to support a woman who just stays home making no money. The world we live in is conditioned to wrestle the decision-making power out of a woman’s hands.
The current conversations, opinions, actions being taken at an individual or a larger capacity are a great step forward in initializing these social changes. Channelizing this turbulence constructively - through endorsing these beliefs, imparting the correct knowledge, building more support structures - should eventually lead to a more progressive and equitable world for all.
(Author is a mother, an MBA graduate and part-time research consultant, currently residing in Dubai)