In South Asian societies the education or profession of a woman matters little. When you rip open that fancy packaging, they all bleed from the same tragedy.
I was watching one of the episodes from the Indian tv series Made in Heaven, which if you haven’t yet watched, makes it a bigger tragedy! This one shows the offspring of a Rajput clan marrying a celebrated female airforce pilot in India. This is big news given the conservative adherence of Rajput families towards their traditions. Traditions that tend to include wives that don’t necessarily work for others.
Here is a fighter pilot shown in all her glory but when faced with a dilemma between helping a little girl her father-in-law had molested, and sweeping the whole episode under the rug, she choose to do the latter.
This is an age-old story from South Asia. Here women are respected for their strength to bear oppression. Take another popular Bollywood movie ‘Masoom’ from the 80s starring Shabana Azmi and Naseeruddin Shah. It’s one of my personal favourites considering the sheer performances by the actors and the truth of the society depicted. And the truth is that women in these cultures have been conditioned, trained and encouraged to bear pain. Any woman who walks away from accepting pain is a declared traitor, worse than the ones that sold their loyalty to the British, worse than any living criminal. These women betray their values and abandon their families and kin, by doing so, even if it involves choosing to stand by what’s morally right.
In India, and its surrounding regions, the ability to hide your trouble and pretending to be happy is a far more honourable act than being happy.
Speaking of happiness, if you look at the bar of success via statistics led by the education board and professional services in South Asia, the numbers will have you convinced that the women have achieved freedom, success and nirvana all at once. They appear to be the dames in shining armour. Then who are these hapless individuals still getting raped and abused? I hate to break it to you but they are all but the same people.
After watching that episode about the Rajputs, I realised that education and professional success can only cure so much. This is proven by the women in South Asian societies where they bend themselves backwards to achieve just as much and more as the men in the same society, taking twice the amount of workload because let’s face it, the conditioning of the men is not disappearing overnight, and in the end subjected to violence and resistance from their own family members to remind them of the subjugation and transgression that is omnipotent. I am not sure if that is a measure of success for an individual.
It is doubly hard mind you when culture and religion, things that are supposed to provide you with a sense of belonging and comfort, are the very things telling you to accept the unfairness of the situation because you are a woman.
I wish we would stop making our girls wear these shackles, particularly in the name of tradition and religion. Stop making it a choice between their belief and the belief of what is right. A fighter pilot who goes out there like the badass she is taking down enemy planes should not have to come back home to a husband and kneel before oppression. Her education and her job should give her a voice that is well-respected because of what she has achieved. She should not have to pretend to be less-knowledgeable to fit in and be accepted by a regressive society that would otherwise consider her to be extreme. We should not have to be confused about this balancing act.
I believe you can be culture-loving, religious, a believer, a family-woman and still be able to kick the ass of anyone who promotes rubbish in the name of any one of these criteria. You should ace the ass-kicking especially owing to your decree of enlightenment.