Continuing the previous post on women empowerment ,I will come to more crucial question that needs discussion, albeit is again a contrarian view.
In our race for gender neutrality ,I think we are missing the point. It is all about division of labour, some biological and some societal. To me ,it is OK to question those roles, debate and change them. But to create another set of rules to abide by is a dangerous ground .We are creating new standards for women while the previous baseline still exists. And that is creating stress for women ,creating impossible benchmarks for them to fulfill.
I hope women are not just being wooed as embellishments for a nice societal dressing.
Now everyone wants women to work . Governments , families, Corporates, without really reflecting on what women might actually want or need. Does a tired a mom, who was separated from an 8 month old baby for whole of 10-12 hours, really want to go to office the next day leaving her baby in the creche. She barely had time to cook, feed and put her baby to sleep (what if she had two). The child, who should be ideally breast fed for at least 6 months, is hurriedly being weaned just so that the woman can rush to office to complete the tasks she was assigned by her bosses. Her bosses do not have choice. For them,she is a fully valued resource. OK then, let us work from home then,won’t we ,some might say. But how will that work .We assume that a baby or child will allow her mom to get into calls or complete the coding at peace .As a mother of 2 who I raised with my husband,I can safely say that babies have a span of 1 hour at maximum when left along and properly fed (non colic, non teething, super happy whose moms did not smoke or drink during pregnancy ,just kidding). And this is for IT industry where remote working might still exist .It is practically non existent in any other industry.
Let us also be mindful of the fact that motherhood is not a 6 month break. There is gestation ,delivery and then child rearing. There are physiological and pshycological changes women grapple with for years. Once child is old enough to be admitted to day care,creches have strict timelines . Child needs to be picked at a certain time,so moms have to leave office by certain time taking in account the time spent in traffic. But the boss is not happy. Customer wants a response now itself .Cannot blame the boss ,because s/he ,in all fairness, cannot ask rest of the team to stretch just so that the mom can reach home in peace .Might happen once ,but this needs to happen daily ,right? And of course ,there is no day care component in salaries ,either for mother or father. So while companies have recognized the need to house(HRA), commute(allowance),medical(HIS) ,there is nothing to support in the way of child care.(I have not even mentioned how exorbitantly some of these child care centers charge).
Some of us might be lucky,having a parent or in law live with us for child care.But honestly, organisations do not pay them, do they? And they did they their job when they brought us up. Why do we want to put them through the same cycle at this time of their lives?
Then take extended leave, someone will advise. Focus on family,work will be around(advise I have given many a times) .But then what happens to my career, my promotion ,my opportunities and the fact that when I join back ,I will be reporting to some of my colleagues ,she asks .I am not sure if we have an answer to that. So she struggles on, with a lot of motivation and very little help.
We are asking women to work ,work and work.At home ,in office and excel too. Because slightest faltering means that they will be put to case, some man with no such constraints in line to take over . After doing all that ,they might still be average because remember ,she could not attend that call or complete the delivery since her child was suffering from colic! They have to excel because they are the role models for the next generation, the unempowered ones .Why these impossible standards ? A 3-4 month maternity leave period is what is available for women generally to finish off what is one of life and death scenarios for them and new born.
I am still struggling to find answers . Hundreds of thousands of women have survived this cycle in India, only with grit ,determination and resilience, despite the infrastructural set up we are living with .
And now back to my original question , is this what women really want or is that want everyone wants us to want ?
The current discussion around feminism and empowerment amuses me . If I am empowered ,it should be my choice to be at home and take care of kids ,not because I am expected to, as long as I can afford to.Of course ,if I cannot afford to, this is a moot question,since state anyway does not support me. I should have a say in how family’s finances are managed and future is secured irrespective of whether I work or not. And if I choose not to be involved in that discussion , that should be fine too just as I do not want my spouse to be part of discussion where the weekly menu is being decided.
Empowerment ,to me, is to understand women as a form of being, rather than be treated just as a demographic whose expectations can be twisted based on what current economy or world view thinks appropriate. If we really want change, let us have some solutions to basic questions for both sides ,employers and employees ,rather than all this brouhaha around empowerment.
My take on it for women would be ,instead of burning out yourselves under constant pressure of external motivation and have a Doing It attitude, ask yourselves if you want to be doing it ? That I believe would be real empowerment.
For employers ,may be it is time to ask if they want women to just have jobs or have careers, so they can appropriately decide.
Women Empowerment – An Alternate View