During my childhood, I often heard older women advise young girls in the family about the importance of being educated. It had little to do with the noble goal of gaining knowledge, but it was about something more practical. It was about securing employment so as to not depend on one’s husband completely, or being employable should the husband lose his health, life or limb.
It seemed, at times, that these old women were a paranoid lot who were overly worried about the possibility of ending up alone. However, I now know that some of the really wise women were actually focusing on the importance of living a life of dignity under any given circumstance.
As a child, I saw some married women, and also widows, who ran a “pooTakULLa illu” providing sumptuous meals to many hungry people, and using the money thus earned to maintain the household and educate their children. I saw women making and selling beautiful flower garlands. I saw women selling fruits, vegetables, bangles and other things. I saw women learn tailoring skills and sew clothes as a source of livelihood. I saw women learning typing and shorthand and become secretaries. I saw the more ambitious ones complete their bachelors degree and a B.Ed and become teachers. Some took the bank exams, worked as clerks and rose in the ranks to become officers too.
I still see some women constantly pushing their limits, trying to excel in what they do, and supporting themselves, while making a difference to others.
The common trait of all these hardworking women is that they held on to their dignity even through the roughest patches of their lives, and stood as good role models to their sons and daughters.
If I remember it correctly, it was sometime during the late 1980s that a strange notion of “women’s empowerment” began. Women were now being encouraged to exercise NOT their right to education, NOT their right to employment, but their “right to divorce” and “the right to be maintained by their ex-husbands”!
This new wave was pushing women to become quite the opposite of what the wise old women of my childhood were suggesting. Suddenly, it was a woman’s right to live the life of a parasite. It was a woman’s right to throw all her education and training, experience and wisdom by the wayside, and to appear in court as a mendicant seeking maintenance from her separated or ex-husband.
This new idea of “women’s empowerment” gradually began obscuring the erstwhile virtue of dignity. It was no longer important to remain positive, strong and self-reliant in the face of adverse family situations. It was more important to “teach men a lesson” by unleashing all the laws of maintenance and alimony, to achieve whatever one can, ranging from extracting paltry sums of money every month to extorting an obscenely fat one-time alimony.
As an adult, I have seen hundreds of educated and able-bodied women frequenting courts, presenting themselves as some of the most unfortunate, destitute and vagrant beings, with no abilities or skills needed for daily sustenance, and praying the courts to order their estranged husbands to maintain them.
Today, the most vociferous women’s rights activists and women’s empowerment advocates endorse and encourage parasitic existence of women sans dignity, personal satisfaction, professional enhancement nor spiritual enrichment. We have been forced to accept that this is NOT enslavement of women, but a veritable path to women’s liberation!
As a thoughtful gentleman puts it on his blog, today, “many women who can logically plot the route and plan their logistics to lawyer’s offices and courts somehow just stop themselves short of plotting their the route to their own earned livelihood and dignified living.”
There are many people who believe that paying maintenance and alimony may hurt men but “being maintained” hurts the dignity of women even more. These people rarely exercise their freedom of expression for the fear of being labeled anti-women. However, this Women’s Day, a bunch of concerned men decided to take it upon themselves to remind the world about the need to uphold women’s dignity.
On 6 March, they all stood at traffic junctions carrying boxes labeled “Wife-maintenance fund”, and handed out pamphlets which carried the following note:
I am petitioning the public for funds for MAINTENANCE as demanded by my wife. I believe that all adult human beings with a sound body and mind, whether MALE or FEMALE, are capable of working and earning for their own sustenance.
I believe that many wonderful women who have achieved success through hard work have done it on their own will with a sense of dignity and purpose. I also believe in giving the same education and ideals to my daughter also. I will discourage my daughter if she wants to depend on anyone else financially after she grows up. #REALWOMEN
If you think that women are incapable of working or doing hard work, it is a gross insult to all working women who struggle on a daily basis to maintain their sense of dignity. However, if you still wish women to completely depend on men forever; please donate some money to my wife’s maintenance fund.
But if you think that women are equal to men in terms of financial capability and hard work, please support the concept of women’s dignity by work. On this Women’s Day let us appreciate the achievements of so many wonderful working women in our lives and public arena.
These men are observing “Women’s Dignity Day” on 7 March, a day before Women’s Day.
What a thoughtful gesture! Women’s dignity should indeed come first because Women’s Day has no meaning in the absence of women’s dignity. I am sure all the wise old grannies and self-respecting young ladies would agree.