Recently, I have been accused of being jealous of the “success of another woman”. Jealousy is something almost all women and men would have experienced and been accused of, so it’s really not that big of a deal. However, I believe that the rationale behind these specific accusations reflects a very harmful trend that currently prevails, both among men and women in India. Artificial, imagined and imposed standards of success, which form the main basis for these accusations, are also the prime reason that today holds many women back from enjoying the simple, natural pleasures of being a woman, a mother and a human being.
Just to give a background, I have a pretty good academic resume, with educational accomplishments in India and broad. I have many natural talents and skills that have come of use to me at different points in time. I have a lot of resilience, which helped me during the toughest times in life. I have received more public and media attention than most people I personally know, and more than I had ever needed or asked for. I also hold the distinction of navigating and freeing myself from the clutches of the criminal justice system in India in record time, without compromising on any ethics. I am also known for my contributions to bigger causes which attempt to make the society a better place for us and the next generation.
What makes me most proud though, is the fact that despite all the feminist propaganda I was exposed to when I was younger, and despite all my unfounded doubts and fears, my intelligence served me well (and luck favored me equally) to ensure that I didn’t miss the bus. What gives me the greatest joy and satisfaction is being the wife of a fantastic man and the mother of a sweet child. Yes, “wife” and “mother” and the two titles that make me most proud and happy.
Compare this to a woman who barely has any academic accomplishments to speak of, who settled criminal charges against her for money, whose sense of self-worth is determined by the number of likes on her (selfie) profile picture on social media (which must change at least every fortnight if not more often), who chases pleasure and fame by selling other people’s tears in name of social service, and most importantly who is past 30, single and childless.
I know that a lot of people don’t want women to be judged anymore by their marital status and whether or not they have children. However, a lot of men and women now seem to be doing the exact opposite. They are inadvertently caught up with money and fame as universal measures of success, and worthy of envy. They seem to not only chase money and fame (often at the expense of everything and everyone else in life) in order to be considered successful, but they also expect everyone around to care about their imagined “success” just as much as they do. They ignore and deny women who derive the most joy and satisfaction from family.
I cannot speak for men, but I am quite certain that this attitude has been holding many women back from living fuller lives. It holds them back from putting family first, from fully experiencing motherhood, and from loving and giving unconditionally. It holds them back from being empathetic to other human beings. It holds them back from upholding important human values and responsibilities. These false measures of success are eroding the self-esteem and dignity of women, and pushing them into living suboptimal lives.
I will not pretend that I am immune to jealousy, but there is nothing to be jealous of what I personally consider a suboptimal life. If you show me a woman who had married sooner, has a bunch of children, is spending more time with them, and playing with them more than I am with mine, yes, I will be jealous, and nothing will hold me back from admitting it.