The New Year introduced us to the lovely Mira Rajput, a woman with a delightful girl-next-door vibe as she made her first television appearance on Koffee with Karan, with her movie star husband Shahid Kapoor. Mira was endearing with her sunny smile and twinkling eyes. Unlike others who have graced the couch, she didn’t angle her body for the cameras. She had a carefree demeanour and often giggled like a giddy little six-year-old.
In the aftermath, the internet trashed the couple. One particularly vicious tweet suggested that Mira had no ambition because she conceived early in her marriage and is perfectly content being a stay-at-home mum. This is worrisome.
“It’s like no matter what a woman does, it is always wrong,” says Anuja Parikh, an entrepreneur who runs a feminist publication. “If she works, she isn’t sanskaari. If she doesn’t, she is not ambitious! Hard line feminists need to acknowledge a woman’s free will to make their own choices, no matter what those choices are.”
The argument is that a woman must examine if her decisions are actually the result of early covert induction into patriarchy. “Many women are brainwashed since childhood to believe in the greatness of our predominantly patriarchal culture,” says Smita Sahay, Founder of Accio Health that works in the field of mental health. “While these women are educated, they have also undergone years of conditioning. So we need to see if they are really empowered by their education.”
Trisha Shetty, Founder of She Says an organisation dedicated to empowering women through training and skill development, says the problem lies with our inability to recognise the value of services a homemaker provides.
Shetty says, “Imagine if we were to assign a monetary value to what a woman does in order to raise a child. We would realise that having children is unaffordable!
“A real feminist should focus on ascertaining whether a woman has access to education, equal opportunity to empower herself, safe infrastructure outside her home, on the street and at the workplace. Is a woman forced to stay at home because she isn’t comfortable stepping out? That is the question we should be asking.”
Sahay agrees that once it is established that an empowered woman has willingly decided to temporarily or permanently give up her career, we should respect that choice. Sahay recalls, “I met this wonderful lady recently, who had a PhD, but had chosen to take a break from her career after the birth of her son. Everyone in her social circle judged her and many even wondered why she had wasted a seat if she eventually wanted to give up a career. Such attitude takes feminism back by decades.”