Career-shaming women is a bigger threat than body-shaming, because it impacts financial independence

‘ Gender equality’ is the ad world’s favourite topic these days. Selling everything-from jeans, watches, jewellery to cold-relieving ointments-the ads these days are totally in ‘love’ with the ‘idea’ of gender equality.

But the reality on the ground is far from that. The struggles that women go through every day to ensure an identity for themselves are far graver and far more brutal than any ad film can justify. Because the truth is, the idea of equality can never be de-linked from the idea of identity and from that of the right to financial independence.

In India, a greater injustice to women than body-shaming is career shaming. The fact that women in India aren’t even given the right to choose, whether they want to work or not, is what is patriarchy’s biggest shot in the arms, because it disallows women the right to be financially independent.

Even in the 21st century, over 60% of India is rural, where issues of gender are far more apparent, given the lack of education, which co-incidentally directly links to the ability of any man or woman to have any professional life.

Right from their childhood, decisions are made for them-whether she can study, what courses she needs to pursue that will make her better ‘marriageable material’, what profession she should enter that can be considered demure enough, when she needs to quit, etc.

The society expects the woman to be the ‘fall-guy’ in every aspect of life. It only becomes far too visible once marriage happens, and the situations don’t change much from rural to urban.

Even in the current day and age, most women are expected to take it ‘slow’ in their careers once they get married, and probably quit and be at home once they turn mothers. Society expects, and that is what is drilled into every single person’s brains, the woman to be the chief ‘caretaker’ of the household, while the man to be the chief ‘bread earner’.

As a career-oriented woman, I’ve dealt with this prejudice all my professional life. This became far more exaggerated when I was expecting. My ‘learned’ colleagues would often say it nonchalantly- “Deb, but you’re a woman. You can quit your job whenever you want to once you become a mother. It’s not necessary for you to continue working. But for a man it’ll be tough, because he has to earn a living for his family.”

To further these notions are corporates in this country. This obsession with the idea that women become less productive once they turn mothers is widespread, almost like an epidemic. It’s as if women commit a mistake by reproducing, the most natural of all phenomena that ‘humans’ go through. Instead of creating a work environment that makes it easier for new parents to cope with their additional responsibilities, corporates often harbour the notion that the ‘return on investment’ on ‘mothers’ isn’t ‘viable’.

So, this is where I ask- why should women be constantly made to feel guilty for being successful professionals, excelling at their careers, sometimes in better positions than their spouses? Why can’t more men willingly step-up their notions of responsibility for family, beyond just earning a livelihood?

When you deny a woman her career, you deny her financial independence, the root cause of all kinds of gender-related suppression. Let the woman work and if she is good, let her climb the ladder and earn as much as her male counterparts.

While, it’s true, things are changing for the better, but the pace is so slow that it might take another century before women can really start feeling it. The idea of patriarchy is directly linked to the power men can yield over women because they can earn ‘money’, a crucial requirement for ‘life’. Giving women the same right to ‘earn’, at whatever stage of life they’re in, allows a kind of sense of equality of power that probably the society isn’t ready for yet.
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