If only I had a penny every time I heard a man say “I allow my wife to work, some times even late night!” I’d be richer than most of you reading this. But alas! The only thing I get on hearing this, is a rare amalgamation of amusement and anger.
It is quite a concept prevailing since ages that a woman first belongs to her father, then her rightful husband and finally her son, if any.. if not, then her brother. But where does this come from? Why do we see this constant need of having a male authority look over or control a girl/woman? Is it really about her safety and well-being or is it something else? Well, let’s ponder some more.
Women have always, since the beginning of time been considered as something that a person can possess. History is a witness to that. One can simply go back in time and look at the various examples of this very notion. From the dowry system to selling girls to rich landlords for their pleasure as slaves, all of this has played an equal role in dehumanizing and objectifying women.
This sense of ownership comes from the deep rooted belief that women are incapable of taking charge of their own life. They cannot take care of themselves. If you think about it, nothing ticks some people off more than a woman living alone and living her life on her own accord. An independent woman is a threat to their belief system. They believe there needs to exist a male presence in her life to govern and regulate her, and if there isn’t there’s something practically wrong with her.
Many a times when a woman tells a man that she is uninterested in him, it does not stop him from pursuing her, but as soon as he finds out that there is somebody else, particularly a boy in her life, he backs off and leaves her alone as if her choice of not wanting to be with him is irrelevant until and unless there is another man who already has the right over her. There is more respect and regard for his relation with her than there is for the girls own wishes and wants.
Same going for relationships, albeit family members, romantic partners as well as platonic relationships. They feel as if they have a right over a woman’s life and her choices. What she wants to wear, when does she want to marry, whom does she want to marry, what does she want to do with her life; these are all important aspects in her life but apparently she should have no control over them.
It’s just absurd that even in the 21st century women are fighting for body autonomy. Even though it should have been obvious by now that what a person chooses to do with their body is nobody but their own decision, still in many parts of the world body autonomy or self ownership is a distant dream for women. The fact that nearly half of women still cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have sex, use contraception or seek health care should outrage us all. In essence, hundreds of millions of women and girls do not own their own bodies. Their lives are governed by others.
According to a report by UNFPA in 2021: More than 30 countries restrict women’s right to move around outside the home. Only 75 per cent of countries legally ensure full, equal access to contraception. Only 55 per cent of women are fully empowered to make choices over health care, contraception and the ability to say yes or no to sex. Twenty countries or territories have “marry-your-rapist” laws, where a man can escape criminal prosecution if he marries the woman or girl he has raped. And people say we don’t need women empowerment!
Somedays I just wonder about people who claim to be ‘pro-life’ actually care about those lives at all. (they’re the people who are against the concept of abortions) I think being pro-life means caring about all lives, doesn’t it? Seldom is a ‘pro-life’ person also an advocate for adoption. Almost never an advocate for lives lost in wars or at refugee camps. So do you really care about a life that has not even come into the world yet or do you just feel like you want the right to control and regulate what women do with their bodies.
Making abortions illegal doesn’t stop abortions, it only stops legal and safe abortions. “If a 16-year-old wanted to adopt a child, the government would not allow it. She is apparently not yet done with her education, she cannot financially support herself, and she isn’t a legal adult. But if she gets pregnant, irrespective of whether it was consented or not, she can not have an abortion.” How does this remotely make sense?!
SO many times female victims of domestic violence and abuse are observed staying in their toxic and abusive households and not leaving no matter what they go through. It’s true that sometimes the reason for that is societal pressure, family pressure and what not. But also many a times, it is because the woman isn’t financially independent.
Women being financially dependent gives abusers an upper hand or a leverage. It gives men the higher position in the society. Many factors like lack of access to education, job opportunities and wage gap play a major role in creating this huge divide between the two genders. Maternal responsibilities, taking care of family and the in-laws, restrict women from pursuing a career and being independent.
Even if a woman does work and earn money, she is never regarded the primary bread winner of the family. Thus her career will always be a redundancy for the family. More than a necessity, it will always be a supplement or a bonus to the family income, and for this very reason women choose to ignore their education and don’t focus on building a career. Parents don’t find it really necessary to get their daughter as well educated as their sons. This is a whole vicious cycle that we have been caught in for centuries.
No one should have to tolerate domestic violence or abuse, much less because they’re financially dependent on their partners. Therefore, it is extremely important that every woman becomes financially independent so that they never have to feel helpless in life.
A woman who can support the needs of the family financially, socially, emotionally and so on is a role model for her children to show them that gender bias is created by the society and doesn’t mean anything when a woman is strong, confident and sure of herself. The children learn from what they see. If kids, especially daughters see that their mothers are financially independent, they will also understand the value of money and be inspired to be self-sufficient in life when they grow up.
We need women at all levels, consisting of the top, to alter the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and observed, not ignored and neglected.