Sacrifice & compromise – do these two words define women in India?

It is evident from the style of my writing that I love words. I love the way you can take just a few random words and string them into a sentence that has meaning & depth. I love playing with vocabulary. And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that I like to write or that I am an avid reader. This is purely on account of my love for the English language.

However, there are two words in the language that I absolutely abhor. I loathe them even though I have many a times found myself put in a situation in which I needed to employ them action-ably in my life.  The words in question are those that every Indian woman has heard innumerable times in her life – Sacrifice & compromise.

These two words, I feel define what the societal perception of an Indian woman is. Be it as a daughter in our father’s house or a daughter in law in our husband’s house, we are taught unendingly about the virtue of imbibing these words in our life. We are taught to mould our entire lives around these two words.

Prima facie, both these words embody a positive meaning. Sacrifice is the selfless act of giving and compromise is the act of conciliation. However, in the life of a woman these two words take on a different meaning. For the selflessness and conciliation come at the price of her personal emotional freedom. Most women live a life of sacrifice, selflessly giving to their family, their children and their homes.  Being born nurturers, they try their utmost to match up to the expectations set for them. The fabric of the society from which the cloth of our relationships is cut, expects this. Well actually, demands it!

However, I have always found this kind of mentality symbolic of regression. How can we talk about empowering women and elevating their status in society, when we encourage & support an environment in which women are dependent on acceptance which is conditionally based?  When a woman is asked to sacrifice her aspirations, it is not a compromise she may be making willingly. She may be perfectly capable of coming up with alternative solutions, if given the opportunity to decide on her own. However, in many cases this power of free & independent thinking is wrestled out of the control of the woman and she is expected to succumb to the wishes of others.

Is there any logic in this, I ask? What could be the logic in taking an intelligent woman & then telling her that she must curb her intellectual thoughts in order to adjust? What kind of adjustment would that be if not one unwillingly made against wishes? This certainly cannot bode well for progress. How can there be progress if one half of the whole is subdued? I mean, if a ball is meant to roll it’s a fifty-fifty relationship between both the halves that make up the sphere. Sometimes one half has to come down to propel the other half up and at times the other half has to give the necessary impetus to the first half. Is that not how men & women in a relationship should be? Is that not how they should function? After all, even a rolling ball can roll only when both halves are in momentum!

So then why is it that society inhibits women more than it does men? Could it be because the thought process that defines society is scared of female intimidation? Could it be because the very design of our society leaves no room for the thoughts of a free thinking, intelligent woman? Is that why women are expected to compromise and sacrifice?

Why does society automatically assume that if a woman in capable of taking her own decisions then she will try to be dominant? I for one do not think that that is what women intend. I believe women just want to be treated as intellectually capable individuals. They want to be able to stand on the same platform as men and express their opinion without fear of societal retribution.

Now I know that this kind of regressive thinking is not true for all men in the society. And, I applaud those who have broken away from the mold of their upbringing to challenge these age old regressive norms. To such men, my heartfelt gratitude! Thank you for understanding & thank you for accepting. Thank you for being equal partners in this age old came of “you compromise & you sacrifice”. However, there are a still a majority of men out there who are unable to shed control. Or is it that they are just scared to relinquish control for fear of being rendered useless? Could that really be it? The fact that all their life they have controlled the women in it, lorded over them and now they are afraid to cede that very control for fear of the reprisal it may bring? Could this actually be the reason?

Well whatever the reason may be, whatever the motivation may be, I think that the negativity that is associated with the words sacrifice & compromise will never go unless men start embracing these words positively. They need to start constructively & pragmatically approaching situations that in daily life employ these words and they need to step up and imbibe these words as much as women are made to. Then and only then, I feel societal perception may change, women may be treated as equals and I for one may start viewing these two words favorably in my life.



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