The Prevalence of the Ideal Daughter-in-law Stereotype

Indian society is in a conundrum seeking an educated, working wife/daughter-in-law, who also fits the ideal bahu stereotype, says Dr. Rima Mukherji

Raksha Bharadia | Posted on 26 Jul 2016
The Ideal Bahu Stereotype & The New-Age Indian Married Woman | Bonobology

They say that in India you don’t marry a person, you marry into their family. Dr. Rima Mukherji, Consultant Psychiatrist at Woodlands Multi-Speciality Hospital, Kolkata, shows up a mirror to the prevalent churning taking place in our society - from the expectations the husband and in-laws have from the wife/daughter-in-law to the manner in which boys are still being raised.

The concept of who is a very good daughter-in-law is still judged by stereotypical characteristics that are determined by the boy’s family. They measure the daughter-in-law by their yardstick. If you are married, there has to be a degree of adjustment on both sides. For instance, there is a married couple, where the working woman has chosen her own partner and the husband’s family is a little less liberated than the woman’s family. The moment she entered the house after marriage, she stopped applying sindoor (vermilion) and other symbols of marriage. She got into her capris and T-shirt at home before her father-in-law. The father-in-law took his son aside and said, “Your wife is a loose woman.” So the judgment is passed because she has not fallen under the stereotype.

So, the wife said that ‘you knew I used to wear western clothes before I got married. You knew everything – but at that time you did not tell me that these are going to crop up as issues in your family’. And she went back to her parents’ house. An educated woman, who is being judged, tends to react. Sometimes, she tends to do what she wants to do.

The husband was completely confused. On one hand, he wanted a completely hip, hot girl to show off before his friends but the conflict at home was that his family considered the same wife to be a woman with loose morals. She did not have loose morals; she simply did not fit into a stereotype.

There are very few families who would actually not crib about the daughter-in-law. They will always say it is her fault that she is not able to adjust. ‘Yes, she is very educated, yes she earns a lot of money, yes she is a corporate head, but she doesn’t take care of my son’s needs’ (they will say).

Today’s men are a very confused lot. They continue to be pampered while growing up, and almost every family is patriarchal. By and large, men still have not evolved to the extent where they are able to handle a very modern woman with liberated views. And there also are huge double standards.

The double standards are – “What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.” It is okay if he does certain things; if he has a lot of girl friends or if he wants to go on a night out with buddies (even if they are male buddies), and if he returns home at two in the morning, then this is not supposed to be considered wrong by the wife. But she cannot do the same because the husband feels; she is married to him and what people would think of her. It is still not considered nice if a woman is seen smoking and drinking. People are still very judgmental about those things.

Men also do not know how to handle the working woman very well. Theoretically men are very happy getting married to working women but they are not able to handle the consequences. For example, they are not able to handle the fact that their wives are not like their mother who was always there to provide them with everything.

The values and attitude that you grow with, stays with you all your life. If you had a homemaker mother, then the boy would want a wife like her. Whereas a boy who has had a working mother in his life, is used to doing things on his own, is self sufficient and is far more adjusting.

We hardly come across a family or a boy child who has been told that if in today’s world where we are talking about equality and if you would be living abroad and working or your would also be working, then you better be self-sufficient at home, help your wife with the chores.

(As Told To Raksha Bharadia)

 

Raksha Bharadia

Raksha Bharadia is a writer and editor. She has authored three books published by Rupa & Co. She has put together 13 titles in the Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul series for Westland. She has also worked as a scriptwriter with Star Plus. She has been a columnist for Femina, Ahmedabad Mirror, and DNA, Ahmedabad. Raksha has taught creative writing for a Master’s Program at CEPT, Ahmedabad. Bonobology.com is Raksha’s first significant foray in the digital space.

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