1960s: Paradoxical Aspects of Women

The sixties was the era when traditional roles of the family were running the show. Fathers were the breadwinners and mothers were looking after the domestic establishments.

Thus, the picture of a middle-class family was—patriarchal domination. Wives subsisting on husband’s income (and it was a norm), trying to coexist with the pressure of modern (prevalent) life, homemakers paying attention that her family had a place where all the members can get refreshment, self-acceptance, self-esteem, and courage to survive the crushing urge of modern life.

Life was a little lucid then. No multiplexes, computers, or cell phones. Back then, communication meant sending and receiving letters and entertainment meant to meet friends, chat with them, go for a walk; for kids, playing outdoor games or reading storybooks was fun. Telephones and televisions were luxurious items for entertainment, which were owned by only well-heeled people. Then circus or fair was a much bigger attraction and the biggest one was watching a movie in a theater.

Schools were teaching basics and had extracurricular activities, such as Quiz contests, football, cricket, dance, and music. In many families of northern suburban areas, dance and music were not-so-accepted arts. For studies, folks preferred science over arts. It was a norm that science is for boys and arts is for girls.

Society was biased for men and women, as women were expected to be celibate, demure and especially humble and modest, which constrained their ability to perform in any scenario on an equal basis with men. There were different behaviors for men and women, which carried over from their personal life to their professional life.

Back then, the aspects of a woman’s life were paradoxical. They were expected to be at home to maintain their feminine virtue and to demonstrate their family’s morality and financial security. However, if the family suffers from economic crisis, women’s participation was expected. On the other hand was viewed as slightly inappropriate, subtly wrong and certainly dangerous to their chastity.

Though most of the women contributed to the economic strength of their family, much of their work was not accounted. Traditionally, Women were considered important for the daily household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, fetching water, collecting fuel, weaving, making handicrafts and looking after kids.

Even after being employed, women had no control over their earning, as they were expected to devote all of their time, energy and money to their family. However, men could have spent their time and some of their earnings on activities other than the household.

Girls were going for education, but after schooling, they were kept at home. There were only a few families, who agreed for higher education of their daughter and that too, to marry their daughters to a well-settled groom. As marrying, a well-educated girl was the biggest fad of that era.

The country known for its mythological culture, well-cultured natives with mythological thinking, deep belief in almighty and religious nature, has so many stained systems just like black spots on the moon. One of the black spots is the dowry system (better to call it paying the groom’s price, as it is a demanded compensation by the groom’s parents for the amount spent on his education and upbringing).

Origin of this system is not much known, but it’s an age-old system that’s for sure. Quite possible that it started from the Aryan culture, as Vedic Brahmins specified the custom of Kanyadan (father presents his daughter with jewelry and clothes) and Vardakshina (bride’s father present the groom cash or other items). This curse is completely sanctioned in the Vedas as Streedhana. Its purpose could be noble, such as gratifying girls with the due in their ancestral property (as sons were the heirs of all the money and property, even until the recent times) as a token of love for the pampered daughters. Or, as a seed money for the establishment of a new household, again for the comfort of their daughters and to ensure that their kith and kin can survive any ups and downs of life during any kind of financial crisis.

The ritual of Kanyadan was not considered complete without a dakshina provided to the groom. Thus, cash or gifts from bride’s parents for the groom became associated with Kanyadan. However, it was completely up to the bride’s parents, what they want to gift the groom. Gradually, this custom deepened its roots and groom’s parents started demanding a certain amount of dowry to be paid by bride’s parents.

It is believed that, this drastic change happened after the British rein. The British made the peasants pay revenue twice a year on a fixed date. Inability to pay would result in auction of the land by the government. Peasants were forced to borrow money from the moneylenders during a bad year. Thus to pay a never-ending debt, people started demanding money from bride’s parents to keep their property safe.

The dowry system was one of the key factors that made male kids more desirable than female kids. Brides became a subject to torture and even often killed if the demand of dowry does not meet. Thus, because of the fear of own child’s death or torture and more than this, the incapability of arranging unaffordable money, society became biased for female kids. It’s not that this was the only factor, though it was a major factor of gender discrimination.

Hence, the society encouraged domination of masculinity over femininity. A female child was treated inferior to the male child, which leave a deep engraving in the mind of a kid. Thus, where a male child was regarded as a precious part of a family, girls were often neglected and denied the right to education and its advantages, right to freedom and association with the society. It is bitter that besides working for longer hours, no or less schooling, and less received food, girls were even denied the right to live.

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2 thoughts on “1960s: Paradoxical Aspects of Women

  1. Very true Shalini,this horrible tradition continues to this day and the gender bias has worsened. But as they say things worsen before they get better, so hoping for a wonderful future for us and our future generation of girls.
    A wonderfully astute article. Loved your language and writing.. Keep up the good work

    • Thanks Reshma for the appreciation! 🙂 You are right that this tradition is still continuing. Even I have experienced lots of things in my life. I really hope that new generation would understand these things and we will get a better and brighter future for the girls of next generation.

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