Equality of Sexes? Who wants it?

By Devi

I am besieged by my women friends who are house-wives (as opposed to career women who work outside the house) to put forth their point of view. Experts say that married women are enslaved by house work and imprisoned by their children. They are also told that they are squandering their potential and are advised to take off their aprons, put their children into day crèches, go out and "fulfil themselves". The response to this advice is an explosive, "stuff and nonsense".

    My friends tell me that the frenzied search for female identity is an obsession with, me , me, what am I and what do I want? Surely there is a middle ground between an exhausted mother surrounded by toddlers and chained to the gas stove and the brilliant career woman at the other end of the spectrum. It is in the middle ground that a lot of women live and flourish.

    As for the equality of sexes, it is a myth, no less. Before the "libbers" come down on me like a ton of bricks, let me make myself clear. Let alone equality between male and female, absolute equality within a single sex is not possible. No two human beings are born alike, nor do they have the same strengths and weaknesses, or the same IQ. Human beings are not factory products. In life we prize not uniformity but individuality.

    In the context of marriage, as it obtains at present, I might even go so far as to say, that a woman does not really want equality! If she wants to be treated "on par" how then, does she creates circumstances that lead to husband/male dominance? Every woman wants to marry a man who is superior to her in every way, physically, financially and intellectually. Is it not true that the so called ideal husband is one who is older, taller, better educated and financially or job-wise better placed than the wife? Whether this choice is due to a subconscious desire to be dominated or due to the norms society has laid for us, I leave it to the psychologists. Perhaps, it is men who have established the norms of marriage where the woman is always inferior and dependent on the husband.

    To revert to women in the middle ground, they point out that career women are unnecessarily frightened by paper tigers. House work is no longer a bugbear. The ad-man who says washing is easy with wonder soaps and washing machines is for once telling the truth. While the machine is tackling one load of clothes, there is time for a cup of coffee or even to catch up on a chapter of Wuthering Heights. Getting dinner ready takes only an hour unless one wants to spend a lot of time making complicated gourmet dishes. Nourishing tasty meals can be dished out in a jiffy provided the housewife is well organised and all the food stuff is ready at hand.

    What about those little tyrants, the tiny tots who set a tender trap which effectively hampers the free movement of the mother? Admittedly, several rounds of I-spy games, cleaning up messy efforts at finger painting, feeding infants who seem to delight in spitting out everything, has its bad moments. But, say my friends, compared to the selfish, childish tantrums that adults throw, children are at any rate a better bargain.

    What about boredom and monotony I countered? On second thoughts, which job does not have periods of boredom, when the sheer repetitive nature of work does not get you down? Even the woman physicist must have days when the sight of another nasty neutron must be nauseating. There must be times when women interior decorators feel like throwing a fit at having to examine one more sample of furnishing fabric. Tackling the same old industrial disputes, or preparing production charts must be equally soul-killing. At least the housewife gets bored in a congenial atmosphere, her own home.

    Housewives may be on 24 hour duty, seven days a week, but they assert that it is possible to squeeze in the time and energy to develop individual interests whether it be to cultivate a garden, learn to play a musical instrument etc. Therefore when the so called experts tell wives that they can truly find themselves only in the outside world, they beg to differ. The outside and the inside worlds meet in the middle and that is where the housewives stand.

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