What to do with women who refuse to be deterred…
Firstly, start with internalising patriarchy by showing TV plays and films where the woman’s role is predefined by her gender as the sacrificial and submissive housewife who will never put herself before her family’s needs. To be really good at it, bring in religion and point out how gender roles are set in stone with the woman staying safe and sheltered (never use the word confined or caged) at home, while the man’s role is that of the provider. Stress how the man must slave outside of home all day while the woman sits in comfort nurturing her brood, never having to worry about how she will stretch his single income over the period of a month in this rising inflation, never having to worry about how to spend her own money, never having to deal with the question of promotion which is nothing but relentless trouble. Mention office politics and the traffic jams.
Throw in pollution and of course the darkening of a woman’s complexion in the hot sun, which not even Fair & Lovely can correct. Stress how privileged she is to stay indoors and not worry about getting anywhere on time except the children’s school, tuitions, extracurricular activities, their friend’s birthday parties, their doctor’s appointments, and to do the grocery shopping.
Remind her how lucky she is not having to worry her pretty little head about taking any decisions except, ‘Aaj khanay main kya pukkay ga’. Encourage her to watch more Star Plus and Hum TV dramas to pass any free time she may have after the household chores are done.
Use the word, ‘Good-girl’.
Make snide remarks every time you meet a working mother and express deep concern for her children’s upbringing. Continue to feel sorry on the drive home and casually throw in how pathetic a husband must be who can’t provide for his family -- thereby establishing clear standards of masculinity (in case you have sons which need to be raised accordingly). If met with resistance, say: ‘Darling, you are so innocent! You have no idea what happens in offices’. Refuse to say more when pressed, leaving all kinds of wild notions of promiscuity and harassment in the air.
Use patronising words like ‘baby’, ‘pet’ or ‘doll’.
If the woman still refuses to be deterred, suggest working in a school, preferably one where her own children study. Show slight concern as to how she will manage work and home, firmly establishing that both are her headache.
Never offer to help, or you may send mixed signals. Although every now and then, take cue from the Everyday Powder advert and offer her a cup of tea, making sure that it is taken as a privilege and not as her right to demand.
Never put down Women’s Rights but do express doubt about the women involved in it as possible ‘western agents’, instilling seeds of doubt about their intentions. Encourage statements like, ‘I’m a feminist but…’ so as to make sure she is never taken seriously by actual Feminists who may then take her under their wing.
If despite all of the above, she decides to express herself through art or writing, be patient but patronising as if you were indulging a new recipe she was trying out. However, if she decides to do so professionally, treat her work with skepticism. Just like you would not want her to embarrass herself in front of guests with a recipe gone askew, be overly protective and at your masculine best to shield her from any potential exposure her talent may bring.
Emphasize that it’s a big bad world out there and a woman alone is like a ‘Khuli tijori’. Point out how cruel people can be, and offer to shelter her from critics and contemporaries who would never be able to appreciate much less understand her work. Tell her she must be ready to face criticism, therefore making her doubt her own self-belief. If that does not deter, actually look at or read her work and pick as many holes as possible. Better still stay quiet, giving the impression that you want to save her from the embarrassment of what you really think. Never shower praise unless you want to fill her head with ideas.
Remember that in the real world there is no place for women artists and writers, especially married ones and/or mothers, and that you are doing her a great favour by saving her from the heartbreak.
Use words like ‘jannoo’.
Make sure you put her in her place by defining her place. Give examples of your mother, grandmother who kept diaries and the most immaculate of homes and whose recipes were unrivalled. Look down upon women who delegate to cooks and nannies. Wrinkle your nose with no attempt to hide your disgust at women who work and have no choice. Put on a martyred expression and use expressions like ‘Ghar toh aurat say hi banta hai’.
If you have daughters, say things like ‘Jab tum apnay ghar jao gi’ to make sure they feel like guests in their own house.
If the women in your house want to exercise, encourage by all means. After all a healthy household is a wealthy household. However, if they want to play sports and god-forbid compete, rush in to save them by reminding them that they are the weaker sex. Say things that take the spotlight away from women and reinforce their role as sidekicks, such as ‘women were created out of Adam’s rib’. Enlist the help of older women in your household who may find delight in re-enforcing patriarchy either because they have internalised it or because they see it as means of survival having no agency of their own. Get them to say things like, ‘sports can damage a woman’s fertility, take away her virginity, induce menstrual cramps…’
Excuse yourself when this exchange takes place, pretending to have no knowledge about the female anatomy.
Disperse any misplaced ideas of education being a right rather than a privilege. And if she insists on utilising her degree to step out of the bedroom and into the boardroom, even if it is in a female dominated environment, use the British tactic of divide and rule. Instill suspicion by excessively complementing her co-workers or launching unfair comparisons with other stay-at-home women in the family. If she disagrees with your comments, stress how bitchy women can be, thereby alienating her from her own kind. Don’t forget to humiliate her further by adding, ‘Aurat hi aurat ki sab say buri dushman hoti hain!’
If none of the above works, accuse her of being stubborn (never use the word determined). Label her neurotic, obstinate and worst ‘career-minded’. If she questions why the quality is much admired in men but gravely looked down upon when it comes to women, return the conversation to pre-destined gender roles.
Mention that you did not lay the norms, He did. Bring in God. Mention what happen to Sita when she did not listen to Ram and crossed the line.
Use the word: honour.