Recently, I asked a few women in Nepali society what they love about being a woman. The majority of them answered that they love being a woman because of their enduring nature.
Women, in Nepali society and alike in particular, have, for a long, intrinsically tied their love for their families neglecting their own needs and themselves. But, it is time for us, young women, to break this cycle and question such beliefs that we have all been made to trust. It is time to be somehow selfish, to defend ourselves from patriarchal beliefs for ourselves and for our mothers who put themselves through so much futile, avoidable and needless trauma.
The realisation issue
Women in Nepali society have an enduring nature because they sacrifice everything and put the needs of the people they love before their own. This very generalised statement made me realise the depth of internalised patriarchy and the glorification of self-sacrifice culture as a woman in our society.
A research project conducted by Susan Harkness for Understanding Society shows that only 27.8 per cent of women become full-time workers or self-employed three years after childbirth, compared to 90 per cent of new fathers. Consecutively, 17 per cent of women leave employment completely in the five years following childbirth than that just four per cent of men.
This large statistical divergence in simple words is problematic, but it can be more problematic in the developing world like Nepali society where patriarchy is more deeply rooted.
A rather more problematic issue is when most women do not realise the extent of societal brainwashing that leads them to believe that this is what it means to be an ideal woman in Nepali society.
This is the cost every woman ought to pay to be able to raise her family… to be a good mother, a good wife and an ever-enduring human being. This exact narrative is what needs to change entirely.
Time for change
The orthodoxical gendered role of a father to just cater to the family’s financial needs ought to change. Then, the age-old undercurrent that demands a woman to stay at home and cater to traditional roles needs to change even more immediately.
The incessant comments on how attentive a mother is for not even being able to practise basic self-hygiene are not okay. The constant belittling and guilt trip to a young mother for putting her needs first before that of her child is not okay. These things are killing women within Nepali society and we all are responsible for their condition not letting them explore their full potential in life.
The concept of gender equality should never just be limited to getting equal rights or opportunities such as being paid equal wages or demonstrating equal participation in developmental roles. It should also mean taking up shared responsibilities in mutually consensual decisions such as raising a family.
Appreciating the values of mothers and homemakers is not as same as glorifying their “sacrifices”, as there is a huge distinction. The first is rightful and important whereas the latter is a component of the covert restrictions that Nepali society (and others for that matter) still places on women.
Motherhood is hard and a woman adjusting to a different culture after marriage is hard. So, no woman should be made to feel guilty for putting herself first. Marriage and motherhood are two conscious choices, not a compulsion. Therefore, a woman’s identity after having made such decisions should never be her child or family.
Men need to act
It is also time for all men in Nepali society to boycott the world’s opinion on what an ideal father must do and rather concentrate on and address the actual needs of their families.
It is a time when a husband should ask his wife to take a break, book a movie, a manicure, a pedicure, a spa, or whatever it is that helps her take some time off of everything for herself. Then, he should take up ownership and say that he will babysit the child today. He would want to make dinner and be a homemaker for once. He would want to be the destroyer of gendered roles and a change-maker, for his wife and his mother, for every woman in his life.
There is also a dire need that all mothers must address: to ensure a feminist upbringing for their children-particularly their daughters on how they should not let the world influence their personal needs and their sons on how a real man must not act.
This generalisation of trauma, self-neglect and self-betrayal is what we all men and women can and should jointly change in Nepali society.
Here is a snippet from Great Goddesses: Life Lessons from Myths and Monsters by Nikita Gill, “Trauma isn’t going to win today. Remember how Daphne turned into the laurel tree? This is what you must do too. Form your own roots, feed from the earth that still loves you. Remember how.”