“Useless woman, you can’t do anything properly! I mean what work do you have to do the whole day anyway?”
She stood there frozen, just like she always did, enduring calmly while not uttering a single word. Her face was glum, lips curled into a frown – but there was no sign of anger, just sorrow that she was trying so hard to conceal. A few moments later she pretended to smile— smile as if everything was normal. These remarks had become such a regular part of my aunt’s routine that they didn’t seem harsh or hurtful to her anymore—or maybe she was used to it.
Even though by now, I had lost count of the number of times I had seen my aunt being treated this way by her in-laws, such remarks always broiled me on the inside. Every year my mother, sisters, and I would visit my aunt during our holidays; however, despite the cordial reception we received, I always disliked going.
I loved meeting my aunt, but being amongst her backward in-laws never enticing.
My aunt always had a miserable marital life.
Although being childless was already a sorrow, the real torture was enduring her in-laws. Even before her son’s marriage, my aunt’s mother-in-law had painted a very rosy picture of her future daughter-in-law in her mind, and from the very first day, she began trying to fit my aunt into that image. She determined the kind of dresses she would wear, decided whether she would do a job or not and even criticized her for the way she spoke. Her likes, dislikes, feelings, and emotions were never given any importance.
She was simply looked upon as an object brought into the house to appease others.
Every day she would clean the house until it was spick and span, sweep the floors until they would shine like mirrors, wipe the dishes until her hands would become raw and dry, and stand in the scorching heat of the kitchen to cook scrumptious food for her family while droplets of sweat would trickle down her cheeks.
Yet she never received any appreciation from them.
Rather, at the end of the day all, she would get to hear is, “Oh just look at yourself in the mirror! What have you been doing the whole day that you’re not dressed? Your husband is about to come, and he wants to see a well-dressed wife when he gets home.”
This one statement by her mother-in-law shatters her soul and make all her efforts seem trivial and useless. Despite working hard from morning till night, all she would receive in return was criticism on her looks, her mannerisms, and her getup. Sometimes it seemed unrealistic to me how they could keep such expectations from someone.
I mean, how is it even possible to work all day in the intense summer heat of our country and be dressed up like a princess at the same time?
However, what perplexed me, even more, was the compliance my aunt showed towards their attitudes. I once asked her why she never retaliated or took any step against the kind of treatment she was receiving, but her answer left me even more perturbed.
She said, “Married women must endure much more. This is nothing compared to what most women have to bear.”
Like a serpent, these words have milled about my life since then. Are we women not humans? Do we not have feelings and the right to live freely?
Why should we always be the ones to endure such atrocities? These thoughts have been frazzling my mind for days now, but the only answer I can come up with is that yes, we are humans, and no we don’t need to endure this nonsense.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where married women are treated like hired help.
We believe that a woman must mold herself according to the wishes of her in-laws.
While there is no harm in making small compromises after marriage when these demands exceed a certain limit the compliance we expect women to show is criminal. Married women don’t deserve to be treated like some hired help who can work without tiring and look good at the same time.
However, girls from a young age are prepared for such changes in their lives, which is why when they face such circumstances they are unable to stand up for themselves.
They are taught to please their in-laws no matter what happens.
Thus, women are raised to believe that such extreme expectations are justified, but in reality, they are not.
Every woman is a human who needs love, appreciation, and support and this change can only come into existence if we change our mindset regarding this issue.