Of Duties, Dreams and Women’s Sacrifices: An Unwanted Ode

Women are often encouraged to focus on their careers only till the time it doesn’t come in the way of their ‘duties’ towards the family. That’s why when Deepika Padukone, while sharing a still from her upcoming film, wrote that the film is an ode to every woman who put her husband’s dream before her own, I wasn’t surprised.

I wasn’t surprised for I have grown up hearing stories of so many women who left their magnificent careers in their respective fields to support their husbands who are supremely successful today. I have heard about how their wise decision ultimately ‘paid off’ and gave birth to a man who took on the world. One such story is that of Anjali Tendulkar, who gave up her career in medicine to support the ambitions of her cricketer husband.

The ‘selflessness’ of these women has been glorified, and their love celebrated to the extent that young girls – like me – have been brought up to look up to them.

However, the glorification neither begins nor ends here. A sister is praised for leaving the last bite of her favourite snack for her brother. A wife is appreciated if she cancels her work meeting to attend to her husband’s guests. Mothers are put on a pedestal for literally everything they do; from waking up before everyone to eating dinner after feeding the whole family, they are glorified for all of it. There are poems written about the ‘sacrifices’ that women makes and how these sacrifices run the world.

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I am not in any way trying to question a woman’s agency here. If a woman wants to stay at home for her child or to support her husband or family, it’s her decision and one should be respectful of it. However, my problem lies with the glorification of these choices to an extent where the society makes it a norm, where you are teaching young girls to grow up and give up their dreams for their loved ones because that is what is acceptable, that is how one can become a ‘good’ woman and that is the way to show love.

This entire narrative where women are celebrated for their ability to sacrifice gives birth to incessant guilt in every woman who decides to not conform. I would rather follow my passion and prioritise my work than be the subject of art and admiration.

Even today, ambition is a bad word for women because a woman’s dedication is applauded only when it is directed towards the family. Women then want to keep up to this expectation, which makes them feel sick to an extent that taking out time for even for self-care becomes a cause for guilt. The idea of being a ‘supermom’ or a ‘superwoman’ is internalised so much so that one hesitates to even seek help.

Apart from being toxic and misogynistic, this entire rhetoric of selflessness is also manipulative.

Being able to pursue what one loves is basic and is a need for all humans irrespective of the gender. These ‘odes’ to women who put their husband’s dream before their own, apart from putting an unreal expectation, also place an unnecessary barometer on how much one loves their spouse or kids for, then, love becomes directly proportional to the number of sacrifices one make for them. We, as a society, need to stop teaching young girls to emulate all these ‘great’ women who put others dreams before their own.

As a woman, I don’t want to be selfless and wise at the cost of my own being. I would rather be foolish and selfish and as flawed as a human can be.

Prakriti Singh is pursuing her masters in Media and Cultural Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Featured image credit: Deepika Padukone/Instagram