Crisis of Kashmir’s family life

Most women are unhappy; men are under stress, so who is to blame?

Dateline SRINAGAR

ARJIMAND HUSSAIN TALIB

Kashmir’s ‘modern’ society is in deep crisis, and yet very rarely we admit that. As much as we are a society of reflection and self correction we are hypocritical too. It is not bad to talk of social reform but looking inwards is a must. We need open discussions and reflection. We need corrections. All solutions do not lie outside our homes.
Domestic and marital lives have never been perfect. Some biological and psychological asymmetries in roles and characters of family life make imperfections intrinsic. So it will be useless to look for a family utopia that doesn’t quite exist.
But we would need to honestly acknowledge that it could be better provided there are some corrections. Somewhere the perceptions about gender roles and happiness have been confused.  
The KCSDS-organised conclave at Amar Singh College in Srinagar last week is said to have ignited an interesting debate on Kashmir’s family and gender issues. A lot of issues are said to have been raised, but let me confine to men and women in marital relationships.
It is true that some men in Kashmir’s ‘modern’ life make a mess of their women’s lives because of their egos, selfishness and a misunderstood worldview. That, in some cases, leaves women vulnerable to emotional and financial insecurities. And women end up bearing tremendous burden of earning a livelihood, caring for and bringing up children, taking care of home and much more. But that women generally mess up their lives trying to do impossible things is a reality too. Somewhere, there is a profound confusion of roles, and what happiness actually demands.
On a flight from Dubai to Adis Ababa late last year, I read a very interesting cover story in the Newsweek by Debora Spar (American women have it wrong, October 1) that changed my own  perceptions to a great extent. Spar is president of Barnard College in the United States. A political scientist by training, she is the author of books like Ruling the Waves: Cycles of Invention, Chaos, and Wealth from the Compass to the Internet and The Baby Business: How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception. Spar has also been the Spangler Family Professor at Harvard Business School.
What Spar – herself having been a staunch feminist - says is liberating in itself, so I would quote her extensively here. When I read this article to my wife she agreed to every word of it, and said it helped her understanding to a great extent. May be, it helps others too.
Spar believes that “many of the problems that plague women now are not due to either government policy or overt discrimination.”
“They cannot be resolved solely by money and they are not caused only by men…they come partly from the media, partly from society, partly from biology, and partly from our own vastly unrealistic expectations. To address them, we must go beyond either policy solutions or anger with the patriarchy. We must instead forge partnerships with those around us, and begin to dismantle the myth of solitary perfection.”
To begin with, we need to acknowledge that biology matters—not that it determines everything, but that it’s one of those areas of life that probably shouldn’t be ignored, Spar pleads.
That American women need to re-think their priorities and basic gender roles is argued by Spar throughout the article. And here she goes, “The only way that American women will ever fully solve the “women’s problem” is by recognizing the quest for perfection for what it is: a myth. No woman can have it all, and by using all as the standard of success, we are only condemning ourselves and our daughters to failure.”
Let me be clear: if women want to have both families and jobs; if they want, even, to have fast-paced jobs without children or fast-paced children without jobs, something has to give, Spar believes.
And then her commentary on the state of feminism in today’s world: In its earliest incarnation, feminism was about communal action and goals; about giving women the power to shape not only their reproductive lives, but also their destinies and that of the world around them. Over the decades, though, this collective goal has been lost, replaced by the individual struggles that now compel most women. Rather than fighting for better public schools, for instance, we are focusing on our own kids’ SAT scores. Rather than supporting other women, we tend to attack instead, arguing endlessly over who is raising better children and getting less sleep.
And then Spar’s final words, something that changed some of my own perceptions about feminism and gender: Feminism wasn’t supposed to make us miserable. It was supposed to make us free; to give women the power to shape their fortunes and work for a more just world. Today, women have choices that their grandmothers could not have imagined. The challenge lies in recognizing that having choices carries the responsibility to make them wisely, striving not for perfection or the ephemeral all, but for lives and loves that matter.
The columnist is a technical consultant in international development, and a contributing editor with Greater Kashmir

Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 19 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 20 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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