Why Do Women Have To Be ‘Perfect’ All The Time?

Posted on October 9, 2016 in Sexism And Patriarchy

By Poonam Yadav:

“She’s a perfect girl.”

“She’s a perfect daughter.”

“Lucky guy, you have got a perfect wife.”

“You have a perfect mother.”

The concept of ‘perfect’ is complex for me to understand.  I mean it represents something ideal and flawless, which is not only hard to achieve but is also impossible to attain and puts lot of pressure. And in this particular article, I would like to explore the notion of perfectionism in relation to women and its consequences.

Since the day a girl is born, she is expected to behave in a certain manner. She’s brought up in a particular way, there are certain expectations and she’s expected to live up to those expectations. Not just that, they are expected to exceed those expectations.

Perhaps, there’s nothing wrong in that. Every parent expects the best out of their kids. Be it their education, their career, be it anything, they are expected to excel. More parents invest equally in their daughter’s’s education and career (most of them, at least in metropolitan cities) and expect them to climb the success ladder just like their sons. But wait where girls are concerned there are conditions applied.

Many are also expected to help their mothers in the kitchen – the guys can be exempted from this. They should know at least how to make tea and parathas. Otherwise, no one will marry her. Also, they should be able to complete their studies and be able to get a job by the age of 25 because that’s the ‘deadline’ and after that they have to be ‘married off’.

Their parents are always there to support them, but then they also have to answer to their relatives, neighbors, etc. There is the society to look after, as we don’t live in isolation. But this unconditional support that we boast of comes with few conditions (at least for girls). This operates at all levels, though in a subtle manner.

There’s nothing wrong in expecting that your child should be able to do everything but, but then it should be expected regardless of the gender. It’s all about self-sufficiency: if our girls can be ‘perfect’ in almost everything, be it making parathas to running offices like a pro, let our sons be like that too. Why are we stopping them from achieving that ‘perfection’? Why are boys left to watch matches and hangout with their friends, and girls are expected to clean the house and wash the dishes?

As soon as one gets married, there is a heap of expectations. Her parents have already set the stage by showering praises and promising the new family that they have got the ‘perfect daughter-in-law’. The new family has got an educated, working daughter-in-law, who’s a perfect cook, cleaner, decorator, planner and what not. She’s a working woman, capable of supporting herself financially and is an able home maker.

But many don’t question the role of the husband. Both are equally educated, are earning well, but only one is expected to run both the office and home and the other one is just engrossed in his work and there’s no one to question him. It’s up to him whether he wants to help or not. It’s optional, can she also do the same?

Many of us talk about gender equality, but the differential treatment that is meted out to girls at home is the breeding ground for a lot of inequality which is prevalent, and for most people it’s not even inequality. I mean, they don’t give it a thought. It’s no big deal for them.

All these things seem very ‘normal’ and we all are very used to it. But why are we not perturbed by all of this? We really need to give it a thought. All this is actually a part of socialisation practices prevalent in India which has resulted in creating gender stereotypes.

I have seen male members in my families helping women in the kitchen and other household activities. I admire my husband for helping me in cleaning the house, washing clothes, grocery shopping etc. I think it’s high time that we get rid of all the rigid stereotypes and stop raising our children in a ‘gendered’ environment where there’s discrimination between a girl and a boy. If a girl can pack her school bag, a boy can also do the same, the mother need not do that for him. Let him be an independent individual.

Parents have to sow these seeds from the beginning, so as to nurture the concept of gender equality from its very roots and we can steer away from the stereotypes which have been plaguing us from centuries.