MAYA ROSE FERNANDES
‘If you get a PhD, who will marry you?’ is something nobody ever said to a Goan man.
Perhaps you haven’t (yet) encountered this, but it’s shocking to me how many times I have, in ‘polite’ Goan society. I should clarify this by saying that this was said in front of me, by a mother to her daughter, more than once.
No one who knew me even a little bit would ever dare say this to my face. I’m someone who highly values education and abhors wasted potential, especially in women.
It’s also shocking to me how many mothers say this to their daughters so freely without any sense of shame about their patriarchal tethering. It seems Goan society is modern enough if daughters have a degree of any kind.
A Master’s degree lowers her chances a little, but that could also go either way by making her more appealing in the marriage market if her Master’s degree gives her a greater chance of being employable.
But, a PhD…? Heaven forbid! The marriage pool of potential spouses dries up.
Women seem to get very comfortable speaking in front of me, and over the years, I’ve become privy to a number of conversations that people wouldn’t usually share with strangers.
I think it’s my ability to come across as non-judgmental and to provide instant emotional safety to others.
But, hearing stuff like this really gets my blood boiling. Why, you ask?
1. The answer isn’t for women to become less, but for men to uplift themselves. Men need to step up and offer more to women who are financially, intellectually and emotionally stronger and better than they are, and their parents need to raise them to do this.
Do the work, for God’s sake, and stop asking women to be or do less!
2. Mothers need to stop being patriarchal by feeding societal expectations and actually give their daughters a chance to become more powerful.
They need to teach their sons to support and uplift women in any way possible, instead of putting them down and devaluing their contributions to the world.
Anything less that this is adding to the disempowerment of women.
3. Whatever gender you are, if you support things being said like the opening statement of this column, and stay silent, then you are just compounding the problem, not lessening it.
What kind of progress are we purporting to be making in Goa, in that case?
It never ceases to amaze me how much, even in this day and age, we devalue women, expect too much from them and venerate double standards between the genders.
We expect them to hold down a job, take care of the family and all household chores, on top of everything else.
Women are exhausted and if they say they need help, they get called lazy, or worse.
If there are elderly people, they need taking care of too and the luck of the lottery is that women are expected to bear the brunt of that. Enough!
Women aren’t naturally better at these things. This is a myth purported and reinforced by society for its own convenience. Assigned roles aren’t helping anyone these days.
Men can be just as good, if not better, at care-giving. Why don’t we raise them to be the service-providers instead? Note, I didn’t say ‘bread-winners’, I said ‘service-providers’.
Let them raise the children, do the laundry, do the cooking and household chores, look after the elderly and cater to their spouse’s whims.
Let’s make that the normal, so that women are free to do their PhDs without anyone telling them it would make them less appealing to society in general.
Whether you’re a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, any relative of the extended family, a friend or a peer of any kind, stop the disenfranchisement of women in Goa, not only but especially around education, because it makes you feel more insecure of your own place in society.