In India we have this patriarchal system in our culture where after marriage a woman needs to now move into or belong to the Husband’s family. She is a “Paraya Dhan” which means that she is somebody else’s asset from the beginning. Let’s look at it from different angles.
Probably around 70 years ago :
Young girls were married off at the very young age of 10 or 12 years old , sometimes after the girl attains puberty and sometimes even before the girl attains puberty. So at a very young age her perspective is set, she now knows that she has married somebody and belongs to that family and settles down as a part of that family at a very young age when she is probably not even a teenager. Of course the patriarchy exists , of course the husband is god exists and of course the in-laws are everything exists and the mom-inlaw remains in charge exists. But the good point to be noted is that the daughter-in-law is exposed to them at a very young age and it definitely makes it easier for her to adjust to the new ways of life. Everybody comfortable ultimately.
Now moving on to my mom’s generation ( around 60s and 70s ) :
Woman were married off at probably 20 or 22/23 years. They spend their entire childhood with their actual family and now all of a sudden, they are asked to leave the actual family and settle down with the husband’s family. Such a big change. Even here, the patriarchy exists , of course the husband is god exists and of course the in-laws are everything exists and the mom-in-law still remains in charge. But the point to note is that girls are probably mentally conditioned to be less than the boys and are always raised keeping in mind the fact that they will get married one day and will have to listen to their husbands. And the point to also be noted is that woman used to struggle with the change of suddenly belonging to the in-laws family and ultimately submit to the in-laws and the husband’s needs whether happily or by force. Women silently struggled in this generation and some of them only found freedom after the death of their in-laws or husband. In-laws happy, Husband happy but the daughter-in-law probably not. But everything looks okay, ultimately.
Now let’s move on to my generation, probably the late 80 and 90’s.
The first change is that girls and boys, both are sent to study and they are treated equally in childhood ( well in most cases. I am not denying the fact that gender discrimination exists even in this generation from the parents ). The girls believe that they are no less than the boys and they study equally along side the boys and somehow realize that there is actually no difference between them and boys are not greater than them. Girls study, sometimes go abroad for higher education and get a job and sometimes support their parents. The sense of independence is so much and the parents are proud of them. And then starts the whole drama of looking for a bridegroom. Even here the patriarchy exists, of course the husband is superior exists ( at least in the social sense if not the attitude from the poor husband ) and now all of a sudden in-laws are everything after marriage exists. Sometimes the actual parents want you to believe that you no longer belong to them and now bear the name of your husband’s family. And in the husband’s family , the mom-in-law still wants to remain in charge. But the poor daughter-in-law, who in her entire life up until then believed that boys are equal to girls gets it hard on the face that ultimately it is she who has to leave her family. And now it is ultimately she who has to adjust to the in-law’s family and it is ultimately she who has to silently adjust.
Who do you think in the above three scenarios suffers the most? I am not undermining any woman’s situation or suffering but the girls who are made to believe that they are no less than the boys all their child life are the people who suffer the most. Because the expectations that are set are different and what they see later in life are different. And also because now you have your own voice, you cannot silently suffer like the generation of my mom. Now-a-days girls are independent, they have jobs, they are not dependent for anything on either the parents or the husband. But still, when it comes to marriage and In-laws, the societal normal remain the same? Even in our so called nuclear families it is very much there. The only difference is that the poor husband would want to help in many cases because he too would have had the same education and he too would have grown up with the same girls in his childhood thinking that they are no different. But then later on, these boys who grow up to become responsible men are silenced by the family’s reputation and the societal norms.
You live your life with your parents and siblings up until 25 or even 30 and then suddenly marriage changes everything. I am a daughter-in-law and a sister-in-law and so I am speaking from both the sides, how on the earth are we suppose to belong to a new family now and become their own all of a sudden? You now bear the family name of your husband, you bear children who have their family name and your parents always take a back step because now you are married and they don’t own you any more. And you are left struggling to fit in………………………..sometimes your entire life !!