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In Praise of Emancipated Males

Do you remember the film Abhimaan? Essentially it was the story of a man’s ego and his inability to deal with his wife’s success. So Amitabh Bachchan is a super successful pop singer and when his wife Jaya, an accomplished singer in her own right, starts becoming more successful and popular, there is a breakup in the cosy marital nest. Much crying, singing, recriminations and apologies later, being a Hindi film, they reconcile. 

A point to be noted is that when the wife is offered solo songs, she initially refuses to sing alone, perhaps presciently realizing that as the better singer she will one day outshine her husband. Apparently that is a key psychological reason why women hesitate in taking that final step to the top of the ladder. They believe that if they are more successful or earn more, their husband’s fragile male ego will not be able to deal with this, and their success will come at the cost of marital harmony, a compromise most women are unwilling to make.

But is it true? Does it really bother men if their wives earn more? Or if she is more successful professionally than he is? Or has a more high profile job?

The sad truth is that it is society which has forced the male to believe that he has to be the primary bread earner of the family under any cost. And just as women have suffered the burden of typecasting, one of the worst stereotypes that males have had to live up to is to be the CWE (Chief wage Earner) of their families!

Many women have a choice whether they want to work or take care of the family. Most guys don’t have that luxury. They have been conditioned over centuries to believe that they have to provide for their families, come hail or high water or recession or slowdown. A dead end job, a bad boss, a horrible commute, nothing can be an excuse for walking out – the poor male has to remember that he has his family to take care off.

And woe betide any of the more evolved men, where the wives are the CWE’s while they become the primary care givers at home. They will be looked askance upon and face biases worse than those faced by women. Why has he come for the PTA meeting? Doesn’t he have an office to go to? Where is the wife? Are they separated? Has he lost his job? And so on and so forth.

If we continue like this and if we don’t fully endorse the effort all the consultant husbands and stay-at-home dads are making; as women, we will be reinforcing age old stereotypes only to our detriment. So on this Woman’s Day let us applaud all the wonderful husbands who have helped give full rein to their wives ambitions, often by taking the back seat themselves.

Cheers to all of you! May your tribe increase!