Desperately Seeking

Oprah Winfrey caused a stir in India this week as she visited Mumbai, Agra and finally Jaipur for the literature festival.  As I checked to see what one of the USA’s most influential women has been up to since The Last Show I was intrigued by this enquiry on her website:

Are you a middle class woman in Mumbai?
 Are you a typical middle class  woman living in Mumbai who can you talk to us about what it is like to be a woman in India today?  Do you have an opinion about how women and men are treated differently in India?   Can you talk to us about what it is like to date and marry as a woman in modern day India?  Does different social status mean different expectations or is there a defined role for women no matter what?  What freedoms and rights do you have – and  are things getting better or worse? Can a woman earn more than her husband? Are marriages still arranged?  Are women considered equal to men and do you feel equal? What kind of work can a woman do outside the home? Is she still expected to take care of everything in the home?
If you are an Indian woman living in Mumbai with an opinion on any of the above, please email us and tell us your story and why you think you are a good representation of an Indian woman.  Please only respond if you are willing to be on television.

Is it just me or are these questions really patronising?  India is hardly Iran for goodness sake and you could ask all the same questions to a middle class American or British woman and the answers are probably going to be the same.

Just because Britain and the USA have more legal rights for women we do not have true cultural or behavioural equality.  However, do we have enough equality to earn us the right to feel sorry for middle class Indian women?

Asian women are perceived to be much more subservient than their western friends but in truth we have the same struggles because just like many women the world over in order to keep the peace at home they will just take care of all the housework and they are just as likely to earn less than their husbands as they are just as likely to be the primary carer for children.  In both our cultures we are raised to be attracted to the Alpha Male who will provide for us and we are taught to feel odd if the father wants to be a stay-at-home dad and that somehow he is a lesser man.  Mixed ethnicity/religion marriages are still not very common the world over, however, I know of several Hindu/Muslim marriages in Delhi and I know of none in London.

For a country that is making a woman’s right to have an abortion an election issue and that hails free contraception as progress, I think Oprah should tackle the growing inequality of women at home as she has the  influence to raise these issues on her channel.  It may be 2012 but the clock is going back for First World American women.


4 Comments to “Desperately Seeking”

  1. I can’t believ how many US States are trying to ban abortion, even in the case of rape, are women to resume flights to South America for a backstreet abortion?

  2. Sounds like you should answer the Oprah query and set the record straight !

  3. Based on communication of PhD type ‘experts’ from India who offer such explanations/replies to questions as articulated in the questions, I understand where these ‘patronising’ questions are coming from.

  4. Ya, the questions are patronising. They are designed to make smug white middle-class women feel sorry for us. The same white middle-class women who will earn the same as their husbands and then come home to cook and clean. At least we have servants.

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