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Pay the Bills, Do the Chores AND Be Ambitious? Why We Need to Break the 'Superwoman Standard'

Vishakha Mukherjee | India

I think my grandma’s Indian soap operas really express how women are expected to handle their personal and professional lives. The chirpy, quirky heroine with admirable goals spends the majority of the series reconciling and pleasing her overbearing in-laws. She’s expected to be the ideal wife and lady of the house while pursuing her dreams. Said dreams are treated as an after-thought, barely stressed on and sometimes mentioned from time to time, without the heroine facing any professional adversities. Honestly, sometimes I’m inclined to cringe at how women are expected to be a superwoman: an exceptional wife, mother, cleaner, cook and breadwinner when for most this isn’t the case.

I’ve encountered plenty of women who are great wives, cleaners, cooks, mothers and breadwinners in real life. However, not all women have the capability to bear all these titles at once. It’s possible for a woman to be a hard-working engineer and not desire to cook and clean. For many societies to this day, a woman like this is called ‘lazy’ but is occasionally excused of that insult if she’s extremely successful in her craft.

Women are made to feel less confident about their femininity because they aren’t a great cook, cleaner or are not cut out for married or family life.

On the other hand, women who choose to live mostly for their family and household duties are perceived by other women to be wasting their potential or conforming to gender norms. However, not every woman desires a formal occupation, but rather finds fulfilment in her domestic duties and family.

Of course, there could be a balance of this, but it should be accepted that not all women can do everything and be everything. Take for instance a kid that enjoys dancing, but doesn’t have the aspiration, capacity or motivation to sing. Why would you force that child to sing then? If they don’t have the motivation nor knack, forcing the child to sing would do them more harm than good. We hear of mothers who never truly desired a baby and become terrible, neglectful and/or downright abusive authority figures for their children later in life. Some women forgo their occupational achievements and professional success and are married off. Not only that, but there are women out there who dreamt of living a peaceful life as a housewife, but end up working a gruelling nine-to-five job they never wanted in the first place.

Unfortunately, society doesn’t truly doesn’t understand this. In many countries, women are expected to partake in domestic duties, work and appeasing the family. Not doing so equates to being ‘less’ of a woman or simply incapable. Living up to these societal standards cause women to undergo intense stress and a lack of self-esteem, especially if one does not conform to these expectations.

The best way to remind others that women are people, and not perfect superwomen, is to be kinder to ourselves.

It’s not just the men who are to be blamed for upholding these societal expectations, but women as well. There’s an age-old superiority system of being ‘more’ or ‘less’ of a woman, that preys on women who are unable to conform to these Olympian standards. For instance, my friends’ moms in elementary school would chuckle at the women who were terrible cooks or were extreme businesswomen during tea time. We should all understand and accept that women have their own boundaries and priorities which don’t align with everyone. Not everyone can be a superwoman, but can be a super you.

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