Why being a good daughter-in-law is so much related to women’s clothes, make-up, and jewelry! And, why no one cares about her education, values, and achievement!
Last week, during a heated argument with my mother-in-law, she said:
“Look at your clothes. Even neighbors talk at our backs about the kind of clothes you wear and go to office. They say what kind of woman we have got our son married to! It’s just me who let you wear all these kinds of clothes. But, these are not the signs of any good daughter-in-law. Have some respect for your father-in-law at least? After all, we have to live in this society!”
To which, I abruptly said:
“Mummy, how me wearing a skirt or jeans defines if I am a good daughter-in-law or not! What my skirt or dress has to do anything with the respect of Papaji! And, now do I have to seek approval on my clothes from you and our neighbors!”
I was so mad at everything that I just spent the whole day inside my room. After shedding a few tears, I kept wondering how even in the 21st century our women are still fighting for their freedom.
Freedom to say things that they want to;
Freedom to do things that that they want to;
Freedom to live their life on their own terms…
And, the freedom to wear the kind of clothes they want to!
I struggle to understand how the clothes of a woman aren’t her personal choice rather than a matter of public discussion.
Everyone – no matter who they are – feels it’s their birthright to have an opinion on women’s clothes. But sadly it is women themselves, who are the harshest critics of other women. My parents always told me that the strength of my character not lies in my clothes but lie in my actions, words, and values.
They raised me to be strong and independent. I was free to wear whatever pleased me. But, things took an ugly turn after marriage, when my character and how good I was as a ‘bahu’ started being judged by my clothes by the very same people, who promised to treat me like their own daughter!
Sadly, my in-laws were blind to my love & care towards them and their son. The only thing that they cared about was how I was dressed!
My in-laws had some perception of a “bahu” and they wanted me to dress up accordingly. But, shockingly it wasn’t just my in-laws. It was the whole neighborhood that had the same perception about how a good daughter-in-law looks.
Some would whisper in their ears, or some would shamelessly tell me:
How a daughter-in-law shouldn’t wear jeans! How a daughter-in-law should wear Indian suits or sarees! How a daughter-in-law should always wear a bindi or mangalsutra! How a daughter-in-law can’t go out without a stole or a dupatta!
Don’t get me wrong, I love Indian dresses as much as westerns. But, I don’t want people to dictate what I can wear and can’t wear. I was okay to ignore what people had to say. At the end of the day, we all live in a judgmental society that has no other work but to pass comments on people who are tend to live life as per their own terms.
But, what I wasn’t fine to ignore was when my own mother-in-law left not even a single chance to pass a taunt or comment.
Just when I will be stepping out of the house, she would make a hurtful comment on how I would be perceived as characterless because I am wearing a western dress. One day, she shamelessly tells me how I would be perceived as whore just because I was wearing red lipstick.
Before marriage, I had no issues staying with my in-laws. I thought it is important for kids to stay with their parents as they age. But sadly, this kind of treatment has made me understand why there are so many daughters-in-law, who would like to stay away from their in-laws. They are not selfish, it is just the ill-treatment and controlling nature of in-laws that push them to make this decision.
What makes me even sadder is the fact that many daughters-in-law meet this kind of harsh treatment and criticism from another woman.
While I am not yet giving up on my right to live life as per my own terms, I hope someday my mother-in-law would realize how not my clothes but my education, achievement, and values define my character! Till then, my fight against regressive thinking is on! And, I am going to wear what I feel like. Even if that means another taunt or another insult! I am not going to give power to others to control me and my choices! Never ever!