“Will you continue working after marriage, m’am?”
It’s not an uncommon question to be asked to women. We live in a country, where it’s commonplace to expect a woman to give up her career, and other ambitions, once she is married. Because, according to patriarchal norms, a woman’s sole focus post-marriage, should be her family and her home. So, in case she is a career woman before she ties the knot, it is almost customary to ask her if she intends to continue her career, mostly with the unspoken implication that the expected answer is a coy “No.”
One such arena, where we see this question being asked to women, irrespective of whether they are going to get married or not, is the entertainment industry. Female actors are routinely asked when they plan to get married, and if they are planning on it, whether they will continue acting and performing. And while this question has become routine, we must stop and ask — why? Because the no male actors are asked these questions — it’s simply assumed that they will carry on with their work; they’re men after all, they will have to work and provide for their family.
In case you’re thinking, “Hey, it’s 2018. I’m sure these things don’t happen anymore, especially given the current climate of awareness.” Well, you’re wrong, unfortunately. Exhibit A: Alia Bhatt, who is all of 26, was asked by one of her fans if she would continue acting when she got married. Alia, of course, replied with a polite yet firm, “There’s no need to give up anything except your status. I shall act and act as long as I can.”
This is nothing new. Female actors have always had their professional futures speculated when the question of marriage or children comes in. Very recently, Sonam Kapoor and Anushka Sharma, who both got married in the past six months, were asked similar questions. In fact, one leading daily even got four male ‘experts’ to speculate what Anushka’s future career would look like once she was married. Because, clearly, this is necessary journalism. Interestingly enough, Virat Kohli and Anand Ahuja weren’t asked any of these questions. As Jaya Bachchan gave up her career after tying the knot, it was assumed that her daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai would be asked to do the same. Whereas, Abhishek Bachchan was only asked about his work and family. Kareena Kapoor, Vidya Balan, Bipasha Basu — you name the actor, they’ve been expected to fit into sexist stereotypes, while their partners have been spared.
When will we start treating our actors as actors? Why does their gender come into play, at every turn? Even in 2018, Indians are stuck in a regressive pattern of sexist behaviour. Working women should not be an anomaly anymore. Millions of Indian women work and have families — just like millions of Indian men. Let alone the fact that marriage and work are not mutually exclusive in any realm (except our patriarchy-fuelled one, apparently). So why are we still asking our women if they want to work after marriage, or after kids, or how they balance work and home, while leaving ‘exciting’ questions on work for the men? Sit up straight people, and smell the freshly brewed cup of responsibility and awareness — the era of feminism is here.