The Politics of British Indian Woman and Equality

It was called the Olympics of the Woman. For the first time in their history, the Olympics had a female representative from each participating country. But that is not the only reason for the name. Women’s boxing was included for the first time too. Indeed a British Indian woman, Shami Chakrabarti, carried the Olympic flag in the opening ceremony.

So it was with some surprise that in 2012 just before the start of the Olympics I received an email from a dear British Indian female high-flying friend that she has been advised to tone down her successes otherwise it will be difficult to find a husband.

This is but one example of several I could give you. Our sisters and daughters go to Universities, start businesses, become Partners of law firms and Directors of banks – but so many live in fear that success will make it difficult to find a husband. In 2012! In Britain.

‘How will he cope with my earning more? With the hours I will keep? With my success and qualifications being better than his?’ These are not silly girls asking these questions. These are accomplished women of substance who have grafted and endured hardships and sacrifices to achieve what they have, only now to consider giving up the gold medal so a man they do not know, have not met, will not feel intimidated.

I almost want to say thank you girls, for making it so much easier for us second rate men, to win gold. You’re handing us the promotions, the pay rises, the successes without us trying. The glass ceiling is increasingly self-imposed.

But this is Britain. A woman is Queen and happily married. A woman was Prime Minister and happily married with children. If your husband wants a cleaner and cook, tell him to work and get one – or at least share the chores. Of course that doesn’t mean he does half a chapatti and you do half the DIY. The kitchen may be your domain (or his) and the garage and the heavy-lifting his (or yours!). But why should you quit being a corporate lawyer to be re-employed a cleaner? Funny how men never worry about ‘having it all’.

What about children then? Simple. If you, or your husband want to be with the children, so do it. If you either want to be with your work, then child-minders and extended families are needed. If that doesn’t work, then don’t have kids. Still want them, and the job, and the family life – clone yourself – you’re clearly living in sci-fi world anyway – or at least work out rotas. (Not rotis, rotas – they’re a timetable).

But the easiest way to solve all these problems, is not to pre-emptively stop yourself before you’re even married – but instead provide full disclosure. Tell them if you’re training for the Olympics and the support you will need and expect. Don’t let them devalue what you hold invaluable. If the other person walks, then they were wrong person clearly and you would have been trapped in an unfulfilling marriage and if they don’t walk, then they have to stick to their promises. Usually the biggest problem in any marriage is people who don’t provide full disclosure and break promises.

If Britain is to continue in the kind of success it just got used to in the Olympics it will need more high-flyers able to lift each other up, not sabotage their chances of success before they even enter the race. If British Indian women are not to be left behind, they’ll have to be sure of themselves as the athletes were in the Olympics. Defeat is for the doubters.

Agony Uncle Alpesh Patel

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