I was just going through a journal related to my academic subject on the Internet when I stumbled on one of those pop up ads titled why men should never be with damaged goods!! I think to myself what are those? Like I shouldn’t be with my broken refrigerator either? Shall I just give it up because it is “damaged goods?” I realize “Divorced Women are Damaged Goods” as I dwell more to decide upon my future actions with my refrigerator. Wow. Thanks to pop ads to render me an idea to write this blog post.
So, how damaged are the damaged goods that are the result of a divorce? Answer: Damaged. In many cases the goods is not her organs, it is the mind. After all, divorce, in our minds, is the definition of romantic letdown. Divorce is never the easy way out of a relationship. It marks the death of a relationship that is a significant part of a person’s life, sometimes the biggest part of their identity. Divorced women in Films are also portrayed damaged, helpless, destitute and abandoned.
We may argue night and day about how a woman should be seen as an individual and not as a relationship, but the fact is that most women, especially in India are still associated with their fathers and then their husbands. And most are still told that they are ‘paraaya dhan’ and that their real house is that of their husband’s, that her only goal in life should be to land a good husband and strive to make him happy. Let’s not kid ourselves by saying that this only happens in the backward areas. It is still a reality in urban homes. In some way or another, women are instructed on how to keep their husbands happy. Most of these instructions involve keeping her happiness aside.
We’re also told that “family values” is why India had such low divorce rates earlier. And now, since women are speaking up against domestic violence and refusing to tolerate any bullshit from their husbands of in-laws, “family values” are dying, and divorce rates are increasing. Because of this attitude, many families shy away from supporting women who choose to walk out of a marriage.
This experience of divorce, told, seems like a summary of most Indian women’s experiences, when they choose divorce over staying in a bad marriage.
“I am a highly educated and independent woman but the day I chose to walk out of an abusive marriage of 9 years, all hell broke loose. I was threatened, disowned by my parents and sisters too. I was a disgrace to the family and its reputation. It didn’t matter that I had a small child in my arms. I was kicked out of my parents’ house in the hope that I will go back to my husband. After a struggle of 6 months, my parents did allow me to visit them but every time someone crossed my path and inquired about my well-being, my parents responded to them that I was just visiting them and that I still lived in the US with my ex. When this is the reception from your own well educated family, imagine the treatment of society. I am sorry to say but I am ashamed to have been born in this country of mine.”
Male friend says “I’d been married before” often caused a romantic evening to tip in my favor.”
A friend got divorced recently and while his encounters with several women were making him a “stud” again, his ex-wife’s trips with friends and family came under the scanner by everyone who was her “friend.” No one thought that maybe she’s going on a trip to cool off after such a monumental event in her life, or even that it was none of their business how she chose to lead her life. Everyone in her pictures was scanned, especially her male friends. Was she dating already? Wow, the slut.
Another person says that in her family, two cousins went through a divorce around the same time. One of them was a man whose wife left him, and the other was a woman who was stuck in an abusive marriage but tried very hard to get out of it. When the male cousin got divorced, she says, it became a joke in the family. His ex-wife gave up custody of their son and instantly became the villain in the family. When he got married for the second time, soon after his divorce, it was celebrated like any other wedding in the family home.Things changed when the female cousin decided to get married again. Everyone had concerns about who the boy was, something that was never questioned when the male cousin was getting married. His judgment was enough to choose another partner for himself, but hers was not. She was asked what the rush was, another question that the male cousin escaped. When she announced her pregnancy soon after her low-key, blink-and-you-miss-it wedding, eyebrows were raised. Did she get married because she was pregnant? Was she having an affair with this guy while she was still married to the first one? Till date, she says, this has remained fodder for family gossip. No matter how progressive, people still consider her bad luck at some level. It is very hurtful.”
No one recognized the female cousin’s bravery for getting out of an abusive marriage, all alone in an alien country. Talk in the family ranged from “compromise” to commenting on how stubborn she used to be as a child and how it might be affecting her marriage. But the male cousin’s childhood attributes were never questioned when he got divorced.
In most marriages in India, women are expected to give up their careers either at the time of marriage, soon after, or when a baby comes along. Their primary job, as they’re told from the beginning, is to keep their husbands happy, even if that means that she has to alter everything about her life. Even if they’re allowed to work, their career progression, and consequent pay hikes, are affected when they can’t stay as late as the rest of their colleagues, or have to refuse assignments, because their in-laws don’t want the “lakshmi of the house” to be out at night.
Divorce is not evil, and the people who go through it are not trying to break down your sacred “family values” and destroy the world. They’re only trying to break free from bad marriages and get their lives back. It’s a fact in India that men don’t have as hard a time as women do, after a divorce. A divorced man will get married again, but he will still prefer to marry a single and “virgin” woman. Because divorced women are damaged goods, but the men are just free.
Psychologists say that divorce is like death, but as a culture, we treat it like just one of those things, commonplace, ordinary, trite, humdrum. The stigma doesn’t even end with older relatives whom you would expect to have archaic views. Women are often targeted, behind their backs, when their divorce becomes public knowledge.