Almost every wife firmly believes that her man has a big ‘ego’ as it is popularly called. In psychology ego is a personality construct and hence everyone has it but in layman’s language it perhaps means a false sense of pride and arrogance. It has never been defined by a layperson but we all know what it implies! So should we say that ‘Fragile- handle with care’ is a sign every man should wear on his sleeve and if not worn, young women must learn to read the invisible sign nevertheless. If young brides are to lead a happy married life they should learn to handle the male ego well! The development of the male ‘ego’ takes place early on during the process of socialization by the parents especially the mother, who ironically is a woman. He is taught that he is a male and he has to take responsibility of the family, he has to be the bread earner, he is going to take over from his father, he is supposed to be responsible for all the religious rituals of the family, he is going to be the next heir to the throne and that he is responsible for the overall welfare of the family which includes his mother, father, sister and other young ones.
He is actually trained to be the beast of burden and to have such an image of himself deeply embedded in his mind. This image is not skin deep but gets into the unconscious psyche and gets supported by the large collective conscious and unconscious beliefs. So he actually believes that he is the guardian of the family, he is the uncrowned king of his empire and he is the provider as well as the protector. Hence it follows logically that his wife whatsoever she may be is subordinate to him and must ‘obey’ him and ‘listen’ to his advice. She must respect him and must treat him as her superior. At the same time men in modern times want educated working women who bring in extra income but the control should be his entirely. This is a major contradiction and here lies the catch! With education and economic independence women’s self image has undergone tremendous changes some rightly and some wrongly. With an awareness of her capabilities and talent to work and earn her self esteem has risen to a level where she thinks herself equal to him or at least no less than him. She refuses to believe that he is superior to her and that she is inferior. Both have egos and the clashes become almost inevitable.
We realize that women are changing fast and furiously but the men aren’t. They still hold on to archaic values and beliefs and find it difficult to shed off the role of the protector and guardian. However competent his wife may be he still wants to be in control. There is a lurking fear of being overtaken by his spouse in terms of intelligence and competency. So he retaliates if she behaves otherwise. Women should learn to understand this aspect of men in a proper manner. Women should learn not to hurt this core point in the men’s psyche. It could be traumatic for a man if his ego is tampered or trampled. Women want friendship and equality as men want guardianship and friendship. This is a contradiction of some sort. I am sure women do not intend hurting male egos but resort to aggressive tactics when cornered and abused. What women want is a little bit of respect and recognition and that is all she should ask for in fact.
In a male dominated society with men ruling in all spheres of life women still have a long way to go for gender equality to come true. That is a tall order and would need a major reorganizing of social and psychological structures. We are not prepared for it at all. Neither men and nor women.
Published in The Hitavada – WOMENS WORLD FOR 20 October 2010