To put it in simple terms, in the modern world woman is overworked and exhausted. While women empowerment has brought her out of the kitchen to pursue a career and financial independence, it doesn’t address her ‘obligated’ return to it post office-hours. An exhaustive day at the office transitions to a pile of dishes at home. Running the household occupies much of her attention, leaving her with little to no time for self-care.
The dominant narrative surrounding the modern woman is that of a ‘superwoman’, a multitasking Goddess wielding incredible power that magically gives her the strength to motor throughout the day, always at the beck and call of family members. How many times have Mother’s day and Women’s day cards featured the image of a Shakti like woman with multiple hands, each holding a tool for the plethora of duties she is supposed to discharge? (Special mention to the numerous shows glorifying ‘super moms’). Such commemorative occasions are only bold instances of reiterating and reminding what is expected of a woman, in the guise of valorising her contribution. She internalises this idea from a very young age and with this the fruition of an elaborate conspiracy commences. Whenever she finds herself too exhausted to fold clothes, prepare dinner or even wash the dishes, guilt sets in- guilt that she is falling short of her true potential and capability. She becomes her harshest critic. While external oppression through hostile and benevolent sexism conditions her, interferes in her basic rights and her choices in life, the internal conflict has her encumbering herself. It is a profound example of institutionalised manipulation where a woman ‘freely’ chooses to take up round the clock, often unappreciated, care-giving. Exploitation finds its ground in this sense of obligated guilt. That is why even during the pandemic, women’s lives have become all the more arduous where family members, taking advantage of the WFH model, impinge on her office hours to meet their demands. In addition to being overworked at home, the battle with gender pay gap, non-inclusivity, and harassment among many other impediments plague her professional life. The pandemic, especially, has had a disproportionate impact on women with the female job loss rates being astoundingly higher than male job loss rates.
Heart-wrenching as it is, this is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Exploitation takes place on multiple levels namely physical, sexual, economical and mental. Since the topic focuses on exploitation of women in the modern society, I have touched upon oppressive methods that are recent innovations. To exploit women is to take advantage of them at the expense of their well-being. Most of its methods are traditional and have been carried through time, even to the ‘modern’ present, in the name of culture.
It is important to remember that the methods and degree of sexist oppression meted out to women are not universal but are influenced by classist, casteist, racist and ableist discrimination. While a woman of an economically stronger class might employ a domestic help to delegate work, the latter still remains subject to exploitation. Intersectionality and inclusivity is the way forward.