Can’t a single working woman live in a city different from the one she belongs to?

I called a colleague in India for some work and this being the first time we spoke; he first expressed shock over the fact that I work in “China” and then asked me if I got married to shift here!! This is not the first time such a conversation took place and almost every time people assume that I moved outside my own city (Bombay) as I must have got married. Indian men are most likely assume that if a woman is not living in the city where her parents live or the city she is originally from; it must be because she is married and her husband is working in the new city.

The other day I called a junior of mine from b-school who like me is from Bombay and now lives and works in Bangalore and she was talking about these “narrow minded” men as well who assume that she must have got married and hence shifted to Bangalore. The sad part is when men from your business school; who may/may not have done as well as you academically and are doing a job similar to yours ASSUME that they can move cities for “better career prospects” but women would move only for husband’s better career prospects.

Talking about being “narrow minded”, one cant forget to mention some of the NRIs. Most Indian social gatherings (here in Shanghai) end up having the women together in one corner and all the men huddled up in another. During the couple of such gatherings I attended by mistake (once bitten, twice shy – now I just keep myself away); this is the kind of individual conversation I had with a handful of women:

Fellow desi nari: Haan ji, toh kahaa kaam karte hai aapke husband?

Me: Sorry; I am not married – yet.

Fellow desi nari: (in a surprised tone) Toh tum yehaa pe kya karti ho?

Me: (!!! thinking WTF) I work here; excuse me! (and move on with a smile to have a repeat of the same conversation with another desi nari.

So rampant is this assumption that now I actually feel like punching the next person who assumes that I shifted to Shanghai because I must have got married! GIVE ME A BREAK! I know how to live my life and don’t need a guy for that!

Thankfully there are some exceptions to the above rule (whom I count among friends and rightly so) wherein these people don’t assume stuff about others. I also know Indian men who have moved geographies to be where their wife is working. Unfortunately these constitute only a very small minority of Indian men! I have a theory that for a lot of Indian women; their own dreams, aspirations take a backseat when they get married (more so if the marriage is on insistence of parents, or for image in samaj etc) and these dreams are reborn as dreams for their children when the children are born – but more on this theory later.

In their new book; Superfreakonomics; Levitt and Dubner look at rates of women dropping out of work compared to men from a prestigious university and not surprisingly women drop out more and for more family related reasons then men do. This is true; no doubt. But does this make it the rule? Don’t ambitious women exist? And is it nice to assume that every woman who moves to a new city is doing so because of her husband/ family? I aspire to live and work in different cities around the world and I know many other women who do too. Problem is that men STILL expect women who are as smart; as qualified as them to not follow their dreams but go after their husband’s dreams instead – too bad it doesn’t cut ice with a lot of us!

p.s. I am not saying that only men should follow women; but they should not expect women to be the only ones to follow at all times! It’s a two way street, darling.

5 Responses to Can’t a single working woman live in a city different from the one she belongs to?

  1. Innocent_Guy says:

    “(I know we are smarter…)” is a dumb statement for someone who claims to be smart. Considering that all through your post you kept saying that just because a majority of women do something doesn’t mean everyone else does, that was a really generalized (and dumb) statement that crept into your o/w nice post.
    It’s nice that there are women who follow their dreams as well and not fall into being a stereotype. But then it’s up to those women to put an end to that stereotype. Many women don’t realize that they can follow their dreams too if they wanted. They need to be made aware of alternative life paths. And it’s not always the men that can do that. If women like you can talk to these other women, they will get the confidence to do something they’ve always wanted to. They’ll have someone to look up to and emulate. What do you think?

  2. Kapil Dalal says:

    A single working woman can definitely live in a city different from the one she belongs to. And full respect to her for doing that. But I didn’t really understand what the issue is? That people are assuming that you can’t be single and working in a different city? Don’t you think the most probable thing gets assumed? How many Indian women would be in Shanghai and how many of them would be single? I guess it would be a low percentage. A low percentage for the gathering you went to, anyways. It’d have been a bad thing if other people were making judgments on your character based on your status. But they just seemed to curious (apart from expressing surprise through their tone). Well, it’d have been nice had they kept the possibility in mind that you MAY be single, unlike most of them. But we would have to add a lot of possibilities then- like you may not know Hindi, etc. etc. Social conversations usually don’t work that ways.

    It may have made more sense for you to stay on, and educate them about the work you do. A good chance that they would have been interested, and wiser the next time round. You can of course choose to stick to “broad-minded” people and classify those making more popular assumptions as “narrow-minded”. But what’s the point?

  3. RGC says:

    yup. Have faced the same discrimination. But rarely attend social gatherings where such questions and pity looks are bound to creep up. And no point in arguing. I think the fact that there are many women who will not move for their husband’s careers is good cheer for us.
    There is a new prejudice to deal with. Men who move for their wife’s careers are considered to be earning less than the wife!
    Lets see how that prejudice can be broken.

  4. Sandy says:

    “Don’t ambitious women exist?” – Yes they do,and to be frank they better not get married.
    “Problem is that men STILL expect women who are as smart; as qualified as them to not follow their dreams but go after their husband’s dreams instead”
    – What’s wrong in that ? The women who help in their husband’s dreams are always good wives and make a good family. No need to look down upon them.

    Don’t try to force something into the society which can do mroe harm than good.Accept things as they are.

  5. Meera says:

    Hi, good to read this article, i am aspiring to be an single woman, i dont wish to marry just becoz of the reasons u clearly have stated, i am afraid that i will have to leave my dreams at the backseat and chase my husbands dreams instead. I want to achieve great heights and dont want to be disturbed. as I always see that men who are ambitious are appreciated while women are accused for not taking care of the family for professional reasons, in mens case its sincerity while in womans case it wud be considered as irresponsibility towards the family. what the hell, while women out of India are far better in position as single women where as in India its like a punishment. they just pity u as if u have some kind of incurable disease. what if we dont get married? i feel it is a blessing to be free, to think freely and to live ur life to the fullest.

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