Adversity and Women

Adversity and Women

They say adversity makes us who we are. Isn’t that so true?

So what is adversity?

Adversity, a problematic, unpleasant situation that may arise in anybody’s life at any time. It isn’t something that is gender, place or time-specific. Nobody can have any control over its timing.  It is something that most of us have faced at one point or the other and will continue to face. That’s life. The point is not that there is adversity; the issue is how we deal with it once it occurs. While different people may react to an adverse situation differently, and the same person may respond to it differently at different times, there is an observation that I have made.

I have often seen and experienced that women somehow can handle adversity much better than men. It is my opinion based on what I have seen and observed, and not everyone may agree with my viewpoint.

I have noticed that, as compared to men, women respond to adversity more constructively and positively.  While there are ample instances of men handling adverse situations admirably,  women I feel can do it most of the time.

Yes, the adversity will affect them, may take them on the path to self-pity, remorse, anger, disappointment or any of those emotions, but eventually, they will be able to push everything aside and face up to the challenge. They will find ways and means of dealing with it.

For instance, a woman losing a spouse. When something like this happens, I don’t believe that a woman’s grief, sorrow is lesser than that of a man in a similar situation. In fact, women have it worse because most of the times, they have to deal with financial difficulties as well, especially if the man did not have a will or he chose not to make her the prime beneficiary and if she doesn’t have an income of her own her problems multiply. More so if she has children too!

Faced with this, what do you think a woman will do? Will she break up not knowing what to do with herself or wallow in self-pity, blaming the world, the dear departed spouse and her fate. Or will she rise to the occasion and think of how to face up and deal with the situation, society notwithstanding. We know of so many instances where women have picked up jobs after losing the husband and shouldered every possible responsibility. Even a woman who loses a spouse late in life with no responsibility of children or anything like that will still put the pieces of her life together and start living again.

On the other hand, what do you think a man in a similar situation will do? After losing a spouse, even with half the issues women face, I have seen that most men cannot handle themselves. They will get cranky, sad, lonely, depressed and essentially not know what to do with themselves. They won’t open up, they won’t share and will keep wallowing in self-pity. Yes, many of them will eventually come around, but somewhere, they take longer to get there and sometimes they are not able to, and many times they won’t even try. Why? Is it because they have had it so easy most of their lives that they crumble down the moment there is mental stress? Is it because patriarchy has shielded them from most stressful situations most of the times?  My guess is as good as yours.

On the other hand, women have to deal with different kinds of stress most of the time. They can never take things for granted, are never made to feel entitled about anything and have to fight for most of what they want in life. Struggle,  strife is common for them. So, therefore, when things are taken away from them, either by another human being or by destiny, they already know how to deal with the situation. Life has all along taught them how to handle things, handle themselves. They can figure things out and find their way out of the woods.  Life, patriarchy makes fighters of them, so they learn to survive in the trickiest and most demanding situations.

Similarly, when men retire from work, they end up being quite a pain for everyone around them. They have the time, the resources to do anything that they wish to, things that they could not when they were actively working, but how many end up doing that. I have seen that most of them faced with such a situation find themselves at a loose end, clueless, rudderless. Not having a routine kills them, and so they get irritable, cranky and angry.

As against this, a woman in a similar situation will adapt and adjust to the change, get involved with the family, pick up a hobby and generally catch up with life.

Another instance that comes to mind is what we are currently experiencing: working from home. While both men and women have had to do it, it’s been more challenging for women in terms of the sheer diversity of tasks and responsibilities. And once again, my dear women have exhibited tons of tenacity and endurance.  Lockdown has not been easy for anyone, but it has been tougher for women, but they have coped with it. It would be grossly unfair to say that men didn’t have to adjust and adapt, but somewhere I feel that women have had to bear the brunt of a large part of it. With everyone at home all the time, it has been extremely challenging for most women. They are into looking after the house, cooking, cleaning, managing kids, their school work. And if she has a job, it is doubly difficult. Even though she has a job, the household responsibilities are still primarily her responsibility.  She has to learn to manage family and work. There is absolutely no respite, no consideration for the fact that she too has a boss to report to. Whereas the men have got the freedom, the physical and mental space to work from home, most women are not so lucky. And yet, they have survived and continue to do so.

And what is hard to believe is that many of them have taken on more work with so much already on their plates. They have turned into bakers, cooks, designers, small-time entrepreneurs as if managing the home and the hearth was not enough. How and Why? This brings me back to my belief that women have this knack of converting every challenge into an opportunity and making the most of it.

The country, the world is in a shutdown mode, there is nowhere to go, social life is non-existent, and so there is time. Women have decided to put this time to use, and voila!! They have turned their hobbies into ways to earn and become self-reliant.

Even regularly, a woman has so much more on her plate than a man. Can a man ever imagine handling kids, their homework, classes, maids, in-laws, the man himself, friends, family and a job all at once?

So why is it this way? I don’t think it is due to a lack of willingness on the part of men [at least in some cases]. I am sure that many of them would love to chip in wherever they can, but they can’t.

One of the reasons for this, I think, is that they are wired differently. Men, I believe, have this box kind of a thought process that does not let them do several things simultaneously. So if they are in the work mode or box, they will stay there till it is time to call it a day. If they are reading at a particular time, that is all they can do at that time.

So, therefore, since they are never challenged in terms of having to do multiple things at one time, they can never do it, and if ever they have to, they cant. It is an impossible task.

More so, in societies where patriarchy rules the roost, they can get away by doing as little as possible. In that sense, they never have to manage a lot of stuff. There is always the mother, the sister and then the wife to do it. [Hopefully, it is changing!]

So since they are never required to handle multiple things, they don’t become resilient enough. When life challenges them, like taking a spouse away, they are all at sea and in a mess.

Therefore, if we want this to change, we want them to acquire that resilience we, the mothers of young boys, need not mollycoddle them but expose them to all kinds of stuff. Teach them to do things around the house, let them not feel entitled or special and give them responsibilities. We may not be able to change the box-like thinking pattern, but we can at least teach them a bit of juggling, a bit of doing all kinds of things and not just what they want.

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