Accepted Paper:

Changing 'Home': The Educated Bengali Women's breaking of the Stereotypes  


Rajasri Basu (Rabindra Bharati University)

Paper short abstract:

With the increasing participation of educated, Bengali middle class women in the ‘public’ sphere, the domestic space of women gets refashioned. This paper will focus on the changing space of women in the domestic sphere, which by way of redefining itself leaves almost nothing of the society unchanged.

Paper long abstract:

In India, during the '60s and the '70s of the last century only a handful of the educated Bengali middle class women of West Bengal could be found in the workforce. At that time going out for work was considered to be the inability of the husband to 'take care' of her. The '80s and the '90s saw a gradually increasing stream of them joining different sectors, who however left the domestic field almost unaltered in their bid to become 'super women'. A change could, however, be noticed from the turn of the present century, when these women are not only getting engaged in different jobs in great numbers but are aspiring higher positions that demand more time and energy from them. This requires a refashioning of the roles of women in the domestic front-- from wearing the more 'comfortable' jeans to hiring maids for looking after the child; from dining out frequently to buying gadgets; from buying flats near parental house to learning to drive. This woman not only redefines her role and space in the family but in the process redefines the space of other members of the family and also paves the way for significantly newer spaces in the society like chains of home-delivery system, aya-centres, crèches etc. Thus the 'visibility' of women in the work place leads to the development of new spaces for them in the domestic sphere and ironically, what is 'home' for them becomes 'workplace' for others, who again are mostly women. This is how new spaces are constantly being created.

Panel G01
The gendering of public space in the globalized world (IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Women)