The Yellow Canary

Posted: September 7, 2010 by Gurveen Bedi in Career, Women
Tags: , , , ,

It was a yellow canary. When she broke out of the egg, she came out all fluffy, yellow and grey. They taught her how to take flight with her tiny wings. They trained her to sing, in a soulful voice that became the fame of the jungle. They showed her to track seeds, and build her cup nest in the best of shrubs. Then one day as she was flying high in the sky, a netted cloth closed on to her, clipped her wings together. Next she awoke, she found herself in a golden cage, with an abundance of seeds, with people co-cooing her all around, urging her to sing.

She never sang again. And a few days later, was no more.

Similar to the life of the yellow canary, will be the life of several young women of our generation, whom for lack of better words, I will chose to call Alpha Females. These alpha females have been considered equal to boys since childhood. They have competed with the boys (and defeated them) right from school days – in exams, debates, tests – and then later on in higher levels of competition like college entrances, job interviews etc. This continuous competition and regular winning has ingrained an indomitable fighting spirit in their minds. They are employed by the best of firms, in the best of careers, and feel that their journey for success has just started.

And exactly at that point of time, comes along their netted cloth – marriage.

Suddenly the alpha females find themselves in completely unfamiliar terrain. All of a sudden, the expectations from them change. Their parents start expecting that they will now leave their career ambitions to have a fruitful and happy married life. Their husbands appreciate their success till date, but want them to become adjusting now. They do not want conflicts and believe that the important career in the household is their own, and hence the secondary career can be sacrificed a little. All this in the name of a happy married life.

In the process, the alpha females get hurtled around. The concept of taking their foot off the pedal or slowing down their success rate is too foreign to digest. They have two options, to stay alone or to slow down. Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation. If they stay alone, the loneliness will finally get to them. If they slow down, their lack of achievement, after the hard work they have put in throughout life, will always pinch them.

If this is what equanimity between men and women finally gets you, one wonders about the efficacy of the efforts, when the expectations are skewed in nature. It is like encouraging women to run the 500 metres sprint, and then asking them to slow down after the first 100 metres; and then justifying it by saying that at least they got the experience of running the first 100 metres.

The recent years have seen a multitude of efforts being put in, all across the world, to confer on women a way of living similar to that of men, to enable them to stand in the world as equals in all respects, to feel liberated and emancipated.

But this emancipation is inherently flawed. It provides you with a liberated lifestyle while you’re young, but once you have experienced the freedom and independence that the lifestyle gets you, the society comes back again to strike you with its burden of expectations of adjustment.

This flaw, unless solved, will leave several young women utterly confused and torn apart in the process of their growth.

  1. And would this yellow canary be something you thought of on the beach in Kovalam, per chance?

  2. Nilesh Gupta says:

    I agree with the blog and I do understand the tremendous changes that one needs to make for the sudden switch in life. My mind however starts to think abt a possible solution if there is any. I guess there are only two points in life where this can be rectified. Either at the start or at the stage of marriage. Since no marriage is not an option then the other solution that remains is that we should not push girls to be competitive even early on in their lives. Isnt that a greater sin?

  3. Anandh says:

    Wow. A not so subtle depiction of the plight of alpha females at IIM-A and elsewhere. You will(obviously) not face this issue but are sensitive to the plight of others. A real eyeopener atleast for me(specially the 500m race analogy)

  4. avinass says:

    hmm – interesting thoughts and comparisons …
    imagine this household:
    husband sanjay nayar (CEO, KKR india) and wife Falguni Nayar (MD, Kotak IBD) … wonder what they did ! 🙂

  5. Ankita says:

    A very nice topic.. personally very close to my heart!! And, I believe it is better than hindsight one..I loved the anecdote/metaphor in the opening lines.

  6. Teemish says:

    Stereotypes put men in cages too, you know. It’s so much more easier to find guys who are ‘losers’ than girls who are ‘losers’. Nothing against the post (which is thought provoking).

  7. Kammo says:

    It has made me contemplate that is it more by chance or by choice. Virtual glass ceilings exist even today…
    Well written 🙂

  8. My3 says:

    lovely post, thought provoking. very nice writing, especially the two analogies. good work, ms. bedi!

  9. Pradnya says:

    very well written 🙂
    I am sure.. all will agree with the viewpoint of the post

  10. A very well written post indeed ! I liked the way you drove home your points using analogies ( the Yellow Canary and the 500 m sprint).

    I think its a global issue ( about the differential expectations that the society have of women) and with more and more women coming into the workforce has only become visible only recently. I am a regular with Fred Wilson’s blog and there have been a lot of discussions about women groups empowering other women with support networks helping them strike the right balance.

    Again a very well written post.

  11. g2 says:

    May be the answer lies in modifying the definition of success. Success is only measured by our pay packets and whether we have a CXO title next to our names irrespective of gender! May be people run after this definition of success because it is easy to count and compare.

    Society expects a woman to slow down and raise a family after marriage but superfreakonomics explains that women too prefer that! The authors explain that women get more kick out of raising kids when they hit a certain age. So for the alpha females, society expects them to be moms a little earlier than they feel like being moms. May be once they become a mom, their definition of success changes too… I don’t know if anyone has done any research in this angle!

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