Something unprecedented is happening in India.
Single working women, even those older than 30, are now openly contemptuous of the poor quality of available men. Not long ago, unmarried women were supposed to be consumed by desperation and loneliness, especially as they aged.
Today, many are quietly and confidently walking out of long-term romantic relationships even with men who appear to tick most of the traditional right boxes – IIT degree, a great family, or even a US Green Card. These are simply not good enough anymore.
What he needs to bring to the table now is real feminism.
Till chores do us part
Indian men never really ranked high on the desirability scale. In 2007, novelist Mukul Kesavan wrote about what makes them unappealing in a piece titled The Ugly Indian Man:
Why are Indian men like this? How do they achieve the bullet-proof unselfconsciousness that allows them to be so abandonedly ugly? I think it comes from a sense of entitlement that’s hard-wired into every male child that grows up in an Indian household. That, and the not unimportant fact that, despite the way they look, they’re always paired off with good-looking women.
A decade later, most of it is still true. Even seemingly woke men, who pay lip-service to feminism on social media and dating apps, often turn entitled jerks in the long run. Helping a working partner with household chores is an alien concept for them. Indeed, Indian men are the worst at unpaid housework, spending a measly 19 minutes a day on it.
In 2017, one such specimen asked on Quora:
My wife-to-be earns 4.5 lakhs per annum and I draw 20 lakhs per annum. She expects me to help her. I told her “marry a guy who earns 4.5 lakhs per annum, he will do whatever you demand.” Why should a husband share household chores if his wife doesn’t earn even half of his salary?
Men who may think their inability to make rotis is cute are either oblivious or plain indifferent to the toll their cuteness is taking on their wives. One only needs to look at the rate at which Indian women are leaving the workforce for evidence. What makes this even more tragic and frustrating is that women are working hard on their education throughout their childhood and teenage years. In hyper-competitive India, they outnumber men in several courses, including medicine and science.
And for these women, marriage happens at a time when their careers are beginning to take off. Many 30-somethings, thus, now choose to stay single rather than cleaning up after the man-child husband or partner.
A friend recently broke up after her long-term partner said he expected her to move closer to his workplace, but 30 kilometres from hers. An acquaintance refused to marry a Silicon Valley-based after realising that her move to the US would involve the restrictive H-4 visa.
These professional women are discovering the joy of financial independence and no longer ready to “settle”. A single female friend was pithy in her contempt: I don’t need a man to drive, to travel, or to buy a house. For everything else, there’s Tinder.
The writer tweets at @dikshamadhok.
This article first appeared on Quartz.