alternative careers

Not just a 'hobby': Why don't we take women's creative careers seriously?

. 6 min read . Written by Muskan Miglani
Not just a 'hobby': Why don't we take women's creative careers seriously?

As a creative professional, you often have your doubts about your job – “Will I make enough doing this job?” is the most important one. So, when I had a dilemma about being a writer, I asked myself the same question:

“What if I don’t make enough as a writer?”

I am not averse to experimenting. Whether it’s mixing mango pickle in Maggi, naming my dog Billo, or studying literature after three years of entrance training for medicine, I am unafraid when it comes to making bold switches. So, when it came to thinking about making a switch to a more conventional career to make better money (thank the Gods I didn’t), I had a simple plan. All I had to do was look up a new job.

When you’re in a middle-class family, news gets around quickly. And so, it did. Everyone knew that I was thinking of making a career switch. During the many interesting conversations I had in this time, one that particularly caught my attention was one between my mother and my aunt.

My mom told my aunt about the switch. The latter enquired upon the reason, and my mom said I wanted better money. Her response was simple:

“Why abandon her passion? Uski kisi rich businessman se shadi kara denge. Let her continue her little hobby.”

Patience is a virtue; one that my mother possesses, and thankfully I don’t. So, I’m here ranting. And I have questions to ask. Many, many questions.

Why is my creative job being called a hobby? Why is it okay for me to not pursue a job with better money because I can ‘bag’ a rich husband?

Why is it so normal to ask women to abandon their promising careers if their partners make good money?

Does this also mean that a man with a creative job will have to find a rich businesswoman wife? Or does he not have the liberty to have a full-time creative career at all?

On a side note, what’s with all the shade us creatives get?

Working women and their so-called jobs

As women, we are incessantly challenged. It’s no surprise that when a working woman gets married, she is expected to take a sabbatical from her job, or a break from work to settle into her new family. I hear prospective grooms saying, “She can work if she wants. I earn enough though.”

What is it with men assuming the breadwinning role in the family?

Every time a woman starts earning, she is reminded that what she earns will have little or no contribution in the household. While some families may discount this income with more orthodox opinions like how they don’t want to run the house on the daughter’s/ daughter-in-law’s income, others might put a modern spin and tell the woman that she can enjoy her hard-earned money for herself.

The challenges that women face in the world are many, and if you’re a working woman, you have to toil a little more. Just working isn’t enough; you must also ace your household duties. So, while your work is constantly undermined (you’re a woman so that’s part of the description), the standards are unnaturally high.

After facing discrimination at the hands of sexist HR managers wary of hiring married women (everyone knows maternity leave is such a liability), you must also endure the pressure of your job for a lower pay (pay gap, hello?).

If that doesn’t suffice, you must be a better housewife than Parvati ever was (Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki fans, where you at?).

Not getting the drift on how this a rant about creative careers? I’m getting there!

Creative careers, a.k.a hobbies for women

Every time my musician friend is asked what she does for a living, she gets the same response: “But what job do you have?” Her parents constantly pressure her to find a real career; this one isn’t real money, they say. So I figure that maybe creative careers would be taken more seriously if the artists were paid better. When I checked in with my 1-lakh-per-month earning-YouTuber friend, she narrated the same tale: her aunts ask her what she actually wants to do in life.

So, money isn’t the problem. What is? After spending days asking around in my circle and checking in with my friends in creative jobs, I had my answer:

A creative career is hardly considered a full-time job. And when a woman is pursuing one, it ceases to be a job. It becomes a hobby.

Instead, if a man takes up a creative job, he is lauded for it. We as a society swoon over men who decide to follow their passion, dig into their creative side. In doing so, they challenge the conventional norms that dictate that the man of the house must have a “proper job”. In a bid to support him, his wife would probably take up a well-paying job to sustain the house. The narrative then becomes about the man who was courageous enough to follow his heart.

What about the women who want to do the same? When a woman makes a case for her job, she is questioned about her duties towards the house.

When a woman with a creative job does the same, she is questioned why she needs to protest at all – not that she is trying to keep a real job.

Hers is a hobby, one that can be honed without the menial pay as well. One that can be kept without any pressure to earn or get clients, she has her husband for that.

When a woman with a creative job gets married, she finds herself in double jeopardy. She must not only take a break from her job, but must also treat her job like a hobby.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NHFS 5), only 32% of married women between the ages 15 and 49 are employed.

A whopping 98% of men in the same age group are employed in part-time or full-time jobs. When looked at closely, this survey doesn’t only indicate the dearth of working married women, it also indicates that around 15% of these women are not paid for their work in cash or kind.

There are no set statistics for freelancers, part-time jobs, or creative jobs. But, we can all predict the outcome. As women with creative jobs get married, their professional commitments become questionable. Since a lot of creative professionals can navigate their work from home, it hardly qualifies as work to the family.

As an unmarried woman, I might sound like I’m coming in at this very hot and heavy. So I asked my social media manager friend who got married last year. I recall her telling me that she will take a break from work, but would resume in no more than three months. It’s been a year and she hasn’t taken up a job yet. Why?

“I was doing social media for fun anyway. He (her husband) is earning enough, and then someone needs to take care of the house.”

A woman who earned almost as much as her husband with a sales job decides that her career is a hobby. Why? She got married.

If the problem is still unclear, here are a few things to consider: Creative professionals who work as freelancers or take up part-time engagements aren’t considered working members by their families. Women are expected to take up household duties, and thanks to the pressure, the job succumbs. If she does manage to retain a balance through sleepless nights and untimely creative bouts, she might be questioned on her effort if the pay is slim. If there is enough pay, she is still looked at as the caregiver, the homemaker, the housewife. Her income hardly adds to the house; she is the Laxmi only by virtue of bringing luck, not money.

If all arguments fail and she contests wanting to keep her job because she loves it, she gets the ultimate solution – keep the hobby, quit the job.

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