Now, I’m 11 years old. This is the first time my mom let me have a sleepover at a friend’s house. At her house, I see her mother almost constantly in the smoldering hot kitchen, sweating from every pore in her body, cooking meals for the family. While her father and uncles relaxed in a large air conditioned room. Lounging on plush sofas with their whiskey in hand.
I am confused by what we see, the air is filled with a sense of indifference. Something I had never experienced in my home. At dinner, unknowingly as a curious child, I asked her mother why she didn’t let the house help cook while she relaxed with the men of the family.
Her response only increased my confusion. “My husband and his brothers work all day long to bring money into the house so in return we work hard in the kitchen and at home to make sure they have a clean home to come back to and tasty food to eat so that they can rest before they have to go out again the next day to work”.
My friend and I enjoyed the rest of our sleepover. When I was about to leave, aunty asked me if I wanted to have lunch before my dad came to pick me up. I politely declined stating that I couldn’t since my father was making biryani for lunch. She looked at me in absolute disbelief and asked me, why is your father cooking? Is your mother unwell? I simply said no…Dad likes to cook, and he cooks very yummy food.
When dad came, I quietly went home thinking nothing much about this incident.
Now, I am 16 years old and I have a friend over and we’re watching a movie together. My father comes home and gets himself a glass of cold water and a snack. He then sits with us and watches a chick flick. My friend begins to look uncomfortable, and I ask her if she’s okay. She says she wants to go home. I pause the movie, hand dad the remote and walk her home.
On our way to her house, she bombards me with questions,“Why does your dad have long hair like a girl?” “Why didn’t your mom serve him cold water and snacks when he came home?” “Does your mother not love him?” “Why was he watching a girlie movie with us?”
These questions confused me, I ask her how does it matter? They do whatever they want, whatever makes them happy.
Now I’m 22, I’m in New York, at my grandmother’s home for the Christmas. A conversation about my cooking skills begins, and I hear her say “Challo kam se kam isski shaadi to aaram se ho jayegi, khana accha bana leti hai ” (At least she’ll get married easily, because she cooks well). I was stunned to hear this. I had never heard such conversations in my home before and my parents never put an expectation of marriage me. Even on this day, my dad defended me, “My daughter will live her life on her own terms. She will not marry someone to become his cook.” I joined in and questioned my grandma, “What if I don’t want to cook?” “What if I don’t want to marry?”
These short stories are just some of the examples of internalized patriarchy that I can remember at this moment. But the truth is, we experience some or the other form of internalized patriarchy on a daily basis, be it covering our bra straps or learning to cook just to be able to feed our families.
What is internalized patriarchy?
Humans learn behavior from our surroundings, and the truth is that patriarchy and sexism surround us on a daily basis. Internalized Patriarchy is essentially learned sexist and patriarchal behavior. Sometimes, we may not even realize that our behavior is sexist or patriarchal but it is.
The only way to make sure that we aren’t being inadvertently sexist or patriarchal is to constantly question our actions. Make sure that we’re treating the opposite gender the way we want to be treated or the way we are being treated.
We need to make sure that running the hose doesn’t become only our mother’s responsibility.
We need to ensure that we allow our sisters the same choices that our brothers are allowed to make.
We need to teach our sons how to cook and clean so that they can be fully functional human beings that don’t need to be babied by their wives in the future.
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