Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 where big brother is the nukkad ka panwala, the autowala or the office mard, the male classmate, father, uncle or in some cases one’s actual big brother. Welcome to patriarchy in modern India. No matter what the latest Buzzfeed quiz might say about your own toxicity, patriarchy exists, is present and overreaches every moment of every day.
Let’s face it, a man writing about patriarchy in India is very rich. Also irony abound. It has come to a point where women standing for their own rights and wanting a better life is seen as too much. Oh come on, don’t deny it. Most men couldn’t care less. It takes a certain level of empathy to see the pains of others to feel for them, to feel their pain, to feel their bridled freedom. As things stand right now, that empathy is hard to find. The few men that have found it in them to empathize, to see from the experiences of their mothers, daughters, friends and significant others well aren’t they lovely! Or if you like to verify your societal image from Twitter trolls, the empathizing men are either gay, homosexuals or “would like another man”. The meanings and afflictions of these, not really familiar to our learned Twitter trolls.
Patriarchy in India Today
Imagine a scene. Kids playing in the courtyard, the man of the house out on a lounge chair reading a newspaper and the woman cooking in the kitchen. The younger child- a daughter is helping out in the household by putting the washed clothes on the lines in the terrace.
When you were visualizing, did you imagine it as a scene from the 1920s? Let’s face it. You didn’t. Whether we want to see it or not, the stereotypical gender roles in Indian society? They have not changed one bit. That’s the root cause of patriarchy in Modern India. That’s how it exists. Every other liberal college-educated armchair/performative activist that uploads posts about human rights and equality are ensuring that patriarchy continues to survive at home.
After the constant bellyaching online, even the most outspoken activists go home to meals prepared by women in the household, women who have hardly ever been asked what they wish to do. That’s patriarchy.
Yes, patriarchy breeds its ugliness more in the rural context. There is a higher than average ratio to men “making sure” women remain submissive and continue to listen to them and act accordingly as their mothers before them. But it is the urban educated crowd that can be blamed for making a mockery of the issues faced by women by deciding on conscious choices of what women want and seek instead of letting women decide for themselves and make their own choices.
At the beginning of the article I mentioned incidents of catcalling, assault, judgment, and the overarching male gaze and superiority; all of that is a direct result of generational patriarchy. From a young age, kids are differentiated on the basis of their gender. Daughters end up taking the household chores because the sons refuse to or complain whenever they are asked to help out in the house.
Add to that, men think it is in their purview to tell a woman whether she can work or not, whether she can go meet or make male friends and at times even if they can vote for a certain Party or not.
Where is the Promised Land? Where is the future we wished to have?
As a man, reading about this it might seem to you that I am exaggerating. The truth is I am underplaying the reality. Women are tossed around, handled, beaten and treated more violently than men every day in this country. There is absolutely no difference in the rates of domestic abuse with regards to financial classes if that’s something you believe. Even in this day and age, women are seen as less than men. I am not even going to mention the irony of wanting to treat women as goddesses. The rampant recorded rapes every thirteen minutes makes that point moot.
Women are Second Class with no room for upgrades
Sounds harsh? Truth always does.
We know by now at this point in our evolutionary stage, no one is inherently better; no males are better than their female counterparts. Yet, we refuse to act that way. I don’t really need to tell you what the result of toxic patriarchy has led to the right? Toxic masculinity. Men stalking, grabbing, assaulting, raping women as if they are worthless. Men thinking so little of women that they treat them as possessions. I am not even talking about the Bollywood inspired stalkerish romance. I am talking about men within the family, sexualizing and degrading their female offspring to the point that the women break and give up any and all control of their lives.
No, I am not referring to men wanting to lay with the women within their families, no matter what their internet searches may imply. Men sexualize their daughters and sisters by telling them what to wear, what not to wear, what is better for the male gaze, what is not. Why are you involved in that? Have you ever thought about the reasons behind why you feel that need to protect the women in your household? Psychologically speaking, it comes from a place where you inherently believe men are primaries. Omega beings who should be able to have whatever they wish. Like you.
That’s why as a man, you may behave that way. Not saying you do, just that you might.
Can we change this?
I would like to believe we can. I don’t really see a clear plan of action. After all, we are the country that created the furor that we did, after Nirbhaya, calling for accountability and action. But let’s not forget we are also the country that regularly likes to indulge in sexual activities with goats and dogs.
The issue behind these has always been patriarchy. A singular driving force of men feeling they are owed the world. It goes to a place where men in power have internalized this ideology so much that it is ingrained within women who no longer even feel marginalized. Accepting whatever they get as what they deserve.
Be honest, you all know that mother who refuses to listen when complaints are made about the horrible behavior of her son towards women. We all know at least one woman who when encountered with the question of her husband’s fidelity, chooses to blame herself and her ineptitude in pleasing him that his overextended libido.
My elder brother is a senior resident at a government hospital. He is encountered with pelvic bruising and tears on such a regular basis that he no longer wishes to talk to his patients. Lest they confide in him how the husband wanted sex, they were not interested but that did not matter anyway.
Do we want to change?
I do. For the sake of my own sanity if not for anything else. Everyone else? I don’t know. You? Sanity and good sense willing, hopefully, yeah!
It’s not rocket science. There are no clearly defined parameters for the right thing. We all know what the right thing is but we have to be willing to do it. So what do we do? As people, not let ideologies that create toxicity run our lives. As men, not run by the same standards as our forefathers and hold ourselves accountable, to do better.
And as women? Don’t take it anymore. Don’t bow down anymore.