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This letter is long due. I know it is two months past your birthday and it is terribly late now. But here I am. It is not that I was overloaded with work or other worldly affairs. It was just that I was covered with a pile of laziness. But here I am, sitting at MGF Mall, Gurgoan and writing to you.
As I am writing to you, the sun is setting and the night is spreading over; all my thoughts are taking me to a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine. We were talking of our grandmothers who were married off at the age of nine and ten respectively. Her grandmother was playing when her to be father-in-law came to see her, who took her on his lap and asked, “Will you come to our house?” She vehemently protested saying that she would go to school. Within some time she was married. Education came to a full stop. My grandmother was ten. She was extremely pretty and intelligent.
Granddaddy was twenty five, a rare man in those days to have done his masters in English. Her father-in-law chose her. She was beaten up by her father when she protested. In a month she was married. Now she is 82, she still writes children’s stories, plays and songs yet she still laments her lack of education. I am sure these are not rare stories, they are in plenty. But today if I can sit on this cozy restaurant, pay for the steamed momos and write to you on my laptop I know one thing, there are generations of women who have protested getting married at ten so that I can be here today. No matter how far we need to go, let us respect where we are today. If you are in France doing your PHD today there are many who must have shaken the realms of patriarchy. Respect it.
Last weekend me and my friend Deepa were driving home in her Scorpio. Personally I feel a sense of power when woman drive huge cars. Most of my friends drive smaller cars. As we were driving, the wind was soft and the night was low; by virtue of my birth, I equally have a claim to the open sky, the streets and the winds. It is such a sad state that I cannot go out without fear at night. By claiming the sky or the streets, I am just taking what is already mine. In a normal society, we would do so. But it is a shame at the state of affairs that we need to fear and fight for what is rightfully ours!
Very recently, I was in a conversation with a male friend. In one moment he said, “Thank you for not judging me as man but just a friend.” Suddenly this line made me think the way men are themselves trapped in patriarchy. I was wondering, has not patriarchy taken the right for men to express themselves somewhere? For example one of my very close buddies (male) was in an abusive relationship. The worst part was that he did even recognize and accept it.
Though rape against men is rare, but that does not take away the intensity of the crime. Personally, in silent whispers, I have heard my women friends talking about sexual abuses as children or adults. But no men has done so, but one. Don’t young boys get abused? Does our society let them even recognize and talk about it? Can a men talk about his abusive relationship in open? Won’t he be stigmatized for ‘not being a man enough?’
Patriarchy had given men the status of a quasi god. But is it not crazy to expect someone to be next to god? Men are supposed to be the fenders, the judges, the punishers, the keeper of morality and honour and the list continues. But look around, where is it all taking the world to? Is it not a crime for anyone to tell someone to behave in a certain way? On my home ground, I have seen tragedies striking our family; but I have never seen men cry. Does that mean they do not feel? Is it okay to keep ones emotions pent up? Patriachy has given men the permission to feel anger, aggression, domination. What about other emotions like surrender, tears, beauty, love, forgiveness etc? Isn’t it insane to tell someone ways to feel? I think men themselves should start rebelling against patriarchy as they themselves are caged within.
This country still has to face the heinous crime of honour killing. I still have no idea why is it called honour at the first place. A very few days back, I was just passing through my lane, I saw a father happily talking to his daughter. Reaching home, I was just doing a study on honour killing. Suddenly that picture of the father and daughter flashed in my mind. I just thought that does a father really feel great about killing his daughter who made a choice, or he chooses to do so, because by doing so he gives up to the glory of the norm he is supposed to follow?
If we women are chained in patriarchy, men are caged. When we are told what to wear and when to walk on the streets, it makes men look like sex starved, power crazy insane brutes. If patriarchy is designed to make men happy, the world is proof that it is making them insane. Happy men do not cause violence and create a painful world. I think it is high time men themselves should stand against it.
My friend, these are the thoughts that are raving in my mind these days. Finally, I have come to realize that each one of us have added our bits to create the monsters in the patriarchal system. Nothing ever survives without mass support. Personal is political, I believe. The first blow towards this system is when you treat men as equal; you have dented a system that has thrived well for centuries. And then you can take it to a much higher level of the society.
This is what I dream of. A society that has no cages or chains; where a human being by virtue of his/her birth is free to think, feel and act; where dogmas tell or put no one in places that asks one to behave or feel in a certain way. I dream of a place someday where men can cry and women can be ambitious and no one feels the guilt attached to it. But will I live long enough to see it happen? I don’t know. But I believe, if I had some privileges based on someone else’s effort, this should be carried forward. I hope someday a girl walks late at night home, ten men gather before her and she still knows it is not trouble. You might call me a dreamer, but I am not the only one, as Lennon sang.
This has been a long letter. But I hope you read it and understand what I mean. As I end this letter I hope you have an empowered year. I hope you carry your dreams forward. I hope you live without fear.
Lastly, you know what, my Babaji whom I love so dearly have never blessed us, the women folk to be good daughters, wives or mothers. Every time he blesses us he says, ‘khushi raho aur tejomoy bano,’ which means to be happy and shine. This has not only been a blessing taken, but a dream I live on, that “may every woman be happy and shine in her own light.” Amen.
(Baa means elder sister in Assamese, which is actually the short form of Baidew)
Pic credit: Tourist on earth (Used under a Creative Commons license)
Proud Indian. Senior Writer at Women's Web. Columnist. Book Reviewer. Street Theatre - Aatish. Dreamer.
Extremely well written Paromita 🙂
Thank you so much!
Thoughts so beautifully woven in an epistolary form ! Amazing write up !!
Well said. Yes as men we are as much governed by societal perception as does a woman and in some cases more so. And the most ridiculous part is, this perception is aided and abetted mostly by the female fraternity. A mother would tell her son, “…because you are a man”, the sister would say, “…because you are a guy”, the wife would say, “…because you are the man of the house”. The ills afflicting our society is as much a creation of the males of the species as do the females. How many times have you made fun of a man because he looked or behaved like a woman or how many times have you reprimanded a man telling him, “Stop being a girl”. I have never heard anybody telling a girl a similar thing when she tries something so called ‘manly’ like may be being the breadwinner or even taking the lead in a relationship. Rather there would be more appreciation and awe for her fortitude and confidence. Things have come to such a pass now that even when not in the least interested the man is being forced to act “quasi god”. Don’t blame us men for everything wrong in this world. The creation won’t take a single step without women by our side, so women have to share the blame of being equal partners in crime.
Talking about “shake the realms of patriarchy”? Where does to question come from? Do we extol guys from a matriarchal society to shake the realms of matriarchy? These are mere connotations to an idea of how to govern a family, just like Democracy, Capitalism or Socialism are means to governing a country. In both cases we are yet to know which one is perfect. Strangely the follower of one system feel the other system might have been a better option.
Are rape against men really so rare? When a girl tells you she was raped you have sympathy for her. Let a guy tell the same thing and in 99 out of hundred I will notice a smirk on your face. I will tell you why. The reason is, you are a part of humanity and have been conditioned to believe that only a woman can be wronged and that too by men only. Rapes against men are rare not because it does not happen but because we men don’t know whom to complain to for justice. I was reading somewhere that when a man went to complain rape against a woman, the authorities told him that surely he has enjoyed too, then why bother to complain. Is the same thing told to a girl too when she goes to report a rape? Does she get to hear that she too enjoyed the act of being raped?
On honour killing I have heard as many male deaths as female deaths. Then why allure to this ghastly practice as a crime by the males against the females. That is being plain myopic. Was this deliberate or you really feel that way?
Anyway, a thoughtful write-up. Thanks for sharing.
… BTW, please don’t take it as a mean to offend the writer in you, but why don’t you get your write-ups reviewed by someone else before posting them.
Regarding the ‘review’ suggestion grammatical errors are very off-putting you see 🙁
its a “wow”, how beautifully u weave ur words for this thoughtful write-up!!!! hatsoff baa
I love the way you started this post. The line “where women lose their chains and men their cages” reminds me of Tagore. Into that heaven of freedom!
Thank you so much for your comments.
If you read the article properly no where men are blamed; this article is written on how men are caged in the realms of patriarchy. Yes, we have all heard comments like “Mard Bano” “Can’t you be a man?” And that does not make life for women easier too. “Can’t you be little more like a girl?” “Girls do not get so angry.” And so on. Aren’t men appreciated for their ambition and drive and women somewhere reprimanded that they have to soften down to take care of children and family. So, if you see, I am talking as a society in whole. In this article at no point I am blaming men as the monsters of patriarchy. Yes, it’s a two way road. Over and above all I am trying to say “why is it man who needs to break out of Patriarchy.” More than anything, it is hurting them too. If you look at the tenth paragraph you will notice the lines: “Finally, I have come to realize that each one of us have added our bits to create the monsters in the patriarchal system. Nothing ever survives without mass support.” So it is clear that it is a two way street.
At no part of the article a Matriarchal society is talked off. If we are to shake off the realms of Patriarchy, it is from within itself. At no point it is said that someone from a different society need to come and save anyone from Patriarchy.
If you carefully read paragraph six, it has been already mentioned what you are emphasizing. The paragraph says, “Don’t young boys get abused? Does our society let them even recognize and talk about it? Can a men talk about his abusive relationship in open? Won’t he be stigmatized for ‘not being a man enough?’
On “honor killing” if you read the paragraph carefully, it talks of the emotions of a man he might go through while killing his daughter. It questions the realms of patriarchy, in which men function or are expected to function.
In gist the whole article was written on the ways men are suffering in Patriarchy. It is not an article that talks of men versus women.
Thank you so much for reading the article. Thank you for your time and effort.
As, a writer I have tried my best to write a flawless article. However, if some grammatical error made your reading difficult, the errors are regretted.
When I read your article I noticed you had posed lot many questions. As a ‘male’ of the species I just tried to answer them. I know you did not blame the male anywhere in the write-up. Rather it was I who tried to focus on how both men and women are equally to blame for the ills afflicting the society. To give an example; I am sure you have heard about Obama’s ‘beautiful’ quip just yesterday and how he had to apologize for it. And see how you are equally trapped in the same net when you call your grand-mom, first pretty and then intelligent. If you followed that news you will get the drift. I just don’t ‘give up’, I ‘give in’ to the temptation of pointing how we all have got conditioned to a mindset that is considered wrong by few.
And regarding your ‘flawless’ article, well when a writer confuses between the usage of a ‘me’ and an ‘I’ that talks a lot about the flawlessness. That’s just one of the many ‘flawlessness’ I noticed. Don’t take my words as an attempt to denigrate you which I certainly can’t and won’t, neither is it a condescending tone as you are placed much high up in the writing hierarchy than I can ever dream of. But it’s an opinion which I thought would share with you. Now seeing your reply I feel it was a wasted effort.
Regards and apologies.
I avoid terms like patriarchy when it comes to gender issues. It de-emphasizes the individual and tries to paint one gender as an oppressive group trying to oppress another group. That is certainly not the case.
I believe a better phrase would be traditionalism, which tries to constrain individuals to roles based on their gender and not based on the individual’s interests.
Also the term like patriarchy tries to ascribe unearned guilt to those who happen to be male by a pure accident of birth as well as unearned victim-status to those who happen to be born female. I do not believe males are responsible for the actions of other males. Being male is not an ideology.
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