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The ‘hidden patriarchy’ in ordinary Indian customs is disturbing, as it might not be recognised for what it is. Like finding a husband who is ‘economically superior’.
What is Patriarchy? Well, we all know that. In which areas does it exist? The most common answer will be in education, domestic violence, rituals, jobs, upbringing of children etc.
We often talk about patriarchy and how it is harmful to everyone. We highlight the harmful and negative aspects of patriarchy – that is the general view. But often many people do not realize that patriarchy is being supported unconsciously when we think superficially ‘for our own good’. And this affects every part of our country.
Do you think North East India is an exception in this regard because of its matrilineal society? No, it has never been like that. In fact there is an Assamese saying “Lao Hodai Pator Tolot”. It means that a pumpkin remains always enveloped and under its leaves. The pumpkin signifies women and its leaves are the men.
There may be a matrilineal society in Meghalaya, but all matters are controlled by the men of the house. There may not be a distinct dowry system in Assam, still the brides are expected to bring some goods from their home, and very often it becomes the subject of discussion among the groom’s family.
I could highlight a specific aspect of patriarchy present in our society. Often parents would tell their educated daughters to find a husband who is a bit more educated, a bit more economically stronger than her. It is always acceptable when a rich and educated man marries a poor and uneducated woman; he is seen as a savior. But when it happens vice versa society begins to question.
Even many educated girls follow this path and think it as a great achievement when they finally find a husband that meets all the socially acceptable criteria; I have seen that. Though there may be exceptions in some families, this is the general rule. He has to have an occupationally higher position than her.
The sole purpose of it is to make the girl dependent on her husband and be dominated by him. Can you not see it? If a girl is, or becomes economically stronger than the boy, society fears that she may impose her ideas upon him, and would not be afraid to leave him when their marriage becomes abusive. It is high time that people reflect on this aspect of our society as a form of patriarchy. It does not mean that I will object to such marriages where the boy happens to be economically stronger than the girl if they both consent. What I am pointing is that people also need to stop this practice for the sole purpose of following society rules and must accept the vice versa of this practice too.
I will never encourage a girl to find a husband who is economically and occupationally higher than her ‘for her good’. Patriarchy is all pervasive in all its parts; it has transcended into the society in such a way that it becomes difficult to identify the areas affected by it and to uproot the system.