Small Privileges That Men Regularly Enjoy In A Patriarchal Family That Women Cannot

My family ‘lets’ the daughters have an education and work outside home, but patriarchy lurks. Men here take some privileges for granted, and that hurts.

Sweltering in Hyderabad

It is 3 AM in the morning and I’m sweating. I am just not able to sleep.

The reasons are many: I am in Hyderabad for some days, a place known for its hot climate. Due to electricity problems, the fan speed keeps changing. But there is another major reason for my sweating: Amidst all this, I was under a sheet! YES! It is almost 40 degrees and I am under a sheet! That’s because I’m a woman and even though the room had only ladies, I was afraid that if a man entered the room in the morning, I might accidentally end up showing my cleavage or maybe, the shirt that I’m wearing might reveal my waist or my back (An interesting thing that we need to note here: It is okay if the waist is visible as long as I’m wearing a saree!).

I don’t really care about all of this, but I come from a conservative family where women are supposed to cover up. I come from a family where women/girls are blamed for everything. If by chance I ended up revealing anything, all the women in the room would give me a lecture.

Cut to my cousin’s living room

My cousin, my brother, and I are watching YouTube videos. I am enjoying watching them but there is this constant anxiety about how I am sitting: I keep adjusting my shirt because I’m a woman. [I am doing this even while I’m typing this!]

Cut to a regular scene at my house

It’s 3 AM in the morning. I hear my phone ringing. It’s my brother calling me to the door to open it for him. He regularly hangs out with his friends at night…a privilege I have never known. I open the door. I think about the late evenings at office and how anxiety ridden they are. Once the time crosses 9 30 PM, my parents start calling me, asking me to leave office ASAP. But then, I have responsibilities at my workplace. I am constantly torn between the two.

When I’m coming back, there is the fear that almost every woman has: what if the rickshaw/cab driver intentionally takes a wrong turn? What if he rapes me? What if some random guy enters the ladies compartment on the local train and rapes me? Can I reach back home safely?

Cut to my workplace

I have a group of colleagues (a mixture of male and female colleagues) with whom I have lunch everyday. Today, we have decided to order pizza. We order two pizzas. I later came to know that the female colleagues had decided on sacrificing and taking a lesser share of their pizza because men have a larger appetite!

This is something I see often. I see my mother sacrificing her share for my father. I see my female relatives going hungry for male relatives. This is so common that we have accepted this as something normal!

Cut to me as a college student

I was waiting for a friend and sitting on a chair near my building. One building uncle came and asked me to sit like a lady i.e. close my legs.

Cut to my workplace

Since we have to sit at the desk for long hours, I often sit with one leg on my other leg because that’s what is comfortable for me. But I constantly think about how ‘unladylike’ I am. I ‘correct’ myself whenever I am not sitting with my legs ‘closed’. It is a constant battle.

Cut to me walking on the streets or traveling via public transport

No, it’s not because I’m in the ladies compartment of the Mumbai local trains. This is because of my conditioning. Even when there is a lot of space, I make myself small. I try not to occupy space because women are not supposed to do that! Men spread themselves and walk, stand and sit as if they are the owners, but women, on the other hand, feel guilty of occupying space. It’s almost as if they are apologising for coming out of their homes and it’s as if their place is in the kitchen.

Cut to the times when my parents go out of town

It is expected that I should be the one who would do the cooking, cleaning and all the household chores. If, by chance my brother helps me, everyone in my family praise him and call him ‘cute’. No compliments for me because as a woman, I’m expected to do all this. Some relatives would talk about my work load but they would never think it is my brother’s responsibility to learn some household chores.

These are the things that men/boys don’t have to worry about. This is not to say that boys/men don’t have problems but it is to say that they don’t have these problems that come from the fact that they belong to a particular gender.

Header image is a still from the movie Mujhse Shaadi Karogi

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