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Patriarchy is at the root of many social ills, and as detrimental to men as to women. We need to smash patriarchy by challenging it in practical ways.
‘Patriarchy is detrimental to women!’
Well, we have heard it a zillion times, and I am sure, many of us know that it is harmful not only to women, but to men as well. It harms both sexes equally. But how many of us believe women to be active participants in perpetuating patriarchy?
A lot of women contribute to patriarchy, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes when it benefits them. And very often women too, subconsciously or unwittingly, play a role in keeping alive misogyny and sexism. But, I am sure, we can slowly overcome all kinds of prejudice by being conscious of what we do or say, and not just by keeping a tab on how others, especially men, contribute to rampant inequality of genders.
So ladies, let’s do our bit in smashing patriarchy, misogyny, sexism and anything that haunts and victimises women.
Don’t expect the man to foot the entire bill just because he asked you out and planned the date. Of course, traditional practice dictates that he pays, but do you really care for tradition when it comes to gender equality? A lot of men too expect the woman to pay her half but don’t moot the idea for the fear of being labelled non-chivalrous. Some see it as an excellent example of female privilege, where women want to have their cake and eat it too. Let’s pay our half, and free the man from his traditional role of ‘Provider’.
A lot of women quit their job after marriage, and many after motherhood. Of course, it’s a lifestyle and individual choice and should not be judged. But I wonder, how many men have such a choice? What is the economics behind such a choice being extended to men, especially in a country like India, where it’s hard for them even to claim paternity leaves?
I have asked this question to many people – bachelors and married couples and answers vary. While a lot of men seem elated at the idea of being given the freedom of letting go of their jobs temporarily if their wives are ready to become the sole breadwinners of the family, many of them say the idea is “unfeasible”. Why?
The answer lies in the fact that most marriages in India are arranged by family elders who make sure that the boy earns much more than the girl, and is equally or more qualified than her. So if husband quits his job, family loses the major earner. What if the wife’s salary is not enough for the household?
But when wives earn equal to or more than their husbands, are they ready to let the latter become homemakers? Or, are the men ready to take the reins of running the household? Such an arrangement is not non-existent in India, but it’s exceptional and not the norm. However, a society that strives for gender equality should extend equal opportunities and choices to men and women.
While girls are encouraged to do everything that boys traditionally do, boys are very often mocked at if they associate themselves with anything that is conventionally considered feminine. So while we tend to break sexist stereotypes when it comes to girls or women, we have a tendency to hold fast to traditional gender roles concerning men.
We tell boys not to cry often preventing them from openly expressing their emotions. “Stop crying like a girl”, “You are crying; are you a girl?” – I have often heard these words from parents – both mums and dads – who try to comfort their little boys suffering from a sudden meltdown. And those who utter these words – entrenched in sexist biases and misogyny – are often highly educated (well-qualified enough to have high earning jobs, I mean) people who otherwise are all for gender equality and, of course, try every bit to provide their sons and daughters with equal opportunities. Asking a little boy to stop crying “like a girl” or making fun of him if he plays with a Barbie and not a superhero toy is an example of covert yet deep-rooted misogyny that is perpetuated, often unintentionally, by both men and women and it victimises both genders. As parents, our biggest responsibility must be to stop reinforcing gender stereotypes among children and that’s the first and foremost we can do in our quest to attain equality of all sexes.
Women are labelled and judged for what they do and how they lead their lives, very often, by members of their own gender. It’s a harsh truth that in a male-dominated world, it’s mostly women who meticulously scrutinize choices made by other women. It is also noteworthy that women, across the globe, face similar challenges, and even the responsibilities they shoulder are often alike, with variations based on geography, family or socioeconomic background etc.
Remember, we comprise half the global population, so if we support each other instead of being at each other’s throat, we can surely change a lot, for the better.
Image source: By Steve Evans from Citizen of the World (Mumbai: Young Woman) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons, for representational purposes only.
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