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Arguments at our dinner table often have shades of patriarchy, which is so normalised because our leaders today are misogynists who openly make sexist statements!
As it was raining that morning, it called for an impromptu holiday. And like any other holiday in my house, this one also began with a discussion on the breakfast table.
The debate was centered around the concept of power and the patriarchal society. The ‘Indian culture’ and the system we live in defines women as inferior to men and tries to control them. The presence of this system can be seen everywhere we look, from houses to the headlines of newspapers.
So while my father talked about how he did not have power in my choices and has ‘given’ me all the freedom in the world, my question remained about why I had to ask for it in the first place.
Ironically, the headline of Times of India that day read, “Women power does not require freedom, but protection” which was by the Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath. He also promoted the idea of a woman’s role being restricted to being a wife or a mother, and was firmly against “western feminism” because it will “hamper the creation and stability of the home and the family.”
The unasked question remains, ‘From whom and why?’
Being a ‘Pro-Hindu’ as my father calls himself, he was evidently disappointed. But the patriarch in him, which somewhere does submit to the ‘system’ which I am revolting against according to him, nodded in approval.
He said, “We live in a setting which is invariably patriarchal in nature. The culture of India, regardless of religion, puts men in the power position. A power which can be debated on and questioned when it intersects with caste and class, but the power still stays within the gender.”
“So you mean, a man is an authoritarian, someone who gives. This implies, that women are here to take, may it be permission, protection, approval, validation and obviously, freedom?” I asked.
My uncle, who was quietly sipping his tea till then decided to rescue my father. “You should stop debating so much with us. Women have so much power. Patriarchy doesn’t even exist. It’s the matriarchy now. I don’t even see a need for feminism.”
This statement just strengthened my thought processes. The patriarchal gaze decides on what should be done with a woman, and in that process of dictating, patriarchy dehumanizes women. And the objectification of women or their treatment as a property, a sexual object, or something that belongs to a man has been happening on such a large scale, that it is just normalised to the extent that people don’t even see anything wrong with it! It makes me believe in the concept of hell.
,And to get a concrete answer in a debate, I turn to quoting people and as my family is so much into politics, I decided to turn to the politicians, who I knew wouldn’t disappoint.
Patriarchy remains a system that is so deeply integrated in society and culture that First World countries and their world leaders also speak the same language of suppression.
So, reading regressive remarks on women and dictats on how a woman should be, is a daily part of my life. Of course, it doesn’t come as a shock when one of the ‘renowned’ world leaders is Donald Trump. His remarks are often sexist, highly misogynist and racist.
In October, 2016, the Washington Post published that tape of Donald Trump bragging to the anchor Billy Bush, “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything… grab them by the pussy.” Trump not only uses patriarchal or hetro-normative lens, he fails to acknowledge women as anything apart from an means of sexual appropriation.
Or Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi who told BBC journalist Sofia Bettiza, “Men will think she is going to beat me up, no one will marry you. Are you already married? You see? Be careful,” In 2008, he was criticized for advising a young woman, who was struggling to find a stable job, to find a rich husband.
It is astonishing to see how the so-called world leaders do not see anything more in a woman than a vagina.
“I am happy to say that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, despite being a woman, is boldly saying that she has zero tolerance toward terrorism,” said our beloved Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, which also led to a movement #Despitebeingawoman. “Beti Nahi Bachaoge toh Bahu Kahanse Laoge?” he said. The ‘Beti bachao-Beti padhao’ campaign smirks at the irony.
An European Parliament member, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, asserted that “women must earn less than men because they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent.” That would explain the system which has a huge wage gap and would answer to the question ‘why there is a need for feminism in this world’.
There are so many remarks made each day that it wouldn’t even be possible to quote all of them in a day.
I had put my phone aside after reading all those statements continuously from various sources, and concluded saying, “The voice often lies with the powerful and the power lies with men. The power which dictates often chooses their mother tongue to speak in a language that is patriarchal. For example, our mother tongue is Gujarati, but language that we use is androcentric. I think, the same power that God used to create hell for men, the same power men are using to create one here with the instrument that they are well equipped with – patriarchy, and to cause women’s subordination.”
There was a prolonged silence on the table.
Images source: YouTube
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As parents, we put a piece of our hearts out into this world and into the custody of the teachers at school and tuition and can only hope and pray that they treat them well.
Trigger Warning: This speaks of physical and emotional violence by teachers, caste based abuse, and contains some graphic details, and may be triggering for survivors.
When I was in Grade 10, I flunked my first preliminary examination in Mathematics. My mother was in a panic. An aunt recommended the Maths classes conducted by the Maths sir she knew personally. It was a much sought-after class, one of those classes that you signed up for when you were in the ninth grade itself back then, all those decades ago. My aunt kindly requested him to take me on in the middle of the term, despite my marks in the subject, and he did so as a favour.
Math had always been a nightmare. In retrospect, I wonder why I was always so terrified of math. I’ve concluded it is because I am a head in the cloud person and the rigor of the step by step process in math made me lose track of what needed to be done before I was halfway through. In today’s world, I would have most probably been diagnosed as attention deficit. Back then we had no such definitions, no such categorisations. Back then we were just bright sparks or dim.
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