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From ‘neighbourhood aunties’ to our own mothers there are many women who become patriarchal oppressors to other women. We need to ask: why?
My family thankfully or fortunately never discriminated between my brother and I. Neither of us was restricted to doing things only meant to be done by ‘girls’ or ‘boys.’
Still, there was this one aunt of mine who had a huge impact on my life. Whenever she used to come and visit us my brother and I, for her, were distinctly the ‘ladka and ladki.‘
I remember how she used to tell my mom “tumhari ko sambhal ke rakho, ladka banti ja rahi hai” (Control your daughter, she’s turning into a boy).
My mother never forced me to stop indulging in activities or sports meant for boys. However, in my aunt’s presence, she dissuaded me from doing activities not stereotypically meant for girls. All this so that my aunt didn’t tag me a tomboy and school my mother on how to raise her child.
Although that was not technically patriarchal, it was something done to please my aunt, who was patriarchal and tried to enforce the basic patriarchal rules of raising a child. Now that, is one of the ways patriarchal women influence other women.
Frankly speaking, in one or other way (until I was shown the world of
feminism and equality through education) my aunt’s views affected my
In Patriarchy and Women’s Subordination: A Theoretical Analysis,
Abeda Sultana defines patriarchy as a system of power dynamics where women are kept dominated and subordinate. And thus, it prioritises men in both public and private spaces.
So whenever we think of patriarchy we rarely acknowledge the contribution of women in endorsing this evil practice. There are many women out there like my aunt who directly or indirectly affect others through their patriarchal ideals.
How does a woman facing patriarchy herself become a patriarchal oppressor to other women?
This question can be answered by the attraction of power and self-interest; patriarchy in one or the other sense reflects power. If you have power then you think everyone else is inferior.
As a daughter-in-law, a woman doesn’t possess power over ‘running the household’ and is also a victim to atrocities laid on her due to patriarchy. However, as a mother-in-law, she hold power and in the Indian set up is usually the token torturer.
Whatever she went through as a daughter-in-law, she ensures her daughter-in-law goes through the same. This pattern runs through the generations like a ritual. Some woman once held the position of power and started piling atrocities on her daughter-in-law and now every woman in the family does the same.
How a woman behaves and thinks in the Indian society is also dependent on what other women think. The way they dress, walk, talk and behave is shaped majorly by the ‘mohalle wali aunties.‘
We all know that the sole purpose of the existence of some neighbourhood aunties is to notify our mothers of any transgressive behaviour. Something that not only affects the daughters psychologically but also the mothers who then start questioning their own parenting.
These patterns of patriarchal women tend to create unconscious bias in the mind of other women. This tends to affect the way they treat others and even themselves. Women, because of being a victim of patriarchy by other women feel excluded and inferior. They then tend to carry on the same ideologies to other women.
One of the best ways to fight these patriarchal women is to do what you love. If you want to change the bulb in the house, do that. You want to wear clothes that you love, do that! If you want to do pooja during periods do that because it’s a matter of your faith and choice, not theirs that should affect you.
In the beginning, this is going to be tough but take baby steps. Start small and feel empowered. One of the most important things to note here is, don’t become the mirror to reflect the same patriarchal ideologies to other women. If any woman is oppressing you with her patriarchal ideology then don’t do the same to other women.
Break the pattern and change will happen.
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