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After receiving a text from someone I knew, I realised how patriarchy is so deeply internalised within us. Here’s why we need to smash it!
Last week, I wrote an article and shared it as my WhatsApp group status. While I got some really good remarks, one of them was from a man. He said, ‘Do you really hold a master’s degree? You have made so many spelling mistakes in the article!’
Now, this was coming from a man who constantly spoke in grammatically incorrect sentences! He has often said things like, ‘he don’t know that.’ or ‘he did not went there.’ In fact, even in his written work, he displayed his tenuous grasp of the language.
No one is infallible and we are all learning here. However, when I went back and checked my article, there were no mistakes in it! Had there been any mistakes at all, I would have loved to get some constructive criticism to improve my writing.
But trying to pull someone down for mistakes they didn’t make only displays the characteristic chauvinism. The inherent and hidden patriarchy in the man’s comment prompted me to address the issue here.
But before I begin, let me ask a few questions – how many men wash their toddler’s bums and change nappies regularly and willingly? How many of them cook on a regular basis or do the dishes on a regular basis? I don’t think there’s as many of them as we would like. There still are men around us who wear branded clothes, go on foreign vacations, drive expensive cars and yet deep inside, they are extremely regressive and bigoted.
Our society still emphasises the traditional patriarchal family system. One where the women take care of the children and do household chores. Meanwhile, men do the ‘more important’ job of earning for the family and making decisions for the entire family.
Most men expect their wives and daughters to abide by these rules et by them and constantly undermine them. And in such a regressive setup, women are constantly expected to serve tea, make snacks and do the dishes. On the other hand, the men are expected to sit in lounge chairs, read newspapers and order their wives around.
Since their childhood, they have seen women’s lives and identities revolving around their family. They have seen rigid gender roles and have accepted those as norms. Now when a man like this sees a woman working in his office, especially if she’s his boss, the reality he has constructed until now collapses. He might even wonder ‘how can this woman give orders?’ or ‘ why doesn’t she just get married and have kids?’ or even ‘How can she make decisions?’
And I think the problem here is that these men grow up being excessively dependent on their mothers. However, they are still given doses of chauvinistic supremacy. So when they grow up and get married, they start being dependent on their wives as they were on their moms.
But when they realise that they are being dependent on their wives, they start facing a dilemma. This further leads them to never being able to develop healthy relationships with their partner. They are unable to have a relationship where both the partners listen to, advice and openly criticise each other.
I believe this is where women should break out of their strict gender roles and carve an identity for themselves. They do not have to abandon their families but get to have their own say in familial matters. The women need to be able to demand that their husbands and sons work and help them in the kitchen. They also need to say ‘no’ to their family’s unreasonable demands. Most importantly, they need to stop treating their sons as superior to their daughters!
Women have faced the brunt of the patriarchal order in every sphere of their lives. For a really long time, female writers were viewed by their male counterparts as specialists who wrote only about romance, cooking or shopping.
In fact, there was even a special category called ‘women’s fiction’ which was an umbrella term that encompassed all the books that spoke about women’s lives. The target audience for these books were women. And they were expected (by men) to read and write about these ‘frivolous’ issues since the more ‘serious’ issues were for men.
A whole bunch of women writers, however, have smashed this patriarchal notion. Let me tell you about some of these women: Doris Lessing who wrote about politics, the human psyche, the class and sex biases in society. Toni Morrison wrote about slavery and racism and was a vocal critic of American politics. There was also Agatha Christe who was a crime novelist.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes about the relationships between men and women and parents and children. Margaret Atwood has written fiction, non-fiction and children’s book. She is one of only five writers to have won the Booker Prize twice.
Hilary Mantel has written several short stories, personal memoirs and historical fiction. She is also one of only five authors who won the Booker Prize twice. Angela Carter’s works depict women as the controller of their own narratives. She has written about gothic fantasy and traditional fairy tales with uncanny command. And she is rightly considered as one of the most original writers of the twentieth century.
These women have beautifully written about issues and topics that were earlier considered as too difficult for a woman to handle. They excel in their field in every aspect.
Not just in literature women are constantly tagged as ‘unsuitable’ for science and maths. However, data suggests the contrary. Women have excelled in physics, chemistry and mathematics. They have won Nobel Prizes and have extensively published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Some of them are Marie Curie, Maria Goeppert Mayer, Donna Strickland and Rosalyn Yalow. Apart from them, women constantly do pathbreaking work in the field of astronomy, engineering and technology. The fields that were considered the ‘male domain’ for a long time.
Women are smashing patriarchy everywhere. They are successful managers, lawyers, mathematicians and physicists. There is a number of men who are gender-sensitive and fight for women’s rights. They are the men who believe in the equality of everyone regardless of their gender, class or caste.
The need of the hour is to create a society where everyone is treated equally. This can be attained by organising seminars in the workplace, workshops for men and introduction of gender studies in the school curriculum. A child should be told stories of both men and women doing household chores while earning and being financially independent too. A truly egalitarian society would be created when men and women stop associating a specific gender with a specific task.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has rightly said, “I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I’m also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better.”
Do you agree with her?
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hain
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