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Women, let’s refuse the crumbs of power that patriarchy throws at us to keep us chained, and find our identity and power within.
Intergenerational trauma is the #1 reason behind mother-in-law and daughter-in-law conflicts in this culture. Have you ever thought why you rarely hear about conflicts between a father-in-law and son-in-law?
Women are groomed to derive their identity from their children. In a patriarchal culture, that will be more from the son because it is “understood” that the daughter is only temporary and will go to another family while the son stays on.
So imagine this. A young woman marries and enters a joint family where she has no autonomy at all. She has to defer to the mother-in-law and serve her. For the mother-in-law, this is a position of power. For the first time since she entered that house as a young bride, she is now able to finally reign like the queen of the house.
But now, this young bride waits for her turn, which she subconsciously knows will happen if she has a son, so she prays to have a boy, waits for him to get married, and then takes out all of her frustration on her daughter-in-law.
For the first time since she left her parents’ house, she is given some power and autonomy when she becomes a mother in law. So she uses it and how! Exactly what her mother-in-law did to her.
These are the crumbs of power that patriarchy throws to a woman for toeing the line, for being an obedient wife and daughter-in-law.
When my Brahmin neighbour’s son got married, she told me that it was their custom to change the bride’s first name to that of the boy’s grandmother’s maiden name. Imagine, having your name taken away from you as a young bride. That grandmother had her name changed too when she got married. Now imagine the ‘satisfaction’ of seeing your grandson’s young wife having to bear your name for the rest of her life!
These are the bloody crumbs patriarchy throws your way for staying in a marriage, however miserable you may be in it.
Women, whether in the past or now, whether housewives or career women, may never be encouraged to develop an identity of their own beyond that of a wife and a mother.
That’s why women suffer most from the ’empty nest syndrome’. That is the number one reason there’s so much conflict between the MIL and DIL in our Indian society because their whole existence is groomed to be based on the son/husband.
And if, like in many marriages, the woman doesn’t have an intimate bond with her husband, and the marriage has devolved to become one of convenience, of being ‘roommates’, then it becomes even worse. The son becomes a crutch. Of course then any woman stepping into his life is looked at with suspicion.
This is why love marriage choices are discouraged because the MIL is so afraid that this love interest has got a hold on her son that will make her lose out. And why in arranged marriages, the MIL wants a girl she can control.
It is because women are not given power that they manipulate it through a man. Paradoxically, when that happens, even men are never truly free.
This is why male children are so mollycoddled and pampered and grow up to be ‘mama’s boys’. Of course mama doesn’t want him to stray too far from her apron strings!
Feminist thinking frees and empowers women. But imagine, when that happens, little boys too get free and can grow up to be free men! The apron strings are finally cut!
Women who ‘sacrifice’ themselves for their children take on a martyr complex and expect unending gratitude and devotion for their ‘sacrifice’.
They end up becoming demanding mothers and possessive MILs, wreaking havoc on their kids lives, and repeating the cycle all over again.
Break that cycle.
Don’t get swayed by the lies and crumbs that patriarchy throws at you.
Image source: a still from the film Badhaai Ho
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Karishma has been writing short stories since she was 8 and poetry since she was
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