Women”s Silence Nourishes Patriarchy

Posted on January 19, 2010 in Society

Sharon Panackal:

Being born in Kerala, one of the southern states of India, a norm that chases women throughout their life is to be silent. The value behind this norm is becoming an ideal woman in the society. In India an ideal woman is supposed to be silent in addition to the long hair, curvaceous body and wide eyes she is expected to have.

Since childhood itself girls are asked to keep quiet by social agents including their parents and teachers. When she laughs loudly at home, her grandmother might turn up and scold her for doing that. When they talk to someone during free hours, teachers come around inquiring if talking would do any good for the student’s future. In that case, being a silent girl is an easy way to gain a good image in front of the elders.

Being afraid of the informal and negative sanctions at school and home, girls keep as silent as they can, which eventually makes some of them a strong introvert. People thereafter start to see them as self-centered, arrogant and inept. In this fast developing world, where the gates of opportunities are open to extroverts, these girls ultimately find their dreams sinking within their silence.

During a conflict, girls are often told to be quiet, saying that the more they argue, the more heated the conflict would become. However, it is hard to be in agreement with this norm which asks only the women to be silent.

The essence of this norm superficially keeps on changing from becoming a good daughter to a good housewife, hiding the patriarchy it actually is. When men in the society take decisions and women silently follow them, the society seems to be in peace. However, it is extremely disappointing that people support this norm in this age of feminism.

It is true that being the most literate state in India, the situation of women in Kerala has improved a lot in the past years. There are a number of women associations and organizations, and nowadays women in Kerala have a better situation than women in other states of India, and they do go out and work for their family.

Nevertheless, the tradition of patriarchy still lives among Keralites. Viewing the society through the perspectives of symbolic interaction-ism and functionalism, women are still given the least priority and men are treated as the ultimate head of the family as well as the society.

Kerala probably includes the most politicised women in India. They have actively participated in the communist party in our state and their efforts have certainly helped in improving the situations of people throughout the country. However, our society does not care enough to acknowledge the work they did as the key concept of women being silent is deeply rooted in its culture.

The norm for women to be silent reflects the strength of men in the society and how women are obliged to follow the rules and decisions that men make, mostly for their own benefit. In these ways, Kerala, being the model of development to the whole nation, still asks its women to be silent and obedient, following all its norms and keeping up the same values as before.

It is agreeable that an ideal woman should be the one who follows the norms and expectations of the society; but if men are allowed to talk, take decisions and laugh loudly, why cannot women be like that? This question might have been brought up in the society a number of times, but in a place like Kerala where people give importance to their traditions, cultures, values and societal norms, such a question does not have any significance.