“Our boys love to cry, our girls love to take up space. And it’s not because it’s some form of rebellion or some sort of stereotype but because it’s a part of who they are.” – Aditya Gupta
Patriarchy is something that we face in our day to day lives and it has become an irremovable part of our culture. To tackle it and to speak about how ‘Patriarchy Can’t Be Our Culture’, Mr. Gupta begins his talk at the YKA summit on gender inequality, discrimination and gender based violence. Mr. Gupta is a young social entrepreneur, who is the founder of ‘People For Parity’, a non-profit organisation that has educated 20,000 young minds and trained 700 activists in facilitating the transformation of existing gender-related cultural biases. For his work, he has received fellowships and recognition from Ashoka, UN Habitat, International Youth Foundation, Pravah, and Unltd.
“If we want to build a culture where we want everyone to coexist peacefully, then patriarchy can’t be our culture “. Mr.Gupta started off by connecting with the audience by narrating his life’s journey and how it all turned around one day. Leading the life of an ordinary youngster in Bombay (Mumbai) as a consultant , reality struck him when he was confronted with a personal problem in his family and to handle that, to fight the suffocation and emptiness he felt, he bought his first pack of cigarettes.What hit him hard also led him to think about the culture of patriarchy, the culture we all live in. “Silence is one of the most powerful tools of the violent culture”, said Mr. Gupta. The biggest lesson he learnt was that “Gender based violence is not an event, it is a culture. It is a way we live our lives.”
Furthermore, Mr.Gupta brought out some facts on the gruesome reality of female infanticide and foeticide in our country. He believes that patriarchy is deep-rooted in our society, be it homes, offices or any other place. It is impossible to tackle this problem by going to every village and every town, every house in those villages and towns to bring about change effectively.
“It’s funny, how the same patriarchal culture that trained my dad or mom or all of us also seeded the desire in me to be a feminist”, he said. The patriarchal system is something that made him question the beliefs and norms, our day to day activities and taught him to be a better person. Talking about feminism, he emphasised that it’s not only a fight for equal rights but also a way of life where no one gets hurt for who they are, and no one has the power to hurt anyone without repercussion or reflection.
He faced a lot of hurdles as a man fighting gender based violence, as people mostly tend to assume that it is women who should be fighting for women. If the focus is truly on culture, on power dynamics, difference of agency and decision among the people, then everyone could be helped, leading to overcoming some of the biggest issues the country faces right now.
He further spoke about the need for men to be more expressive and open about their emotions. “Men struggle to acknowledge, understand and express their emotions”, he adds. A lot of men suffer from mental health issues because of this. There is no way of leading life with pressures of responsibility that can sometimes lead to substance abuse as well. “This happens because we misunderstand trauma. Trauma does not flow through gender. Trauma flows through human connection”, he said with reference to patriarchy and the people blindly following it.
His first workshop, which only had women, wherein he was trying to facilitating a healing space, he felt it wasn’t a great idea. He thought how women can feel safe with someone who looks like the source of their anguish, but it actually turned out to be a successful session. Social construct end up creating a major as well as an interesting possibility around gender. One should unlearn in the right environment and space, as it can make you realize that creating a differentiation on the basis of gender, is not a genuine reflection of who we are.
He shared his experience of working with young people, centered on helping them understand their true self and unlearning things patriarchy has taught them while growing up. He focused on helping these young minds imagine a life that they would find interesting and inspiring, filled with diversity in a non violent way. Thousands of young people in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana are experimenting with this new radical way of life.
Mr.Gupta talked about two young women from Rajasthan and MP, who participated in his workshops, were being forced to marry against their will. These women could now understood what they wanted and how they weren’t getting it but they still could not help themselves. A harsh lesson was to be learnt from there, that individual growth and empowerment can only take us to a certain extent with a culture like ours.
“Violence is like a virus. Any act of violence triggers a series of acts of violence in return, spreads itself unlike peace which needs to be worked on, built and consciously developed.” With this he ended his talk.