Patriarchy, an ever increasing and widening structure that has seen its parameter grow several folds, is still a looming amalgamation of puritanical and orthodoxical thoughts and beliefs. India today, despite having various other appalling issues is still battling with the patriarchal set of values and norms. But before I directly give you this bottom lined view, do we think of patriarchy in same terms and connotations? Do we have a clear picture of what patriarchy means and possesses? Or does it only exist in the fringe classes? Before I answer these questions, let us understand what this term actually means.
A system of male domination where the key powers with regard to decision making, policy framing, asset acquiring, reasoning etc. are vested on the male sex on the basis of some laid notions, beliefs, customs etc., is generally termed as patriarchy. Patriarchy has been often been given different names, Pitrasatta in Hindi, Pitratontro in Bengali and various others too. However, despite such variabilities in nomenclature the basic foundation remains the same i.e. female subjugation.
We normally tend to understand patriarchy only in terms of the husband-wife relation or father-mother relation, however, there are various other fronts where it propagates itself. But first, since households are the primary source of such customs, let us have a dissected anatomy of this barbaric system in our homes. Now honestly, even I wasn’t aware of such practises until I read and worked in this field. To give you a parallel, in simple actions like serving food or seating of members at the table, we see that the father is generally prioritised. This was considered a custom, and therefore, the line between patriarchy and custom had been blurred, however, renowned author, Kamla Bhasin, calls it one of the basic actions that sows the seed of pitrasatta in our heads.
From toys selection between the son and the daughter to curfew time after they attain their puberty, the female is always considered meek and hence, such toys and duties seem natural as per this custom. You could also view the benefits that a son gets over the daughter despite the age, this is also a vivid representation of the “feminine” allocation of duties and powers. The mundane and thankless jobs that a wife performs in a household are often ignored let alone appreciated; patriarchs respond to this by saying that such duties are her natural and God approved duties, and hence due to her physical imperfections she has to perform such jobs while the husband is doing all the “hard” jobs. Sylvia Walby, a notable author, calls this the “patriarchal form of production” which has been seen across the length and breadth of our nation, subject only to intensity.
Now that the continuous yet subtle practises of patriarchy are still part of our homes, let us look at the other domains in the public sphere that it covers:
What is the ideal form of God? A man? A woman? History connotes that in most spheres of religion, a man is always considered the divine creation and a woman is considered the lesser version of a man. To supplement this view point, look at most of the major religions and who their idols are. So much so, even the practitioners of such religion are men from upper caste and class— be it in temples or mosques. Surprisingly enough, this absurd view is backed by many prominent theories and people namely, Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, who called women naturally born fools lacking the basic skills of rationality and judgement. Also the Jataka tales of the Buddhist scriptures tagged women as “loose as the sand and as deceptive as the snake”. These further fuelled the already existing patriarchal mindset among the people.
One of the three pillars of democracy is judiciary, however, the representation that women have here, too, is barely enough to have their voices put forth and heard. This has a spiral of effects in the society and with men in the legal platform despite having credible qualification, will always carry a polarised viewpoint— thanks to the family values and customs that we talked about initially. Thus, such disparity has been credited to the female subjugation right from the household level to the gender biased mentality which disapproves women participating in jobs which have been dominated by men.
Now this is an area which is celebrated and cherished for its produce, however, it has its foundation blocks deeply soaked in patriarchal waters. Bollywood for that matter is an excellent specimen of female oriented discrimination– wherein the women are paid relatively less as compared to their male co-stars. Also, the harassment that women face in certain screening processes like the casting couch is worth mentioning. However, the situation is improving with few female performers working on this front.
The strengthening of the electoral body is itself the empowerment of the legislative, which is another important pillar of the democracy. It is astonishing to say that the amount of female representation in our parliament is a mere 12.5% (as recorded in 2014). This, just like the legal forum, shuts the reasoning and questioning platforms for women, I say this because only an aggrieved will understand the predicament of another. Hence, without proper representation this sex loses its voice.
By economy I mean the asset acquisition rate, and also the formulation of the national income and the GDP. One serious concern for the liberals is the inclusion of the household work done by women while calculating the national income or the GDP, rightly so, the amount of mundane and taxing work done by them is never recognised. Furthermore, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the amount of work done by women accounts to approximately 80%, while the assets they hold is a pity 2-10% and this has been credited to the lineage practises that families follow where in the property is transferred to the son even if the daughter is legally and naturally a heir to it. This factor reduces the asset power which in turn will reduce the standing of the women in a community.
Now, these are some spheres where pitrasatta has been practised and recognised, but is still failing to catch the eyes of the public per se. However, things are progressing as we see more campaigns for the protection of women namely Pinjra Tod, Pink Chaddi, Me too revolution, Why loiter and many others. Such movements even if fruitless at least go on to catch the attention of the public which in itself is a big win. Also, moral policing should be strengthened wherein the culprit conviction should be the focus rather than victim’s duty of preventing such atrocities, for e.g. the dress code for a girl, curfew for individuals, female objectification etc.
Surprisingly, men too are victims of this system! The amount of suicides or alienation that men are subjected to is tremendous. Patriarchy has created an idealistic moral for both men and women wherein men are considered to be physically strong, confident, intimidating, romantic etc., while the women are considered to be feminine, religious, meek, introverted etc. Unfortunately, if individuals don’t fall under such categories then they are ostracised and alienated from the society. Hence, a specific phase of emotional castration is what such individuals undergo due to these malicious practices.
Hence, patriarchy has affected both the sexes and through this dissected view of patriarchy I want to play a part in breaking away from such shackles of domination and become a pioneer of change and progression. Also, I want to thank you for making it till the end of my article 🙂 and I further hope that we together can become harbingers of development.