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Thappad: A Slap To Our Internalised Patriarchal Values

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Amruta, an upper-middle-class housewife, is slapped by her husband in public. She then chooses to take a stand for herself, as a woman and as a human. Ringing true to its name, the Anubhav Sinha directed Thappad challenges five of our ‘internalised’ behaviour patterns, which we might not be aware of consciously, but we carry them inside us, every single moment.

Indian women are ‘trained’ to ‘adjust’, ‘compromise’, ‘mask their emotions’ and ‘pretend that everything is well’.

1. Patterns Of Men Who Believe In Patriarchy

“Ek thappad hi to maara thha” (It was just one slap), “Jo ho gaya, so ho gaya” (What has happened, has happened), “Tumhe issue hi banana hai na” (You just want to make an issue)—these dialogues that we saw on the reel are real. They mirror the mentality of many men who normalise this injustice and violence in the name of patriarchy.

These are the same men who have seen their mothers being quietened in their childhood, their sisters being objectified during marriage decisions and wives being taken for granted in doing all household ‘duties’. “It’s absolutely okay to hit your wife once, after all, he was angry, given his professional stuff”, “His slap was an expression of his love”—to them, this is okay; this glorification of love is okay.

2. Patterns Of The Women Who Have Internalised This Patriarchy

“Hum auraton ko bardaasht karna padta hai” (We women are bound to suffer), this is one stance that is often taken by Amruta’s mother and mother-in-law. The easiest way to oppress someone is to convince them that they deserve it. This starts early in childhood; women are told that learning household work is a must, else she won’t be able to make her in-laws happy and lead a happy life.

Further, these same minds train the girls to ‘adjust’ for the men in the family. And when these young girls, brainwashed into submission by patriarchy, become mothers and mothers-in-law, they expect the same tradition to be followed by an Amruta.

3. Patterns Of Men Who Think’ Of Themselves As Allies Of Women

There are men who have dissected the evil of patriarchy and its intellectual and social repercussions. They don’t want to oppress women and truly support women in their struggles. But they also often end up being oppressors in one way or another. Nobody is free from this internalisation how much ever one might pretend to be.

Amruta’s mother says that she wanted to be a singer. Her father, who’s very supportive of his wife and his daughter’s stand, asks her, “Who had restricted you?”. To this, the mother explains, “Actually, nobody had restricted as such, I stayed away from it myself as I was told by my  mother to do so”.

Having said that, she adds, “But, this is also a fact that you also never asked me about my singing—if you didn’t discourage me, you never even asked me why I stopped singing either.” This is a prime example that even if men support women intellectually and aren’t regressive, their behaviour might reflect the patriarchy that got internalised as they were being raised.

4. Patterns Of Indians Who Often Defend Their Caste And Class

“Domestic violence happens only among working-class people; we don’t have it”. This is one of the most common notions of the middle and upper socio-economic classes. The same holds true for caste. Indians are trained to defend their class and caste. The regular slapping (read domestic abuse) of Amruta’s house-help by her husband feels normal because it doesn’t happen in ‘our’ community; it happens in ‘theirs’. ‘Those people’ are ‘like that’.

5. Patterns Of Indians Who Are Trained To Nurture Family Value Systems

Indians are nurtured with a heavy dose of superficial family values, even if healthy communication between members is missing; even if families perpetuate gross injustice based on gender, and even if the family asks you to mask your emotions every now and then.

Amruta should have considered the family before her decision of divorce“—this is a thought that must have been occurred in a lot of Indian minds. Indian women are ‘trained’ to ‘adjust’, ‘compromise’, ‘mask their emotions’ and ‘pretend that everything is well’.

In a nutshell, we behave in a certain way as a society. We act and behave according to our beliefs, opinions and perspectives. Most of it is internalised by way of preachings and teachings right from an early age. These internalisations are a reflection of the culture in which we are raised. It tells a tale and speaks the language of multiple generations. And that is problematic. It needs to be called out.

We need more of these ‘thappads’ (slaps) to be able to see the mirror and work towards unlearning and getting rid of these internalisations.

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