Written by: Aditi
Content warning- Mention of patriarchal oppression
Patriarchy refers to the autocratic rule by the male head of a family. The concept of patriarchy was developed to explain male dominance as a social, rather than biological, phenomenon.
According to such a view, women are regarded as the oppressed gender and men are superior to them in every aspect. The oppressed gender is the weaker sex and less capable than man, especially in the realm of logic and rational reasoning. Women are relegated to the domestic realm of nurturance and emotions. Therefore, according to that reasoning, they cannot be good leaders in business, politics or academia. Although they are seen as naturally fit for domestic work and are good caretakers, their roles are devalued or not valued at all when compared with the works of the people who identify as male.
Even after decades of activism, why does patriarchy still persist?
The answer may seem obvious: it persists because it maintains a system in which people who identify as male have power — political, economic, institutional — and what man would want to give that up?
Internalised patriarchy pushes aside one’s better judgment and the person sacrifices their needs to fall in line with how they think they’re supposed to behave. By not falling in line, they risk sticking out for all the wrong reasons, potentially driving away friends, partners or professional opportunities, ultimately resulting in isolation. For an instance, boys are taught that crying is synonymous to weakness, while girls learn that assertiveness equals aggressiveness.
As adults, it manifests in other ways as well — in how women shoulder their family’s emotional labour, i.e. the invisible mental work of holding a household and relationship together. If women register that this is unfair and complains, they’re often told that they’re being “selfish, a drama queen or hysterical.” Eventually, “women believed it.” That’s patriarchy.
The patriarchal system is neither natural nor God-given, but socially constructed; the architects of this construction are the professionals. They make the laws and rules we live by, they control our access to resources, and they oversee the extraction of labour and distribution of what is produced. Markets help and obfuscate patriarchy. We are dependent on this system as well as oppressed by it. The system is almost compulsory inescapable, given its reach in the world.
In India, we are still struggling to free ourselves from the chains of biasness of society as well as the laws. India is a land where patriarchy has existed since time immemorial and become an instrument to justify the law, too. One such category of law is the Family law.
The oppressed gender in their different roles has not been kept at par with the men in the field of family law. The scenario that existed years ago is in transition and changing for the better, but there are evils that make it difficult to make laws gender-neutral and unbiased.
Being a part of this system, we are always scampering and asked to do certain things later in our life. Children are asked to function in certain ways to do certain things that won’t exfoliate our society’s motto. We always have to keep culture, family and gender in our minds. Then comes the aspect of comparison where we are approximated to the other gender(s), a gender that is invariably privileged to do things and is never speculated twice for doing things.
Sociologist Sylvia Walby has composed six overlapping structures that define patriarchy and take different forms in different cultures and different times:
Patriarchal ideologies support oppression. For Firestone, the oppressed gender must gain control over reproduction to be free from oppression. Fun fact: if we glimpse things clearly from every possible perspective, we will come to know what the actual dilemma is. But nobody knows what the dilemma is.
Well, it’s a game of hiding and seeking if we never go to seek things out, interrogate our rights, take a stand for each other or unite before looking at what genitals we carry. Maybe we all can finish this game, but if we never bring this to consideration, we will end up hiding as we have been doing so far. This will not help the country achieve a gender-equal society in the foreseeable future.