Let’s understand politics through a feminist lens.
Consider this scenario: “Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers,” says Mitro, father of newborn twins, a son and a daughter, during a chai pe charcha (talking over tea) at his corporate office in Gurgaon.
As readers, did this proposition trigger reactions in your mind? How do you feel about this? Do you support it? Are you against it? Did you feel nothing at all? Hold on to that thought for a while.
Well, the reactions or responses going on in your mind are your “politics”. If Mitro’s spouse doesn’t enjoy doing household chores regularly, what scenarios would she face at home?
A tug of war starts when someone chooses to oppose the status quo. These are the instances where we see politics getting exercised. Having a neutral, or “apolitical” stand won’t stir up a commotion, and that is why it strengthens the proposed idea by default.
According to Wikipedia, “Politics is a way of promoting one’s ideas through a group of people.” Politics is observed in all human, group interactions… In corporate, academic and religious institutions as well as family units.
You may not have thought about politics as omnipresent. We have repeatedly been told that politics is the prerogative of politicians and political parties. We choose them so that they can think about all this high-level stuff.
We distance ourselves from the notion of practising politics. We think of politics as existing outside our lives… Something irrelevant to our everyday existence, while the truth is contrary. Honestly, the system has made us buy this “apolitical by default” approach.
As Leena Mariam Koshy puts it so eloquently, while talking about the politics of making a public university toe the line: “Who, but an authoritarian regime is afraid of egalitarian research and inquiry-based education that is made available to the entire population.”
In the case of Mitro, he comes from a social order where men have the power, through the traditional authority vested in them to make “important decisions”. This means that his family unit falls under the patriarchal system.
You may have heard (not so) subtle patriarchal expressions within our “modern” families.
The International Labour Organization’s survey showed that a quarter of men and women worldwide think women should stay home to raise kids and do housework, instead of holding a paid job.
So, when Mitro believes that a woman’s primary job is to be a homemaker, isn’t it a “political stand”? There are chances that you may think that it’s his individual opinion. But, it’s important to remember that such an opinion benefits those who choose to “follow” it.
When men decide to go out and work, they earn money. When women “decide” to stay indoors, they “get safety”. Patriarchal conditioning, cultural norms and the prevalent social order influence these choices.
The patriarchal system gave Mitro the privilege to access quality education, social network, capital, work experiences, personality development as well as financial literacy and management. Once he used these privileges, he could derive the “power” to get things done his way.
Where do you see a space for his spouse to harness such a power position? See, the argument is not about being a homemaker versus being a professional. It’s about the ability to exercise an “individual choice” by people who are free from the coercion of the existing system.
Of course, there is another aspect to the politics here. As a gender norm, toxic masculinity has been forced upon young boys, seriously injuring some of them for life, including their empathy and emotional well-being.
By default, we all do practise our politics. This practical skill helps one get an idea about what is accepted in society. The primary question to ask yourself is how do you envision to “organise the society”?
Answering this is the start of you critically analysing your mindset, and everything happening around you.
If Mitro dreams of a “safe and just” world for his daughter, he will have to introspect and think about his own politics critically. Only then will he be able to question social narratives, unfair gender roles, and non-feminist legislation.
Friends, this is politics!
To know more about your own privilege(s), you may find this quiz helpful.