Gender, Roles and Power

I have been throwing the word ‘patriarchy’ around for a long time. Patriarchy as defined by the dictionary, is a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it, this is the dominant ideology. For the most part, one can just say the head of the family is a man. Patriarchy does not really have any borders. Its followed across religions, across the world.


There was an article I had the chance of reading an article, were a Saudi Cleric talk about how the husband can eat their wives if they are ‘severely’ hungry. A friend of mine asked, so what about if the wife is severely hungry, there was a clause, men were the dominant one, women did not have a role, so no – she can’t eat the husband.

This patriarchy doesn’t belong to just Saudi or to any particular religion. It is practiced all over. Each and every day we face it in our homes, our hometowns, around friends, around relatives, in short, around everyone.

So can one say, patriarchy is practiced only by men; NO, women are by and large advocate patriarchy. I can give so many examples of the times I was told men are superior and women are ranked way below. “Don’t point fingers at a GUY and speak”. “Don’t go pick up a fight with MEN”, “Oh, traffic jam,  it must be a WOMAN who is driving” “Don’t get angry, GIRLS can’t get angry” – why not, are we not human enough to get angry or have a fit of rage. “SHE swears, what kind of decent girl swears?” –the one that can’t take your bull shit.

And ofcourse the usual lines the mothers get because “they” have not raised their “daughters” right! Always the mothers.  We are not even going to broach the subject of how virginity is important for men as well.  ZIP.

The kind of things men do, just because they can. That’s what is frustrating. Feminism is not just talking about rape victims and women who are molested. Patriarchy is not just about blaming men and their rights. It is the advantage that they are born with. I have friends say that the juiciest piece in the chicken is reserved for the brother, for the father, not for the little girl; because men need to be healthy. And us? Give the remote to your anna. Let your brother sleep in the bed. Little things, highly trivial, but there is discrimination.

I think every girl at some point of time in her life wished she was a guy, I know I did and where did such thought stem from, the fact that we live in a patriarchal society and all these girls also want to be recognized and respected and given the same kind of freedom as much as their male counterparts.

Things have changed so much than what it was before, but we have a very very long way to go. The glass ceiling is always there. “You will go off in maternity leave, how can you be promoted. You have a husband, how can you think about your career”. No, I am not exaggerating. I have had a very personal experience there. Someone whom I barely knew and I had no choice but to hold a conversation told me how I cannot think about both marriage and a career. If you are a guy, you can. Because MEN are entitled to have ambitions, have a career and also have a wife and throw in a child or two there for the woman to take care of.

A woman must always choose.

 I’ve heard mothers of prospective groom (yes, I am in that pool) say, “my son is very educated, your daughter doesn’t have to work at all “!! But how is that related?

“My son loves Kerala cuisine, can your daughter cook that, even otherwise no problem, I will teach her”. I am happy to learn new things, but that is definitely not a conversation starter. I went to this stand-up comedy, where the guy talks about how in the matrimony his mother seeks for a modern as well as traditional girl. Oxymoron much? Well it is not definitely comedy for those of us who are actually doing that; mine literally reads “orthodox family, traditional girl with a modern outlook” what the hell does that mean? Don’t ask!! Maybe my cynicism has gone up a notch, but, nevertheless the kind of power men wield is real. The fact that we succumb to it till date makes it much worse. We, both men and women are highly influenced by the patriarchy around us, so much so, that we feel maybe that is the rule, that is how it should be.

I had a professor in college who always took the example of Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, who returned to work two weeks after her son was born. He said, “What is she trying to show off? Why should she come to work? What is she trying to prove? The baby needs the mother” True, the baby needs the mother. But if she thinks her health is good enough it is her own effing choice to pursue her career. How many men take paternity leave, stay at home and ‘take care of the baby’ after its born. Isn’t child birth equal responsibility?

There was so much rage about Deepika Padukone starrin in a video talking about my choice, one line destroyed the entire crux of the video; and it was all about women making their own choices not someone else making it for them. And by choices, I don’t talk about the women who play the victim card, the pampered, unreasonable women who manipulate the men and wrap themselves in a fake veil of radicalism. I am talking about those women who are denied their rights just because they are women. Those women who lose their life goals and ambitions because they have a family now. Because they are the sacrificial goat. She cannot have a mind of her own, for her husband’s choice are her choice. If she is working, of course she must be capable of taking care of the family and go to work. But she cannot really have a career, because why must a woman need a career, “life” is more important.

I am not going all rogue and saying all men are misogynist. I have seen wonderful men who knew how and when to take a step back, how to be there for their women, give them their space and these men are also feminists.

But, for the most part, the womenfolk follow. Patriarchy is not just the men, its a system and we, both men and women are a part of. And I am also a victim to that system. Maybe because I have grown up and seen a patriarchal society all around me. There were many times I have almost told my nephew, “boys don’t cry”;where did such a thought come from? And I’ve always always corrected myself.

Women need men and vice versa. There are things that only men are capable of doing and there are many things women are equally capable if not more. It is about time WE get acknowledged, we are respected and treated with more equality . It is sometimes OK for men to lose a little control, to be less sexist and to not have staunch gender roles. It is about time men accept their vulnerability and can accept help as much as they love to give. And it is our responsibility to make sure that at no point of time in the future, the little girls must not wish she were a BOY.


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