Patriarchy is something that affects all of us, whether it is in a direct in-your-face way or an obscure gesture, word or action that leaves you feeling unworthy. In some way or the other, all women have encountered instances of misogyny and patriarchy. In this article, I will look at some of the ways in which patriarchy has invaded our everyday life.
It begins innocuously enough. A girl is directed towards the barbies at a toy store. A boy is encouraged to play with guns and trucks. The idea is that a woman, delicate and weak as she is, must take to activities that suit this delicate nature. A boy, on the other hand, has to be macho. He must assert his masculinity and play with toys that help him display his strength.
A young boy is taught that he must pay the bill when he takes a girl out. Girls, in fact, seem to expect as much. They say it is only right and chivalry demands it. The idea is that a man earns the money and so he must pay for a woman. A woman, on the other hand, is not financially independent and must therefore depend on her man to pay for her.
The simple ceremony of ‘kanyaadaan’ that every Indian is familiar with. The word ‘kanya’ means a virgin and the word ‘daan’ means giving away. The ceremony, performed during the wedding, is a symbolic giving away of the daughter by her father to her husband. The idea is that a woman is valuable only as a virgin, a commodity that must be passed on safely from one male to another, virtue intact.
Not being ‘allowed’ into the kitchen or the temple while a woman is on her period. As if this totally natural and normal bodily process makes her unclean in some way.
Society’s pressure on you to be thin, thin, thin! Like the fat on your body is any indication of your worth. When was the last time you saw a man crying about an extra inch on his tummy? The idea is that a woman must always look good to attract and please men.
Curfews in colleges. Most colleges have a deadline only for female students, while male students are allowed full freedom to come and go as they like. The official reason stated is that a woman is not safe when it is dark outside, she must be protected within the four walls of the institution. The logic is the same as of to prevent someone from peeing on the wall, you remove the wall. Instead of locking up potential rapists, the girls are locked up in the name of safety.
Being made fun of for being a female driver. We have all experienced this, the irrational hatred directed towards women who drive. Men seem to assume that having two x chromosomes automatically makes one a bad driver with no road sense. The idea is just years of stereotyping women as bad drivers with no basis in logic.
The check at a restaurant is always placed in front of the man. Like, hello? Maybe the couple in question decided to go dutch? Maybe the girl is treating the guy? Equality, heard of it?
Not being allowed to wear clothes that are ‘indecent’, translated as anything that does not cover every square inch of your body and then some. You will excite boys by showing them your calves, you shameless woman! Have you no morals? The idea is that just because some men cannot keep it in their pants, you should go around covered from head to toe. And of course, that is also no guarantee that you won’t be raped, for ‘boys make mistakes’.
All the staring and the eve teasing. Every woman in India has experienced this. From people mentally undressing you to singing Bollywood songs when you pass them on a road, roadside romeos are a menace. The idea is that a girl walking on the street is public property and every guy has the right to tease her. Just the fact that a girl feels unsafe in her own country even while doing simple things like walking down to the store to buy a carton of milk is a testimony to the fact that misogyny is very deeply embedded in our culture.
Patriarchy doesn’t always manifest itself in obvious ways. Female infanticide, dowries, domestic violence and the skewed sex ratio are not the only signs of patriarchy in this world. It springs up on you when you least expect it, maybe in the form of a salesgirl who won’t hand over to you the top that you like just because your father said he didn’t like it; maybe in the guise of a friend telling you to ‘be a man’ because men are stronger/braver/smarter/whatever. The idea is to fight patriarchy at this level, to eradicate the tiny forms of discrimination that may seem insignificant on the outset but are a dangerous as anything else.