Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Free your mind from patriarchal thinking

(This article of mine is published in Deccan Chronicle - Chennai Edition on 26-3-2013).

At a time when crimes against women in the form of rapes, acid attacks etc continue unabated the least we can do is to discourage patriarchal thinking/values within a family and society. The Delhi rape/‘Nirbhaya’ incident has once again underscored the need for stricter legislations and the importance of sensitizing men towards women. While the law-makers may be busy formulating punitive measures to prevent crimes against women are we as men and especially as women contributing anything at all to end violence against ourselves? It is often said that women are their own worst enemies and it became amply clear when one of my female friends on FaceBook while taking cognizance of a random woman’s decision to separate from her joint family and go nuclear commented that as daughter-in-laws, we have responsibilities and duties towards our parents in laws. The post also went on to say that as a wife, we must do our duties towards our husband. Pray, who has defined these roles and responsibilities for women? A patriarchal society to suit its own interests?

Being sensitive to the needs of husbands and parents in laws is one thing and acting subservient to their concerns/demands is quite another. I am sure most of the Indian daughter in laws do care for their elderly and sick parents or parents-in-laws and would hate the idea of old age homes. However, let us not confine ourselves only to cooking and caretaking domains. We are great at handling not only our kids, our husbands and kith and kin but also our own aspirations, workplaces and individuals working under us. Let us remind ourselves that while we may have our ‘responsibilities’ prescribed by men we also have our rights. The woman in question may have opted for a nuclear family for a variety of reasons. Some of them that come to my mind are 1) proximity to her workplace 2) lack of privacy at her in-laws place 3) ii-treatment by her in-laws and  4) lack of facilities at her in-laws place. I find it completely outrageous to judge our own gender and have prejudiced views of working women, women living in nuclear families and single women existing independently especially at a time when right thinking women and men are striving not to see women through the lens of patriarchy. I am even more flabbergasted when women claiming to be modern by wearing short skirts and trousers, speaking impeccable English and holding post-graduate degrees make such atrocious statements.

Unless our perceptions towards these women change and unless we eliminate patriarchal thinking from our families, societies and our own minds, we cannot expect a reduction in the crimes against women. For it is our patriarchal values and thoughts passed onto posterity which mould and influence the understanding of men, women and the society at large.

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