Can we blame everything on patriarchy?

Not everything obviously, but quite a lot.

The reason why patriarchy is held responsible for women and girl children not being valued is this,

Patriarchy means some children (girl children) have to be sent to live with the families of some other children (sons).

India being a rigid and traditional patriarchy, it’s still normal for parents to give in kanyadaan their children to another family. Frequently, the parents are not sure of how happy or safe their girl-children would be once they go to their ‘own homes’.

Since most parents would not accept this cheerfully,  we use religion, culture and tradition. ‘Kanyadaan‘ is seen as a duty (punya) and responsibility and parents who do not give away their girl children in a kind of slavery (which depending on her luck could sometimes mean joining a family where women are treated with respect or atleast she is valued – but generally she has little control over her own happiness/unhappiness in her marital family).

Did (does) the girl-child have a choice in this?

Staying unmarried was not a real option because unlike men they were not allowed property rights, sexual rights, right to have children, right to earn or live alone. Social pressure, violence and honor killing were (are) used to ensure they comply. They were kept in complete dependance.

What if the parents rebelled against this uncertain future for their child?

The girl child’s safety was at risk, the system accepted sexual harassment and rapes as a method of controlling women’s lives.

The concept of ‘manliness’ was a means to control younger men’s lives. Aggression, violence, controlling the sexuality and personal lives of female members in the family and community, were seen as responsibility of men.

Aggression and violence were seen as desirable qualities in men because the system was too oppressive to survive without enforcing of rigid rules via religion, custom, culture and a lot of violence. (Some women were also roped in to do this, these women were the more powerful members of Patriarchy, like mothers and sisters of sons).

As a result of this families dreaded having girl children. (those who support Patriarchy still do that).

When parents had girl children, they made an effort to detach themselves and prepare themselves for an inevitable separation. We have numerous folk songs where this trauma is described, the girl child’s fears of the unknown future and her hopes of finding a loving sasural (marital home) and the fathers’ and mothers’ helplessness.

Most Indian parents believe a girl child’s happiness is not in their hands and since it is believed that sending the daughter away is not something they can control, they start preparing her from baby hood for a challenging future.

What part of the future is in the parents’ hands? They could make her life easier by teaching her to be submissive and obedient. A rebellious young woman was not convenient for patriarchy, or her family or the society.

The parents of sons became powerful. They knew parents of daughters dare not upset them because, they could send the girl back home for all kind of random reasons not in her control, including,

a. Her lack of appeal for their son,

b. Disobedience,

c. Her inability to bear male heirs for her spouse’s family (in Patriarchy women have neither names nor heirs nor vansh of their own)

d. Her parents’ and all her relatives’ lack of display of subservience,

e. For something her brothers, sisters or other relatives did.

f. Her lack of house hold skills

g. If she had a medical problem.

i. Unsatisfactory dowry and gifts anytime in her life.

Hopeless situation? Yes.

But there was one thing that made life easier for her. What was that?

A male child. The more male children she had the stronger her situation in her marital home and the entire society.

Having girl children meant the family had to prepare for an uncertain future of their children, they also had to be prepared to support her life long, give her dowry, wish she would break none of the rigid rules of patriarchy – i.e. would not attempt to choose who to marry and sleep with, what to wear, how to laugh, walk, talk, what to do or not do… she was taught from childhood not to think she was a boy (which actually meant, not to think she had any rights, freedom or feelings).

Did the parents of daughters have much choice? If a young woman returned to her parents’ house because she was unhappy in her marital home, then her marital family and the community could actually demand that they send her back. But, if her marital family sent her back, that was also seen as a failure of the girl child (often a minor when she was married). There were no individual rights. Like the dhobi is Ramayana, anybody could control a woman’s life. Might was seen as right. Parents of sons were empowered to dictate how families of daughters lived (no love marriages, no breaking from norm etc). Is it surprising that everybody wanted atleast one, but preferably a hundred sons? And even today Indians in maternity wards are willing to exchange their own children for a stranger’s male child [link].

Since daughters were unwanted and unwelcome, their rights were neglected. E.g. Child abuse didn’t matter so long as the girl didn’t get pregnant and her chances of being accepted as a daughter in law were not affected. (Her trauma didn’t matter so long as her reputation was not sullied and she could be married off)

Her well being, health, happiness and personal growth also did not matter because it was enough to train her to be a good daughter in law – hard working, obedient, self effacing, willing to accept her fate and willing to accept blame for things beyond her control. (for not bearing male children, for not keeping her husband happy, for her father not being rich enough, for not being fair, for wanting more from her life, for wanting love, respect and or for having interests beyond what her great, great grand parents had chosen for her  etc)

Since the Indian girl child was seen only as a future daughter in law who must bear male heirs, it did not matter if she was happy or not, but it mattered a lot that she was light skinned, fertile (hence as young as possible), easy to control, had no disease, came from a same/certain caste and was hard working and to ensure she was not carrying another family’s heir, a virgin.

Younger daughters in law were preferred because they were seen as easier to control, would stay fertile longer, could work harder and would be available to provide elder care to their frequently much older husbands and his parents. So who was to provide elder care to the daughter in law? If she bore a son, and found him an obedient, hard working and dutiful wife, than this daughter in law was to provide elder care to her. So she must train and control her sons and their wives well.

Is it surprising that women choose male children and tolerate sex selection and female infanticide?

Why does this evil system survive?

The training begins from even before the birth of the child. There are elaborate prayers for male children, girl children also join in these prayers and wish for brothers to ensure they are treated well in their marital homes. Lots more brain washing, that would make many posts – but the point is that all this made easier for Indian parents to choose to avoid having a girl child than to fight for her rights and be called male-bashers, bra-burning-man-haters etc.

And there’s more. Educating the daughters or making them self reliant goes against the entire system. Patriarchy can’t survive without mentally, emotionally and financially dependent women and obedient young sons. If  women stop fearing random neighbor’s uncle’s nephew’s opinion of them; if young men start choosing careers that make them happy even if that doesn’t provide for their sister’s dowry, or if they start marrying the women they love even if they don’t fit the entire family’s idea of ideal daughters in law – then it would become difficult for traditional Indian Patriarchal system to survive.

How are sexual crimes against women caused by Patriarchy?

1. If patriarchy did not control women’s sexuality and allowed young men and women to interact, young men would begin to see women as people – as sexual people, not as providers of sex, mothers, goddesses, child bearing machines etc. Respect for women would automatically bring down street sexual harassment. Sex would not be seen as a tool to humiliate and control.

2. Sex workers would be seen as equal citizens who have the right to deny consent. The sense of entitlement to consent (amongst other things) that men in Patriarchy are brought up with it would bring down sexual crimes.

3. Parents and families of girl children would value their daughters enough to fight for their right to safety. As of now, 50% of the population and their loved ones, don’t seem to realise that they are being denied the right to public spaces, public transport and safety on the basis of their gender.

So, self reliant women (and men) who are able to choose who to marry or live with, but who do not see Getting Married and Staying Married and raising male heirs as their only goals in their lives are the biggest threat to Patriarchy and associated evils. All those who are fighting against Choice marriages are fighting against this inevitable change, where a few powerful community members would not be able to control what the rest of the community members eat, drink, wear, earn, do in their free time and who they socialize, marry or live with.

Patriarchy can’t survive without the oppression of it’s least powerful members – the foot soldiers of Patriarchy – without obedient daughters in law.

Related Posts:

Here’s why I think the society should not obsess over a woman’s virginity.

A woman is not a woman’s worst enemy. Patriarchy is.

How important is it for a girl to get married?

Dheehyan di maa rani, budhape bharan pani

How can women-folk want to abort girl children, they are female too!

Satyamev Jayate – Is Mother India going to end up being a mother of sons alone?

Skewed sex ratio is not caused by sex selective abortions.

58 thoughts on “Can we blame everything on patriarchy?

  1. Well said. ” Patriarchy can’t survive without the oppression of it’s least powerful members – the foot soldiers of Patriarchy – without obedient daughters in law” which reminds me pf a statement ” They want to control us because they realise how powerful we are and they do not want us to realise our power”/

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  2. Do such people even know that its not up to the woman to bear a male child? The Y chromosome that makes up the male offspring can only come from the father. Ignorance, apart from stupid customs and traditions, only add to this evil.

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    • Oh, they probably know that the Y chromosome of the male child can come only from the father, but they’d still like to blame the woman for not bringing them luck, for her ovum not being available to only Y-bearing sperms for fertilization. They know it is beyond her control, but then so is the colour of her skin, her height and vital statistics, the financial status of the family she was born into, whether or not she has brothers and so on. It is in the nature of the beast called patriarchy to blame women for things beyond their control.

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  3. superbly ariculated IHM!

    I think about these issues at a more fundamental layer. Sure patriarchy is an extremely flawed system. But there is some more basic at an individual level – human level. The ability to exericse one’s freewill and choosing to be kind, respectful, sharing, just, honest, loving and so on.

    We’ve all seen the photo of the homeless man hugging street dogs. In all probability whatever little food he gets, he shares it with those poor dogs who are seen licking his face. Somewhere the society has failed miserably in the case of this man. It has left him on the streets. He’ll probably die on the streets. The muncipality will dump his body somewhere – just as his life was not dignified, so shall his death be. All the nights are on the pavement. All the searing days are on the pavement. He may or may not get food. And for some reason, when one is cursed with such poverty, one is also cursed with a long life. So day after day after day – this man lives in such desperate hopelessness. Yet, he finds kindness and love within him – to take care of those street dogs that are as wretched as him. He can CHOOSE to beat and thrash the dogs and chase them away. But he CHOOSES to share his morsel and offer the warmth of his embrace to those skinny creatures.

    My point is – a system can fail you – but nothing – no power on earth can take away your core of being a decent HUMAN.

    Yes, patriarchy is a manifestation of several societal evils – but the root cause are the people themselves. They CHOOSE to be demonic and barbaric – when they can just as well CHOOSE to be kind and loving. IIMHO – even if patriarchy disappears – a new system of equality is put in place, we will still have many problems simply because the essence and wiring of people is that way – greedy, cruel and conceited.

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    • I totally agree with you Sumana. I have always thought about what actually caused patriarchy to come into existence. And why it has turned out to be so evil. And the cause is actually at a very human, individual level. As long as humans continue to be greedy, cruel, violent towards other living beings, every system will fail at some level or the other.

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    • I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks Sumana. I reiterate Sumana’s words:

      “Yes, patriarchy is a manifestation of several societal evils – but the root cause are the people themselves. They CHOOSE to be demonic and barbaric – when they can just as well CHOOSE to be kind and loving. IIMHO – even if patriarchy disappears – a new system of equality is put in place, we will still have many problems simply because the essence and wiring of people is that way – greedy, cruel and conceited.”

      And…

      “My point is – a system can fail you – but nothing – no power on earth can take away your core of being a decent HUMAN.”

      …that is my point as well.

      I can’t understand how we can blame a system and not ourselves for failing to act like a human. How can we not see, the problem lies within us?

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        • @IHM,

          …Choice marriages are fighting against this inevitable change,…

          What did women like DG get out of choice marriage? Violence, violation and vitriol… We married for choice the men who were patriarchal. Could we have chosen non patriarchal partners in patriarchy? Finding a needle in a hay stack. It is established marriage is injurious to women’s health. The institution of marriage it self is patriarchal in nature it needs to either be done away with or restructured from the scratch.

          This can only come from all those oppressed understand when and where patriarchy privileges them then denounce that minor privilege to challenge major oppression thus unite and stand up against patriarchy as Sai Akhtar Lahori said here http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/desi-sex-ratio-and-marriage-nirmala-1925-to-2011/

          Peace,
          Desi Girl

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      • you can’t judge the issue of human nature without addressing the societal social structure the human is immersed in. People all have human needs-oneof the constants is the need for love and companionship. You can study certain cultures where violence and inequality were unknown-they were also matriarchal cultures which is not the same as the pyramid hierachical social cancer of patriarchy only with women ruling, its a system of life and health where all members work together in harmony for the benefit of the whole equally. And yes it has been done in the hunter gatherer societies. This system is how our bodies function and ecosystems in mother nature. In patriarchy each person feels disconnected from the whole, as a consequence its a system of greed, dominance and mostly “whats in it for me”. Evil is not human nature, its a symptom of the disease called patriarchy and it is dying all around us as more and more people becaome enlightened of the way most women live around the world and speak out against it. Once the critical mass of those in favour of matriarchy is reached it will fall like a house of cards. It has to because our species and planet can’t survive much more of it and it effects many more areas than women’s rights, it’s actually not that great for men as they are trading their humanity for some cheap benefits in a corrupt predatory system. Our environment is what determines who we become, we must understand that or we won’t be as motivated to change it.

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    • Sumana there will always be good and bad people, but no system should be allowed to give unlimited power to some people over the lives of other people.

      We benefit from understanding the harms a biased system can do to a society, because then we understand better, why women seem to hurt other women; or why some men seem to be willing to spend time, money and energy controlling the lives of women in their family; or why parents would rather have unhappily married daughters than happy and single daughters.

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      • I agree IHM. I also think about how these social systems are formed. It is a vicious cycle. It is not that the system is put in place by an independent, impartial set of people and they say ‘okay go ahead and follow this system’. A social system evolves when a critical mass of people THINK and BEHAVE in a similar way. Here is an illustration –

        I read an interesting article about east Germany. After the WWII, there were 7 million more women than men. THis staggering demographic changed everything – women centric industries, economically independent women in this part (when everywhere else, women were fighting for right to work, and right to same pay), and I suppose even the cultural interaction with men changed drastically.

        Patriarchy in India and elsewhere has evolved to what it is because a HUGE MAJORITY of people think and behave in the same manner. If this behaviour is broken, if this thought process is broken, the system will naturally collapse.

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    • Sumana,
      We are Social animals and what we chose to do is most often than not decided by the dominant forces in the Society. So when a poor parent decides to force a girl into a marriage with an elderly rich man, it is considered humane and rational in a feudal Society. But in a Capitalist Society it becomes cruel and irrational. Meanings of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ many a time change with the economic system.

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      • Yes exactly. When you say ‘dominant forces’ it simply means the way a vast majority of people think and behave. Quoting from my comment above to IHM – “A social system evolves when a critical mass of people THINK and BEHAVE in a similar way.” Today, the number of people who think that women are lower grade citizens is very high compared to people who think of equality. The system can only change when this thinking changes. A system is as good as its people!

        And i beg to differ on the “Meanings of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ many a time change with the economic system.” Greed is greed everywhere, cruelty is cruelty everywhere, harassment of any form the same everywhere. What differs is how a society PROPOGATES or discourages these evils. So if a critical mass thinks marrying off an underaged girl to an elderly man is horrible – the practice would not have come into existence. Because you’ve given the explanation – we are social animals, we like to fall into a group, and tend to behave the way the herd behaves.

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        • Sumana a lot of times people know something is not right but are afraid of change, and also have chalta hai attitude. Sometimes not just ignorance, but also petty benefits, inertia and short cut solutions delay much needed changes. Like, why fight for women’s rights when sex selection is possible.

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        • Sumana, a father -who gives off his girl chid in marriage early to a family of ‘good’ repute regardless of the husband’s age or the wishes of the girl- was considered to be good, say about 150 yrs ago. But today in many parts of India such a parent may be considered as bad. That is what I meant by saying meanings of such terms change in many instances with time. (may be not all).

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        • IHM…this is a reply to your comment…”Sumana a lot of times people know something is not right but are afraid of change, and also have chalta hai attitude.”

          100% true. Case in point is my latest blog. I write about everything under the sun, including these issues. For the last couple of blogs, the emails you published were so sad and disturbing that I could not help write about it. My latest blog though, is on Physics. I got comments on FB and personal msgs (not in a mean way) asking me to write ‘more’ of such ‘general’ stuff. Subjects on gender issues are uncomfortable. Writing about them is even more uncomfortable. But I am a part and participant of the ugliness…and so is everyone. But the discomfort to even look at the ugliness and acknowledge it is so high that most prefer to pretend it does not exist, or prefer to ignore it to the extent of asking someone not to ‘talk’ about it too often!

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    • @ Sumana
      Totally agree and couldn’t have put it better myself. Blaming a system for social ills is a simplistic way of looking at things, by ignoring the far more complex human and individual factors involved. A lot of the social issues mentioned in IHM’s post are manifestations of the baser sides of human nature, which has been fecilitated by the tradition (or patriarchy, as some people call it). Simply getting rid of patriarchy and replacing it with a more equal society (if such a thing is even possible) wouldn’t solve the problems.

      The Khasi and Jantia cultures of Meghalaya for example, are matriarchal and yet, it is no gender egalitarian utopia.

      @ Arun
      You talk as if capitalism and feudalism are mutually exclusive. Capitalism is essentially an economic feudal system and at times, both are interchangeable.

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      • Indian Atheist, your observation about economic systems of Capitalism and feudalism being interchangeable was interesting. Do you mean that instead of family of birth, money in the bank decides the hierrarchy in Capitalism?
        Yes, I agree with that. But still Capitalism favors women very much, as they can get out of the house, sell their labour and get cash in return. As the venue of major economic activity shifts from family held farms and workshops to big factories and offices, more and more Wiomen gets an income of their own and the Society slowly changes it’s attitude towards women.

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        • “But still Capitalism favors women very much, as they can get out of the house, sell their labour and get cash in return.”
          It might be the case in places like North India, where women’s economic submission is the biggest stumbling block towards the emancipation of women. But on the whole, capitalism doesn’t really free women from exploitation. The very existence of the porn industry and the commoditisation of women in free market societies like United States is a good example of this (vis. a vis. socialist countries of Europe).
           
          A economic model that is exploitative towards the less economically privileged is unlikely to be free of misogyny. Women’s economic independance changes very little, unless the underlying socio-cultural and religious attitudes towards women (and their place in society as bona fide human being) are changed. The rapes and molestation of working women in Delhi, who are by no means economically dependant, is a good illustration.The high rates of rapes and domestic violence in laissez faire capitalist societies like the United States is another good example.

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  4. More than patriarchy, more than Indian society and its rigid so-called traditions, I feel the biggest factor that influences everything is rational thinking, conscience and the choice between “what is actually, ethically, morally right” and “what the tradition says” !!

    1. If parents take care of their daughters even after they are married, and realize that they must not forget them once they are settled in their ‘own homes’, what is wrong with kanyadaan as a tradition? Who stops a father from making sure that her daughter is happy? Who stops parents from fighting against dowry, against domestic violence.. People say its society or patriarchy.. I say, they do not make the right choice between the two options above.. If they keep the happiness of their girl child above everything else, nobody can stop them!

    2. Yes, the girl child did not have a choice.. But, when you talk of marriages, even the male child does not have a choice.. Every Indian mother dreams of her child’s wedding..Thats the reason why, gays and lesbians, live-in relationships, nothing at all is easily acceptable in Indian society.. Moreover, why should she think of escaping by choosing not to marry, she should fight for her rights! She should fight against the slavery, against the fact that she is not allowed to marry the guy she loves, even when it is her legal right..
    I feel that with respect to the social pressure in terms of marriages, young men and women are equally suffering!

    3. The concept of ‘manliness’.. I find it ridiculous.. I believe that every person must be strong and responsible.. If you think rationally, men and women are equal.. Unfortunately, something like rationality is not common among Indians..

    4. The concept of sending them back home, yes, patriarchy and Indian society are responsible.. In laws stop treating her as a human being, she is humiliated and her life is controlled, a small mistake by her, and she would be thrown out..
    Parents of daughters are afraid that they would be sent back, the girl herself is afraid.. They think of making compromises for saving the marriage, the cliched line, I’ve heard it n number of times, “ladki walon ko hi jhukna padhta hai” .. Why? Because people are afraid, not afraid of the fact that the girl would suffer, but, afraid of what the society would say, what people would think..
    But what if they choose the second option, “what is actually right?” People whose conscience is still alive won’t ever torture their DIL.. Similarly, parents would choose to support their daughters too!

    5. As of now, 50% of the population and their loved ones, don’t seem to realise that they are being denied the right to public spaces, public transport and safety on the basis of their gender.
    Absolutely true! No matter how people claim that girls and boys are treated equally.. In this regard, even in well educated families, even in families where girls are loved and respected, people fail to realize this fact, sadly..

    In any case, to rebel against what is wrong, to value a person’s rights and happiness above society and traditions.. I was never taught to have this attitude, neither at home, nor at school.. I developed this because I think rationally and I can’t stand injustice of any sort..
    If only, people start thinking rationally, following whats logically correct, realize that they have every right to fight for their legal rights and stop accepting whatever is unfair to them or to anyone for that matter, the number of people suffering because of patriarchy or in the name of society’s traditions would definitely reduce..

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  5. I do not understand one thing, why is it that you expect the parents to protect their daughters but not expect the daughters to respect their parents’ opinion when it comes to getting married?
    Don’t parents have any value? Or is it that they must not demand but sacrifice every time?
    I don’t know if this will be published since some of my comments haven’t been off late, but frankly speaking this injustice baffles me.

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    • Parents choose to have a child, girl or boy, it is their DUTY to provide for the child physically, mentally and emotionally, if you cannot ensure that you raise your child boy or girl to be confident, independent and with a decent food clothing and shelter and treat them well — they are lacking as parents.

      Children don’t ask to be born, my sons didn’t come and tell me to give birth to them, parents do not have the right to demand, if parents think raising kids is a sacrifice and not a pleasure then they have control – they can choose not to Have them :-)

      parents are expected to protect their daughter or empower them to protect themselves because they CHOOSE to give birth to her. Daughters do not have to agree ( i don’t know what you mean by respect) to their parents choice of partners in marriage because the PARENTS are not the ones who have to live, love,laugh, sleep, bear children and generally spend the next 50yrs with the partner.

      parents are not mind readers , as a parent i know in broad terms what makes my boys happy I CERTAINLY do not know what makes them passionate, what type of girl they dream of being with, what characteristics in a spouse make them happy – they will know that when they find the girl. hence it is my job as a parent to raise them with good values and set them free and hope and pray that they have the good luck in finding their soul-mate. parents take pleasure int heir children’s happiness.. if my boys find love and passion and joy in their marriage it makes me happy i don’t find great happiness if they marry whom I want and are miserable. it is their life, their choice their decision, their mistakes to make.

      sorry to be harsh, but parenting is a one way street not a i give and expect something in return…

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      • Hi Radha,

        I agree with most everything you wrote, except that parenting is a one way street. Parents do deserve to be loved and taken care of in their old age. Taking care does not necessarily mean that they live with their son or daughter, or that children spend money on them. There are other ways of taking care of them. Emotionally, physically when one falls ill, etc. This applies to everyone I believe, husbands take care of wives, wives of husbands, brothers and sisters of each other, etc.

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        • @sarkywoman

          Love and respect from a child is certainly what we parents desire, but in now way can we demand it. If my child has that strong relationship with me when they are adults, then such feelings like caring for my emotional well being will come naturally to them. And if that is not happening, I will be sad, but in no way will I demand that my child has to care for me in any way.

          The husband/wife relationship is one of choice. They choose to be each others spouses and take care of each other. My child had no such choice being born to me.

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    • I think if there is basic respect between all parties – daughters, their prents, sons, their parents, parents of sons towarsd their sons’ future/current wives, parents fo daughters towards their daughters’ future/current husbands (this one at least seems to be very much there, except it is out of fear rather than being genuine respect), then there will not be injustice. Respect versus sacrifice, obedience, tradition.

      Possibly a utopian view but this is what folks are trying to say – at the moment in Indian society there is, largely, respect (borne out of fear) only from the ‘girl’s’ side towards the ‘boy’s’ side, not the other way. That is where patriarchy is the problem.

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    • Sushobh, I do not understand why you consider this as an injustice.

      The simple answer is that in a family of adults, parents and children are expected to take care of each other. However, that does not given either of them (parents or children) to take unilateral decisions on behalf of each other or to impose their decisions on one another.

      Perhaps I’m mistaken, but you seem to require understanding on a more basic level.

      I hope you agree that a daughter is an individual human being. In a free society, one of her fundamental rights is the right to take any and every decision regarding her own life (which includes her marriage as well). Parents can give opinions, suggestions and advice, but the final decision remains the daughter’s…because it is her life.

      The other thing that you probably need understanding on is that children do not take the decision to be born. Parents take the decision of giving birth to children. So the parents are expected to take accountability for consequences of their decision…i.e. the well-being of their children.

      Please let me know if you disagree.

      Also, in most of the incidents that are discussed in IHM’s blog, parents failed to protect their daughters even if the daughters had married according to their parents wishes. What is your opinion on that?

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    • My parents did not ask me before having me. They did not take my permission either before getting married and collectively being my parents. And if they did not want to ‘sacrifice’, they should not have had children because being a parent comes with a responsibility of protecting your children until they are adults and can protect themselves. And being a parent is entirely optional.

      Also, respect is not obedience. I may respect my parents point of view when they say look for x,y,z in your partner. I may understand why they prefer x,y,z qualities and I would still not agree with them.

      Parents build their value from the kind of relationship they have with their kids. And like every relationship, this also has to evolve over time from guardian to equal once they reach adulthood.

      For the life of me, I fail to understand why parents want to force their opinions on marriage when it is their child that will be the one living it. The parents may get the satisfaction of getting their way for a couple of years and then die. But the child will bear the brunt of it long after they are gone. What parents parents so confident that their opinion is the right one? After all parents are humans too and as far as I know, reproduction has not bestowed anyone with superpowers.

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  6. I would say that both Patriarchy and the people’s mind-sets are to blame.
    and your last line – sums it all up.
    Its mostly all about ego, power, control..

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  7. I do.Enforcing ones opinion on another is incorrect but so is expecting someone to come to your rescue every time you get into some mess and unfortunately a few daughters(sons too) do exactly that. I believe that you are all for the empowerment of children who do not wish to follow what the parents ask them to when it comes to marriage and other important decisions.Well, in that case the child is to be regarded an adult and someone who has disregarded the parents.An adult is completely responsible for his/her imbecile decisions and does not deserve his parents’ assistance if the parents had advised otherwise.The child by ignoring the parents has acknowledged the fact that he does not want to follow their advice and also is fully responsible for his errors.
    As far as the daughters who obeyed the parents are concerned, the parents in my opinion were unaware of the reality but still are completely responsible for their hasty and stupid decisions.

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    • All that comes to mind after reading your words, Sushobh, is that old saying that “if your parents jumped off a bridge, would you too?” Look Sushobh, Satish was exactly right when he said that while parents and children have responsibilities to each other, when it comes to the core components of a person’s life (their profession, who they marry, having children) those decisions must be taken by the immediate persons involved, meaning the man or woman. Not their parents. Parents of course can give advice and many times it may be good advice. But sometimes it is just not good advice! Would you say it is good advice for a 14 year old to consent to her parents’ wish to marry her off? Even if it was against the law? Basically, when it comes to these core fundamental questions, no parent has the right to “ask” (you used “ask,” but I would say the more accurate word is “command”) their adult children to do something against their will. Of course, the son or daughter will have to deal with consequences of their actions. We all have to. But at least he or she will be responding to their OWN choices. That is what self-worth is about.

      Also, I don’t know if you have children, but even if your child made a horrible mistake I believe a parent should still love him/her and help their child no matter what. That is called unconditional love and I think we need a bit more of it in this world. Loving your parents is not about submitting to their every command. That’s called slavery. Rather it’s about respecting them but knowing that you will be the best son/daughter to them if you are an independent person with integrity. Bowing to their every whim will never teach a person what really matters: character.

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    • I think patriarchy in the context of this post speaks about treating women as human beings.
      A child is to be regarded as an adult irrespective of if he or she listens to the parents , the law says at 18 you are an adult , a child may not find the advise of a parent suitable for his lifestyle, we parents are not know-it-all’s i may lknow what’s good for my child in a limited context so it is upto the child to listen or not to me based on how they think their life should be.

      again you seem to want a give and take, listen to me and i will help you. follow your heart i won’t help you etc., etc., I’m not sure if you say this because you havn’t faced this situation but most parents will protect their child irrespective of it they agree with them or not.
      and i don’t say don’t respect your parents or care for them, I as a parent would not demand my child respect me or take care of me, he is not my insurance policy that’s all.. but i will certainly make sure he is happy and well since i choose to birth him. it’s admirable for kids to be supporting and caring their aged parents and shows towards how well broughtup they are, but that has nothing to do with patriarchy.. partriarchy is FORCING the womenfolk to do what you want in the name of culture, tradition and forcing the womens parents to bend and bow.

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    • @Sushboh

      Parents can refuse from helping adult children if they were not responsible to get them into the mess in the first place. Most of the cases discussed here are arranged marriages. Not imbecile decisions.

      The blog also talks about parents refusing to help their children just because they are girls. And also pressuring them to face more hardship just because the so called family honor is at stake.

      You also seem to only talk about daughters. Do you think the parents should behave differently if it is sons instead of daughters asking for help. Do you think such discrimination is fair?

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    • You do have a point. Parents cannot be expected to throw everything and jump in.

      However this is valid IF the girl/woman in question was allowed +
      to make her own decisions – then yes your logic holds – your decision, you figure a way out (though I can tell you parents will still want to help if they can – if ‘society’ lets them). And more importantly IF the girl/woman is made capable of taking her own decisions.

      In my opinion, that is a parent’s real job. Making the child (boy or girl) capable of taking decisions and then living with consequences – good or bad. Their job is not to carry on making decisions for them even after they reach adulthood and then expecting them to live with the results.

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    • Sushobh, other people here have replied to your comments far better than I can.

      You are right in saying that adult daughters (or sons) are fully responsible for their decisions and should face the consequences of the decisions they take. But why should that preclude them from asking for or expecting help from their parents or others?

      They have not done anything illegal, unethical or harmful by taking their own decisions regarding their own life. So if something ends up wrong with their decisions, why would they not expect their parents to support them? What reason is there for them to expect their parents to withold their support? You are not doing justice to either daughters or parents with your statement.

      To take a partially analogous example, suppose I ride a bike without a helmet and get into an accident, I definitely have to face the consequences of not wearing a helmet, but would that disqualify me from expecting other people to help me?

      The basic flaw in your premise lies in the fact that you seem to think that daughters (or sons) who disregard their parents’ advice are “arrogant” and therefore not worthy of consideration if they end up in trouble. That is where your argument seems to be misguided. How can it be “arrogant” for anyone to take decisions regarding their own lives (regardless of what other people’s advice is)?

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  8. IHM…you said it all. I understand and completely agree with this post. Yet, I would say no system in the world can make me give up my daughter. They will have to kill me, before anyone can touch my daughter…whether she is an unwanted infant , a teenager being pressurized into getting married or whether she is married and escaping. And I will do that for someone’s else’s girl as well. I am sure you and many others would do the same. I also know that courage, strength, righteousness have nothing to do with education or being modern or being poor or rich. Its a trait we are born with or without.
    I blame individuals for crimes like the one discussed in your last post. I personally don’t believe any system can make a cold-blooded criminal out of an otherwise loving man/woman who then chooses to stand by the oppressors and helps them carry out inhuman tasks.

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    • //I personally don’t believe any system can make a cold-blooded criminal out of an otherwise loving man/woman who then chooses to stand by the oppressors and helps them carry out inhuman tasks.//

      I agree Joyee, the system only empowers the cold minded criminals to commit their crimes without any serious fear of condemnation. It enables crimes in the name of custom, culture and honor etc.

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      • I agree but isn’t it also true that even if there were no patriarchy, such crimes would still be there? Criminal minded men and women would still work their way out of whatever system is in place. Even if it was matriarchy, power hungry people would still misuse the system so that it served only the privileged few and we still would have the same issues but with different names and a different system to put the blame on.

        I may be wrong but I still think a big part of the blame goes to individuals, people, women directly involved in crimes committed against women. And it is a matter of choice that they make at that moment. They choose barbarism over humanity. Even the girl’s mother, her father in all their innocence are to be blamed for they chose to be ignorant.
        And I’m sorry but I will plug my ears if I have to hear they did it because patriarchy made them.

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        • Of course the blame goes to individuals Joyee, I hope they go to jail and I strongly condemn their actions and the girl’s parents’ weakness. They did marry-off a minor and left her to her fate.

          This post is about understanding what makes these crimes so easy to commit – what allows Indian parents to marry off and forget young girl children, what makes her in-laws so powerful, what makes it a shame to be raped but excusable to brutally rape someone.

          1. Patriarchy did not make them do it, patriarchy made it easier or possible for them to follow their evil intents And patriarchy made it possible for the girl’s parents to be sent back without finding her.

          2. Matriarchy or any other such system that allows some people to control the lives of some other people is equally condemnable.

          3. I think our Democracy and the Indian Constitution is what has made it possible for these family and social values to be questioned and challenged. So what we need is respect for the law of the land and strong condemnation for such feudal hierarchies.

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      • IHM
        I agree with much of what your post, but I think that patriarchy is just a part of the problem. The biggest problem in India is the caste system. This system has divided up and dehumanized people like nothing else has. It effects almost every aspect of life. People from one caste look down upon and have no respect for those below them. The lowest castes are of course treated as disposable people by everyone else. I’ll give a simple example. Once there was a road sweepers strike in our neighborhood so my MIL swept the area outside her house. She was the only one in our entire block to do so. She got a lot of comments, such as “Kyon chote logon ka kaam kar rahin hai”. These people would rather have litter strewn outside their house than lift a finger to clean it. The attitude that “We are better than the others” is everywhere. Even in the US, every community has its own group , gujaratis, Marathis, Tamils, telgu, etc and others need not apply. I know of cases where an Indian professor filled his lab with students from his own community. When people treat others as lesser beings then you get a dysfunctional society. Women are just a part of this equation. Daughters have a lower position than sons, DILs are supposed to be supposed to be subservient MILs. Lower class women are inferior to upper class women. One cannot make the blanket statement that patriarchy is responsible for the bad condition of women in our society. I would rather be an upper class woman in India than a schedule class male. I really think the problem is our lack of respect for fellow humans.

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        • Our ancestors have left behind an evil, powerful and complex system of hierarchy. Caste, gender and also class (wealth, education) can give us power over other people . Have blogged about the caste system here,

          http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/cooking-jobs-reserved-for-some/

          And here. Amir Khan in Satyamev Jayate, shared this powerful video.

          http://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/wordless-wednesday-casteless-india/

          This system also makes a dalit girl the lowest in the hierarchy, which is why we hear of so many cases of dalit girls being raped and burnt alive for refusing to be raped or disappearing after being raped. She is less likely to go to school or receive nutrition or medical care, than a dalit boy. Also in some ways an upper caste woman is more vulnerable on the streets than a dalit man. Social hierarchies – created by feudal, patriarchal, class, caste, gender are a social evil.

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        • Caste system is the Indian version of Feudalism determined hierarchies. What we have to remember is Patriarchy preceded feudalism and will continue in a milder form in Capitalism. So it is a stronger and more durable hierrachial division than feudal caste system

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  9. I don’t want to keep arguing without thanking you for what you’re doing through this blog IHM.
    This post is an excellent guide to understanding the general mindset we have to put up with, day in and day out, whether we live in India or any other part of the world.

    From the discussions we have had over the last few posts, I want to say I am not ashamed of my country, or my countrymen. I feel the frustration, helplessness, hopelessness of people living in India without access to basic supplies. I don’t see the fully airconditioned malls all around my city (as signs of the economic growth people talk about), I see the people outside the malls doing their business in sweltering heat, ready to pack and run with or without their belongings at seeing the ‘municipality men’ who not only make them evacuate but also take half or more of their day’s earnings. I learn from them how not to lose it and still think of ways to get by the day and bring home a few bucks. I see the kids standing outside the restaurant, hungry since morning…naked and cold or naked and burning under the sun…waiting for morsels of leftover food thrown at them in mercy. I try to think of the mother whose children they are…where she must be working….or begging, is she wondering if her kids got to eat something? I see the women at the traffic signals preparing a bed for the night – clearing the creases of a torn bedsheet spread over the grass for her children. Some I have even seen pregnant. I learn from them. They seem fearless. Probably ‘cuz they have nothing to lose? They don’t know about patriarchy. All they know is injustice, insults, humiliation and yet another day to survive…yet I see them smile. I look at their kids running across the busy traffic fearlessly. I see their eyes mocking me. What do I know of life and its challenges?
    We talk of women’s rights…can we ensure we have human rights first?

    Like

    • Joyee, women’s rights are human rights and being aware of social ills can only benefit the society. Also, even in these inhuman conditions, women and children are more vulnerable to sexual abuse, violence, medical care in case of pregnancy and illness, child care etc.

      Why do you think they are not affected by Patriarchy (along with casteism, classism, feudalism, poverty, hunger. corruption etc)? Do you think unwed pregnancies are tolerated amongst them? And the very fact that they are surrounded by a patriarchal society puts them at risk from sexual assaults. The maid at my mother’s place used to live in such a place when she had just come from her village, and as she grew financially comfortable, her biggest focus was to find suitable boys for all her daughters and grand daughters (between 12-15 years) and to marry them before they were ‘spoiled’. She also told us about how she successfully fought against some of the men in their jhuggies planning to rape a widow who used to live alone in her jhuggi.

      Joyee, understanding how an evil system (e.g. Patriarchy) works and affects and harms the entire society (often even those who are empowered by the evil) does not harm the people who are harmed by other evils along with Patriarchy.

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      • “..understanding how an evil system (e.g. Patriarchy) works and affects and harms the entire society (often even those who are empowered by the evil) does not harm the people who are harmed by other evils along with Patriarchy.”

        Absolutely. And that is why I said you wrote an excellent guide to understand the system. It is necessary and I am not refuting any of what you have said, I am trying to lay emphasis on the fact that all these societal evils are interrelated, each supporting and encouraging, emboldening the other. And patriarchy is just one of those societal evils.

        And although I agree that the concept of right and wrong is relative. It depends upon where you live, what times, what social/economic conditions you are living in. What is right for one may be wrong for another.

        But when its a question of life and death, I guess no system, time or place can overrule one’s common, rational sense and the basic intelligence, and emotions that we are born with.

        When people fail to act rationally due to irrational fear, cowardliness and sheer ‘chalta hai’ , ‘who cares as long as its not me or my family’ attitude, that’s when I say let’s not blame the system for who we choose to be and what we choose to do.

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  10. The photo in the post actually reminded me of yesterday (11th July) episode of Saas Bina Sasural, the teleserial aired on Sony. In one scene, it is shown that early in the morning all the men sit on chairs asking for “chaai” while women are shown cleaning chairs, stairs and floor in the background. One bahu is supposed to go to work yet is shown cleaning the floor before she leaves for office, while her husband who is also supposed to go to work sits and reads newspaper. So it is very ‘normal’ in our culture to have men set and relax while women have to slog irrespective of whether or not they are tired.

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    • When I was married and staying in a joint family, the one thing that bugged me the most was situation similar to what u have described…me rushing like crazy to get the breakfast ready for everyone and rush to my office while the others (retired FIL, Homemaker MIL, College going BIL and good-for-nothing EX) relaxed with chai and newspaper uuuurrrggggggg

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  11. I agree with all your points, IHM. This shouldn’t be. No system should have this power. And there are laws and people and some puny factors trying to challenge centuries worth of control mechanisms by a few on a majority: be this gender, caste or class based.

    However, the solution to the problem is in each of us standing up for ourselves, where ever we come from. Yes, it is tough to break the conditioning but there’s really no short cut to the process for true, forever liberation. Slavery was abolished but the slaves needed to then take the freedom and not stay cowed down. A sizable portion of the first generation of ‘free’ men ended up staying as servants in the same households – habituated and scared of the alternative, paid a pittance.

    At the end of the day, expecting solutions from outside only is detrimental to us. We’ve got to admit to our weaknesses only in order to shore ourselves up. We’ve got to admit that conflict is something we’re socialized to avoid – even polite disagreement for some…how many women are uncomfortable with another woman speaking her mind in public? We’ve got to fight for our kids’ and our rights as mothers. There’s no glory in self sacrifice. Sacrificing our kids’ futures is a crime. I expect more of women because I know we’re capable of it.

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  12. Looks like anyone who decides to go against the patriarchal norms, even in the most harmless ways, is not going to have it easy. I can understand my divorce makes people uncomfortable..the most common reason being “thodi bahut issues to har marriage me hote hain…agar sabhi ladkiyan aise hi divorce lene lagengi to kya hoga is society ka”. However, i am unable to understand how does my sister’s single status concern anyone! What makes it the fav topic of discussion for the extended family. Or for that matter my partner’s bachelor status..why can ‘log’ accept people’s single status without butting in with their advises, suggestions and help uffff

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  13. Pingback: If u r doing good to ur parents-in-law then ur own parents r being treated good by ur brother’s wife.. Its a ‘Chain’. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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