Is Patriarchy a pandemic too?-Pujashree Mahanta

pcthe New York Times

Is Patriarchy a pandemic too?

Patriarchy means a system of state or society where the men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. The existence of patriarchy in the 21st century is unacceptable on many levels. Patriarchy should have been a thing of the past, but in fact, it has moved across boundaries and borders, and has rightfully claimed to become a global issue. Men and women across the world are victims of patriarchy. Men around the world, feels it is their inherent right to tell women what to do and how to do it and women on the other hand, think it is their responsibility and duty to listen and abide by men. Decades ago, this ‘way of living and thinking’ was acceptable but today, this whole concept stands futile and obsolete.
Women, today, are educated and are responsible for themselves. Women have shifted their roles from being home-makers to professionals, be it business, job or research. Today’s women, will not accept it to be a men’s world with a gulp of water. Today’s women are not just the spectators of change but are the harbingers of change. Women no longer have limited responsibilities within the four walls of their house, but are coming forward and contributing to the economy. The roles of women in the society are expanding but how far has our mindset expanded?
In India, looking at the population, everything happens a bit aggressively. The atrocities of patriarchy can be traced far back to the Mahabharata, where Draupadi had to surrender herself to God, to be protected against the ills of men, even after she was married to five men and had 100 other men from the family in the same gathering. Draupadi’s Chirharan is a classic example of how scary it could get for a woman when men play the dice. As gruesome as it sounds, the tragic practices like female foeticide and female infanticide, are still practiced in many parts of India. In India, the sex determination process has exposed a breeding ground of gender crimes which in-turn has led to its ban and criminalisation. But how far has it eradicated the crime? The recent incident of the Kadam family hospital in Maharashtra, have exposed the involvement of doctors in illegal abortions and foeticides. According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report, more that 4 crore females are missing from the 2020 demography due to pre- and post-birth sex selection. The worst outcome of sex selection can be seen in the form of demographic imbalance which in turned has led to a peculiar condition called marriage squeeze, where prospective grooms outnumber the prospective brides.
If sex education was not considered a taboo in India, science itself would have made it clear, the magnitude of a man’s role in determining the child’s sex as compared to a woman. But throughout time, the patriarchal institutions have blocked information, so men can continue being at power. Knowledge is power and hence, is often denied.
Being born as a woman, is just the beginning of a lifelong struggle. The extreme bias of daughters in favour of sons, the difference in foundational upbringing based on the gender of a child and the difference in reactional training eventually leads to two separate worlds for men and women. The crimes against women, be it rape, molestation, sexual assault, sexual defamation, eve-teasing, marital rapes, acid attacks, dowry killings, honour killings, domestic violence, etc. have their roots entangled to patriarchy. It comes from the innate feeling that is stitched into a man’s mentality, to control women. Times immemorial, women have been treated as second class citizens but today, the question is, is it fair?
When the pandemic happened, the world changed. Work culture changed. Work from home became the new normal but had different meanings for men and women. While men could still limit himself to office work. For most women, hells fell loose. Women not only had to manage office work but had to look after the children and do household work. It became normal for a woman to sit for a zoom meeting while cooking lunch or dinner while this was never expected out of a man. Women ended up doing 3 times the work as compared to men. During pandemic, the cases of domestic violence and marital rapes, strikingly increased. This emphasises the grim reality of situations that women face, even inside the walls of her own house. Moreover, the pandemic has also pushed many women to forceful marriages.
Patriarchy has even turned women against women. Throughout years, it has fed women with thoughts of insecurities, that women need validation from men. Patriarchy has given rise to the feeling of intimidation and has turned women against each other. Women see each other as mere competitors. It has taught women to pull down other women, so one can be ahead. With time women have lost confidence in their capability and calibre and have started to swear by recommendations and being in good-books. Yes, it requires a fight to be at the top, but it is a fight against our own shortcomings, seldom a fight against each other.
While men often are believed to have escaped the brunt of patriarchy, it is hardly true. Men are double impacted. They are responsible for it and they are also affected by it. The typical notions that position men superior to women, have backfired and forced men to project as someone they are not. The machoism associated with a man, gradually poisons the innocence and warmth of a free mind. When a woman listens to a man, it is considered mannerism, but, the other way round, is often a shame. In a patriarchy, a man is denied certain expression of emotions, so he can continue being the man or the superior. The head of the family image that a man has to carry all the time, often pressurises a man with excessive responsibilities.
Patriarchy is well-knitted in our society and we have to start pulling it out from its roots to get rid of it. It will take years to declare ourselves patriarchy free, but that should not demotivate us. First and foremost, we need to educate our children and send them to schools, irrespective of their gender. Sex education and gender studies should be a part of a normal curriculum. Proper upbringing has proven to play a major role in nurturing a gender-neutral personality. But, to bring about a major change, society and the Government needs to work in close nexus. Schemes like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” can be seen as a welcoming change. Awareness programmes at grassroot levels and proper criminalisation of gender crimes is imperative. For long, women have fought the battle alone but now, it is time to give women what they deserve: equality, dignity and respect. Women are fully functional individuals and we need to stop seeing them through the eyes of patriarchy. They need not be controlled, but loved and accepted. They need no saviours but progressive supporters. Women are equally entitled for dissent and consent. Its high time, we change the narrative and make patriarchy a thing of the past.

Pujashree Mahanta