Of Women and Bodies and the Overcast of Patriarchy

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The headline will not come as a surprise to many readers. Indian Society even in the most of affable term is firmly patriarchal. Patriarchy has permeated and entrenched itself in every strata of the society. It has become so hardened that we have institutionalized it in our psyche.

The woman needs a male protector, and without a protector, she is the assumed temptress and the confirmed victim. “I have a boyfriend/husband/fiancée” is the easiest way out of unwanted stalkers Romeo.

Of course, a women’s agency to choose and consequently reject a romantic proposal is absurd. How dare she? Powerful women cannot say no because we, as a society, have put men on a pedestal. Women are so scared of even bruising the male ego that they will put their own life on hold. A girl cannot wear jeans because it will tempt the boys. A short skirt will cause them to froth at mouth and reach crazy hormonal levels. And the girl will be cat-called, subjected to sexual harassment and assault.

But it was the girl’s fault wasn’t it? She was ‘clearly asking for it’. Frankly this is clearly insulting to men. They are conceived clearly as animals or beast in the throes of passion anytime they seem a female. These explanations never give them a chance to be human. Their humanity is eroded just as a women’s agency is.

This is what patriarchy does to people. It strips them of humanity and reduces them to mere primeval beasts. Any system as firmly entrenched as patriarchy depends solely on control and power. From a small unit such as a couple to a bigger as a society, this unfair power distribution is omniscient. A wife no matter what academic qualification she has achieved will be judged solely on her talent of making lip-smacking dinner for her husband. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so girls, you better not give him a bad digestion.

When I was an undergraduate at Miranda House, one of our professors explained to us how saying 'No' is. She explained how this one syllable word has the potential to overturn the yoke of patriarchal oppression.

A lot of us women have a hard time saying no. It is not something that we are born with or a genetic condition. It is a social conditioning which can be unlearned. Girls are trained from a young age to act nice or act mature. They are constantly urged to smile, be nice and be more in touch with other people’s feeling. Boys, on the other hand, are less attuned to other people’s feeling. Their main goal, as taught to them, is to covert the goal and win. So, when boys and girls compete together, the girls are at a slight disadvantage.

But there is silver lining on the horizon because slowly but steadily, women are claiming their own space in the society. In Bihar particularly education for females is picking up. And education is making them aware of their right and giving them a chance to be financially independent. We have a long way to go but hope is a powerful thing. And I hope Bihar will be the beacon of equality for the rest of the country.

Farhain Khan, Director, S. Raza High School


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