What this article intends to do – shed light on patriarchy in general and provide food for thought to the origin of certain practices and are they still valid today.
What this article does not intend to do – to hurt anyone’s sentiments or to prove anyone wrong!
What this article tries to do - help you shed some of your 20th-century beliefs and give you three core beliefs that you can start to operate from.
Patriarchy favors the males, so yes, it is bad for the other gender/s! But this is not the entire truth – patriarchy also places a lot of burden and pressure on males to be the providers! It also does not allow men, in general, to express their emotions. A very natural act of crying is frowned upon and is termed as a sign of weakness.
Who set up the practice of patriarchy?
Men! Of course, they were supported by women in many instances, but women certainly did not favor patriarchy! There are several scriptures that either have been destroyed or hidden as they contained the accounts of brave women and their counterparts! These scriptures have surfaced every so many decades only to solidify the belief that patriarchy was imposed upon the world and is not a natural occurrence!
Biology is fair!
Nature has it all figured out even before the origin of mankind! Biological differences between men and women are well accepted and yet overlooked when it comes to gender equality! Both genders are equally needed for the propagation of humans, so how can one gender be weaker than the other? Scriptures in all faiths suggest that men and women complement each other and hence should continue to live in harmony. And yet we chose to only believe the parts where women are oppressed, portrayed as an object of pleasure, and need constant protection! The question that comes to mind is, who do these women need protection from? Men? Then who needs to readjust their attitude and realign their psyche? Men!! And some women! The misconception that since women bear children, they are responsible for the gender of the child still exists! The ramifications of this misconception lead to female feticide and further oppression of women! Scientists have repeatedly proved that the gender of the child is determined by the male! Also, intelligence is passed from the mother to the child. And yet men are considered superior beings overruling what nature has already settled?! And the worst part about these misconceptions is that women themselves choose to believe these and even harass the women who do not! So, let's introspect here and stop the spreading of old wives ’ tales! Let us be each other’s allies and align ourselves with nature as it was originally intended. Only women supporting other women (personally and professionally) will bring about a change and then men can be asked to be part of that change!
Traditions favor men?!
“Make sure you fast with all the faith and follow the rituals for your husband’s long life – you are from a cultured household after all!” “Don’t you dare come to the puja room; you are on your period.” “You don’t know how to make chapatis? Did your mother not teach you anything?” “Dress up for your man, make sure you are always available to him” “You think you should get a say in everything just because you are educated – know your place” “You better start following our traditions after you get married”
Do these statements sound familiar? No matter which part of the world you belong to, if you are a girl you may have heard these statements in some form or the other! What makes these statements even sadder is that they have been uttered by one woman to another! Then why wouldn’t men jump on the wagon and further oppress women?! My mom would often say, “Let there be some peace in the house, why to oppose certain things when we can easily do them!” And these ‘things’ involved being quiet when I wanted to talk, cooking when I wanted to sleep, saying thank you for remarks that were clearly offensive, and so on. My wheatish skin color was a topic for a great gossip session during most festival gatherings! And some aunty would cleverly remark “at least you are good in studies, that will get you an ok husband!” Even when I first visited home from the US, one aunty remarked “Your skin color has become so much ‘cleaner’ now.” I was also asked if I consumed alcohol on a regular basis since I lived in the US! That finding a ‘suitable boy’ for marriage would be so difficult since I decided to move to the US was a lingering question on our neighbors’ and relatives’ minds! I did not hear such remarks for the boy who was also visiting from the US. He was asked if he had made friends there and if he missed home-cooked food! Why were the questions different for me?!
Moving from the Problem to the Solution
Abha just took us through a first-person narrative of how so many women feel. As I read it, it’s heart-wrenching. Why should women have so many ‘inquiries’? Why can’t men be equal partners? Why can’t men and women support each other?
I enjoy solving problems. To break down the problem statement into chunks and then figure out the best outcome for each chunk gives me joy. But this problem that Abha has thrown at us is not that simple. Let’s try to break it down.
I was a believer in these mindsets that Abha has shared that women have to do the housework, cook meals, take care of children and still work if they are left with any time because that is what I inherited from society. In our Indian context, while growing up, this would be the norm for any child. But it was slightly different in our household - my mother being a Ph.D. had a job whereas my father being a doctor had his own private clinic. He would be back from his workplace by lunchtime and serve us lunch. Those are fond memories from my childhood that I cherish till today.
When I got married, at first it was not easy. I was not prepared by society to challenge these beliefs. Every day is a battle against the core beliefs that I carried for years and the new beliefs I am nurturing. But I made a promise to my better self that I will break free. When my wife and I had kids, I made it my purpose that I would spend plenty of time with our two boys in their growing up years so that I give them these memories to cherish. I would not say it was easy but over the years, I have found much joy in evolving as a human being. Here are three mindset shifts that worked for me.
Shift 1 - We are all equals. Period.
Let me explain. You, me, the 7.5+ billion people on the planet are equal - not in terms of gender, race, resources, strength, problems, etc., etc. but we are equal in terms of giving our best to each moment. We are equals in terms of seeking more. We are all equal in the cocktail of emotions and thoughts we go through. We are equal in the opportunities that await us if we don’t give up. We are equals in our hope of building a better tomorrow.
Start operating with this definition of equality. Do things because they serve your values. Don’t do it to please others. Whether you are a man or a woman, support the other gender in their initiatives, support them in expressing authentically and being who they want to be.
Shift 2 - In my growth lies my happiness.
“Ancora imparo” meaning “Yet, I am Learning”, is an Italian phrase attributed to the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo. If he could say this at the age of 87 then who are you and I to not seek growth. If growth becomes the yardstick with which you can measure your happiness, you can seek infinite joy from this universe because your growth is dependent on you, your efforts, your pursuit of growth, and nothing else. So if as a man, you have to learn to make dinner or learn to wash the clothes, it’s your growth. If as a woman, you have to go out and earn a living for your family and take care of your family, find joy in that growth. You don’t do anything to serve others but to grow yourself.
Shift 3 - Focus on the soul of a person.
We are all so different on the outside but if you go deeper, beyond the skin color, physical attributes, we are all physiologically the same. If you continue to go deeper and believe in the existence of a soul, then we are all the same. The emotions we feel, the thoughts that arise, we are all the same. Intensities might vary from one person to the other but at the core, we are all the same. The division of work based on these outer attributes was done by mankind but as we evolve, we are capable of achieving anything to the best of our abilities. When we interact, let’s focus on the soul of the person - the pure form that lies within.
Next time a girl is asked to draw rangoli on Diwali or cook a certain dish in the kitchen, her response of not being able to do that should not be met with surprise! We should instead try to think that maybe she does not enjoy cooking and rangoli is not the form of art she enjoys! Either way, the judgment needs to take a backseat and the girl does not need to answer a qualifying test every time she chooses to challenge the norms.
Oh, and if you see a boy (or a man) making rangoli or cooking a certain meal, that should not be put on a higher pedestal. He just enjoys doing it and has the freedom to do it.
I know it is tough, very tough but so possible! Equality between genders will happen when there is equality within genders!
Never say the ‘F’ word!
I am talking about feminism in this case! 😊 So many women I have met shy away from calling themselves feminist as they associate it with being a rebel who wants to oppress men! But feminism is highly misunderstood! Feminism is nothing but a stride towards equality! If you want gender equality at home and at the workplace, you are a feminist! So, acceptance of an unequal world that needs a makeover is step number one. The next step is making small changes to how we perceive things, mundane things like cooking, cleaning is a woman’s job unless they are celebrity chefs, then it can be done by men?! Really? Why the hypocrisy? If they can cook in restaurants they can cook at home, daily! Exceptions exist everywhere so let us remember that they are the exceptions and not the norm! We are working towards making equality the norm! Several of my friends are raising feminist sons and I applaud them for that!
At workplaces, it is often seen that women work just as hard (or way more many times) as men and yet struggle to receive equal pay or respect. I have heard men and women say that they would prefer a male boss as they are easy to manipulate! It is disheartening to know this! Don’t we have enough politics in the workplace, do we really need to add patriarchy to it and make our lives even more difficult?! So, I repeat myself, let’s be each other’s allies, let’s rise together! As women we are capable of anything, we put our minds to! I am truly grateful to my Ph.D. advisor for leading by example – a fierce researcher and lady! And I believe if she can do it, all of us can!
The world is changing, we must make sure that it’s changing for the best! I hope this article has triggered some (if not many) thoughts of moving towards gender equality! Equality is not dependent on socioeconomic status or anything manmade so let’s not hide behind the excuse of being from a certain background, faith, or race! Let’s abolish patriarchy (or matriarchy, from some tiny parts of the world) and establish gender equality!
Utkarsh Narang is the Founder of IgnitedNeurons. He is a Certified Happiness Coach and an Internationally (ICF) Certified Life & Business Coach. He leads workshops with corporates and executives on Well Being, Growth Mindset and more. His mission is to inspire & ignite the unique spark within every individual.
You can reach out to him at email@example.com.
Dr. Abha Chalpe Ghosh is a Ph.D. in Reproductive Endocrinology from The University of South Dakota, Sanford School of Medicine. She has a long-standing career as a research scientist but her belief that 'the packaging of the product is just as important as its content!' made her follow her passion on becoming a Marketing & Communications Manager. Personally, she is an avid adventurist and welcome collaborations for adventure sports and travel!