There was a certain question that has stuck with me ever since I first came across it almost a decade ago. A piece in a prominent magazine asked why citizens of India did not have the choice to give their mother’s name instead of their father’s name on an official form or on any form that needed consent of a parent. The author of the piece went on to ask what a widowed woman’s status were to be in such a case. It was a very pertinent question, and remains so.
Even today, official government forms usually do not have the option to give mother’s name as the middle name or as the parent’s name. The mother must be then named as the guardian instead of a parent. Personally, I find this extremely demeaning to the relationship of a woman with her child. A citizen of India should have the right to choose between using his father or his mother’s name interchangeably either as his/her middle name or his/her parent’s name. While this may seem trivial, this is actually a representation of a far bigger status quo of our society. The big giant called patriarchy, which has loomed over us for centuries and which poses a lot of societal problems when it goes on overlooked and when gender dynamics get so skewed that they cross the line of no return.
Patriarchy is expressed in multiple ways. In the ways that household activities are divided between a man and woman with minimal expectations from a man to fill in for a role that he could perform with ease at home. On the other hand, a woman is not only expected to contribute to the family income and give her husband a helping hand, but also expected to be the subservient domestic doormat who does all the household chores by her own and keeps a perfect balance between work and household activities. The same balance, however, is not sought from men in our society. I have seen examples of this in my own society, in my own city. It disturbs me immensely because the seeds of this behavior are sown when the children are young. I have a problem with how gender roles are pre-ordained in our society. It can be something as simple as a parent telling his/her 10-year-old daughter, ”You must pay attention to household stuff. After all, you are the one who has to take care of the household.”
Why should the onus of learning the household chores and the way things are done at home be thrust only upon the daughter of the family? The same things can be taught to the girl and boy of the family with it being an inclusive process, instead of making the female feel that she has been singled out and is being made to do something which she may not want to. The feminist in me would try and delve deeper into this issue and maybe try to figure out how and why the concept of patriarchy came to exist in the first place. There have been a lot of studies on this subject but the theory I believe in is that patriarchy came into being when the human race acknowledged that the physical power of the male species ought to be given more importance than the nurturing and child-bearing aspect of the female species. As the former was more conducive to survival of a tribe, it is very probable that this moment in history lead to the elevation in status of man in society, and in the process, subjugation of a woman.
These are just my random thoughts about the state of the society I live in, things that bother me immensely. As a child, I had lofty dreams of the world in which I was growing up. I would proudly tell my parents that I was sure things would completely change when I grew up and that when I was getting married, women and men would be treated equal. I dreamt of situations where the man would leave his house and come to live in mine when married me.
Alas, that is not happening.
Patriarchy is the way it’s going to be for a few more generations, it seems. Unless that lofty dream is revived. And I think it is up to my generation to do that. I hope we do our bit.