Wednesday, March 16, 2005
In a TV-Debate on a Marathi channel centered on the International Women's Day, the only Male panelist who was fighting the lost cause of the patriarchal system, was arguing for Stree-Shakti (Women's Empowerment) as opposed to Stree-Mukti (Women's Liberation). His point was that women's liberation is unnecessary and indeed a wrong approach. He hinted at Vinoba Bhave's ideas of Women's Shakti, and yet, when asked how would someone who is not free realize the power, he was speechless.
I said fighting for patriarchal system is a lost cause, not because patriarchy is dead. Anything but the opposite (however my secondary point is lurking right here, to be addressed later). What's changed in the urban intellectual context, is that the patriarchy has gone underground. It knows there is no point to debate -- after all they hold the card yet. In public discourse, fighting for patriarchy is as prudent as fighting for Holocaust denial in America! But that doesn't mean that you need to change your houses -- after all what has intellectual stands have got to do with day to day living?
Ah, back to the question, why do I think the world needs Women's day? Quite simply because tokenism has its own value! The same TV-channels that make you wanna puke for the matter of fact portrayal of the great Indian patriarchy, even if for the sake of tokenism open up the debates on the man-woman equation. And those same couch potatoes who swallow the former get to hear the voices from the other side -- a much vilified, much sidelined, and much mis-represented class of women -- to the extent that it has become an oxymoron: the independent women.
Why I say patriarchy still holds all the cards, is that it leaves independent men to be pretty much alone. So it's okay if a man doesn't want to meet his inlaws for it bores him, being asocial, being whimsical, being arrogant. The patriarchy isn't really threatened by that species -- it's immune to it. But the same deviations in a women, and the hell lets loose, even in urban educated families who pride upon their modernity -- of clothes, of drinks and all the likes. It's always the independent minded woman who is blamed for breaking the house -- as if her husband is just a stooge. He even earns the sympathy of the system for the way the woman has cast a spell on him. It's always the independent thinking woman who is held responsible for the failures of her kid. It always the independent thinking woman who is held responsible for the rising divorces. The patriarchy goes on, never stopping for a moment to introspect.
And now, we have gone to the next stage -- already there is too much freedom, and all talk about feminism is irrelevant, a game invented by some lunatics who are misandros, if there is such a word! For our society has changed, is what I hear. Girls these days get the equal (and even more equal) treatment in the house. There are stories of husbands who cook and clean and share the burden told with oozing admiration for those men. They are the darlings of the patriarchy, for they prove their point -- of how fair the world is to women already! And yet, one routinely hears stories of weddings paid for by the bride, of working women getting up at 5 AM to prepare lunch/breakfast for the hubby, who doesn't believe making a cup of tea is really his cup of tea, of girls being paid less because they anyway don't need that money -- their husbands being paid well. There are countless stories in the same urban educated class, in our vicinities, we don't even have to go to the slums.
Yes we need the stories of the helping husbands too, but what about the stories of their wives who are taking the equal share? Are they suddenly out of fashion because they aren't empathisable material anymore? For it's these woman who are the silent crusaders of the band of feminism that's living what they preach -- they have fought with the patriarchy, taken the bad-mouthing like a man (to use an extremely un-appropriate phrase), asserted their rights, and above all shown a tenacity that would make anyone proud! Well almost anyone, for no one seems to be proud of them. If it takes a tokenism, an International Women's Day, for me to say it, so be it, but I'm proud of you girls. I am married to one such girl, and to whom I want to dedicate this blog! Saya, I'm proud of you!
And here is my one request to the womenfolk out there. The patriarchy is not about male domination -- it's about keeping the system rolling. For the MIL and SILs are as much a part of the patriarchy as are the FIL and BIL, albeit more so. So please take the International Women's Day seriously and if you care about Women's liberation or empowerment, start with your home. Make sure you are not part of the patriarchy. If all of you do that, the patriarchy will collapse like a piece of cards. Yes, some of us would help you out in that, but then how many of you can you really expect to help you? And the system wins because people given in a tad too easily. Don't!