“Patriarchy’s chief institution is the family; it Is both the mirror and a connection with the larger society; a patriarchal unit within a patriarchal whole” – Kate Middleton
The above quote puts a lot into perspective. We practice what we preach and it should also be vice versa. How does one begin to make changes in society when practices at home might be arduous to put into action? Well, the first step is to start closest to the heart. The old saying “Charity begins at home” does not need to be limited to the literal translation of the word ‘home’ but can be used in a wider spectrum as well.
In a country like ours, where patriarchy has been a dominant system, the only way to accelerate the change needed is when we step on the clutch within our own households. Yes, a male earning member/ paternal figure does seem to have a larger say in the way things are run, but have we ever wondered what or why this sense of entitlement and privilege is given to the so-called leading member?
According to the UN, India ranks as number 125 in the Gender Inequality Index Rank. This number reflects inequality between women and men in three different dimensions: reproductive health (maternal mortality ratio and adolescent birth rate), empowerment (share of parliamentary seats held by women and share of population with at least some secondary education), and labor market participation (labor force participation rate).
33.3% of women in our country face lifetime physical and/ or sexual intimate partner violence. Over 27% have faced this in the last 12 months alone. The reason these numbers have not been reducing is due to our ignorance and the inability to actively try and change the system.
Simple steps to smash the patriarchy can be taken up, with minor changes to our daily lifestyle:
- Focus on accountability
We understand that it is difficult to question age old norms and that it puts us in awkward situations. Most of the time, a lot of situations are let go because asking questions about things that are supposed to be “understood” seems unconventional. Raise questions when necessary. Letting go of societal norms such as “boys will be boys” needs to stop happening. Teach the women that letting go of male aggression is not the answer and to hold behavior that plunges towards women degradation as questionable.
- Question conventional gender paradigms
Society has been facing this outline since a while. We have created an algorithm that we believe that genders fit into. Men and women are perceived to have attributes that limit them based on their gender. This phenomenon of associating “aggression” with men and “gentle” with women has got to stop. Characteristics are human traits, not gender based.
- Challenge the traditional nuclear family
Nontraditional families are becoming more common, but the nuclear family is still held as an ideal standard. It’s problematic because the traditional nuclear family model is profoundly patriarchal. It situates the male father as the leader of the family, the “breadwinner,” the decision-maker. In no way am I disregarding the value or importance the father figure, especially if he has been a large contributing factor both financially (and if lucky, emotionally) to the children’s well-being. However, why has the subservient maternal figure, who without the house would not be able function (if she is a home-maker). Meals on the dining table, nurturing emotional or spiritual well-being or filling the absence of a father if times are such; the simplicity of such actions which truly contribute to an individual’s existence need to be given its due importance.
- Converse about consent differently
Reversing the conversation around consent, where instead of ‘No means No’ can switch to ‘Yes means yes’ can be beautifully empowering and liberating. Stating things positive affirms what a woman may need and want, thus leading to a sense of powerful entitlement.
- Non-participation cannot be confused with activism
Sometimes, the route of silence is chosen because you feel that it is better to maintain the peace around rather than creating a ruckus. Though this approach may seem like you’re choosing peace over disruption, this is not necessarily the case. Being silent about something that needs to be heard is as good as conforming to patriarchal views. Raise your voice when needed, it deserves to be heard and it ought to. The change starts with you and only when you use your vocal abilities to bring about the difference the world needs is when you are truly practicing what you believe in.
We need to stop this dichotic, limiting view of what men and women can be. It’s time to encourage people to embrace the full spectrum of individuality. Rather than upholding macho paradigms that encourage men to be aggressive and non-emotional, we need to aim to create a culture in which both sexes are free to express their feelings and adopt an attitude of gentleness and sensitivity to the feelings of others. We need men and women to interact with each other on the foundation of what we share; that is humanity.