Exploring Patriarchy – Chapter 7
They tied MM down though she didn’t even realize it. All these rules about what women should wear – what ‘look’ their appearance should portray. Where they could go when they went out, and what time they should be back home.
Her family was progressive and she’d been brought up with a lot of freedom. Able to meet any friends she wished to during her college years. As long as the meetings were at her home or theirs and the parents of both families kept in touch and met briefly now and then. So all of her friends, male or female, were like family friends. It was nice for MM as it kept her safe.
Her mother ignored the narrow minded gossips who felt this was unacceptable, and preferred the unsafe, where their daughters would hide and meet male friends, even platonic male friends, in far off or isolated places just so people wouldn’t talk.
Still there were these unwritten rules that MM would question later, when years of marriage had changed her. When some of her husbands ideas had grown on her and her outlook had changed.
Now MM’s husband was a happy man. He loved MM and thought she was attractive even on her ‘bad hair’ days when she could frighten herself with a look in the mirror. A reasonable amount of effort that any person makes to be presentable was good enough for him.
He liked simplicity and valued health more than fashion. And their idea of a romantic date always included a long walk. So MM ditched all her high-heeled shoes and went in for comfort. Her wardrobe slowly started to house natural fabrics that suited long walks on hot sultry summer days.
They lived in a new locality with few retail outlets. And anyway, this was a time when trendy well-cut ready-to-wear was moving towards synthetic and washable. MM made do because she didn’t have the time for far-away shopping trips.
This was a time when the busy ruled her life and they hadn’t yet started to make changes and sort it out. So her appearance changed. Really ‘with-it’ for the locality she lived in, but quite ‘out-of-it’ when she visited her family in their once-out-of-the-way locality which was now very up-market.
There was pushback. Small put-downs or outright criticism. Some emotional outbursts that stemmed from real fear I think. Because an older woman who has had no support through menopause and has lost parts of her life with it, fears about what her daughter will face later when it’s her turn. That tremendous loss of confidence when one loses an important part of one’s femininity due lack of adequate medical guidance and a woeful lack of family support with chores at home that women so need during this important life change.
MM’s mother was truly afraid to see that her daughter wasn’t holding on tightly to the illusion of youth. Because she (MM’s mother) had learned as she grew older, that there are times when all a woman has is the illusion. And that sometimes, holding onto the illusion will pave the way to reality. At least that’s the way it had been for her.
Don’t go here don’t go there. Don’t stay out late. Tie up your hair! Don’t wear that dress you look too old and the colors don’t suit you they’re bright and too bold. Don’t put your career before your chores do what we did and don’t want more. Don’t, because it makes us yearn and wonder if we could have lived our dream and still run our home.
But MM wasn’t her mother. She had a fight in her that her mother hadn’t ever had. A fight that came from being truly loved. Loved, not despite being a girl child, but just because she was a child that was wanted irrespective of gender. Seeing her mother live with insurmountable barriers, and triumph despite the odds, would teach MM that she wanted more. Marriage wasn’t settling her down because she, unlike her mother, wasn’t willing to ‘settle’ .
Instead, she started to speak out when pushed down by these sad rules. To stand her ground and teach the older women in her family that there was a different way.
I invite you to read all chapters of Exploring Patriarchy and walk with Microwave Madam as she explores the impact of patriarchy on her life and on society. And looks for solutions.