Exploring Patriarchy – Chapter 14
I think we can all agree, irrespective of our ideas on gender roles, that ALL members of the family should be cared for when they’re not well. But this doesn’t happen equally for every member of the family. Some get cared for by the home manager or other family members. But the home manager in quite a few families, relies on herself.
It was more common, in the family MM married into, for the Indian man to lack skills needed for caring or to have bonded with his career to the exclusion of all else.
This was a family where women complained about not being cared for by selfish men, yet got very angry with their men when they tried to help. Gender roles in this family were so rigid that terms like ‘hen-pecked’ would be bandied about by older women when they saw their sons trying to be of help when women in the family were sick. Yes WOMEN!
These women were stuck deep in patriarchy and the power games it allowed them to play – the martyrdom and suffering that gave them bargaining power. Power games that can make sons who are poorly educated, or have less opportunity to find their way, feel small within their home. And balance this out by being powerful outside the home. By making earning a gender role and keeping a hold of the finances so they hold onto this power as a balance to the power of the female.
Power games that MMs husband and his brothers were aware of and didn’t like. And were able to distance themselves from, because they married and moved out. The nuclear family was a way to create a healthy distance that gave men, and their wives, space to BE.
Thankfully, despite everything, this family had kindness buried beneath harsh traditions. A straight-forwardness (that is not the norm in some families) that brought up boys to be men who could take a stand against wrong. With a deep abhorrence for violence and the violation of personal space of others, that is not the case in families that bring up men who molest, assault, batter and rape.
Who Will Deliver Change?
Horrifying cases of rape and torture continue. The courts, we hope, will deliver justice. But MM wondered, who would deliver change. What would it take to question power equations within the system of patriarchy that can make some men feel small. Power equations that combine with violence and abuse that are routines within some homes.
What would it take to bring change to a society that looks away when crimes are violations of physical space without physical injury and therefore considered small. A society that teaches these men they can get away with crime and lets them practise it. Then wonders where these horrifying incidents come from.
What will it take? And what can we do at home, to stop this martyrdom of women that is essential to this system that creates rage that is targeted at women?
MM asked herself this question because she wanted to change this system. A system, which at it roots, doesn’t value women. So the health of women is somehow less important than that of men. And the daughter-in-law is treated as less than the son and this is made known with many small slights.
When Love Makes Tradition Irrelevant
MM was privileged in that she was educated, had an income of her own, and had access to ideas and knowledge that books bring. She was strong and found she could exist within a system, and still not become a part of it. And this is how they held on to love.
The love between a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law that grows out of respect and distance. That creates support systems that arise, not from duty, but from real relationships. So much so that those from duty are rendered irrelevant.
She and her husband had a thinking that fosters caring, and allows men to care. To involve themselves in active support for their parents and truly see themselves in the process. Because all adults at some level, carry a part of their parents inside themselves. And knowing ones parents helps one know oneself.
We are MM felt, reflections in some way. Of the society we live in. Of our friends and relationships. Of the way we treat others. Of the way others treat us. And we are also at a deeper level, reflections of our parents.
Wake Up – A New Time Is Come
If you give her 3, you give him 4. Until old age makes you needy and then she will get more. More but never equal to him you measure in small increments depending upon the ease she brings. You’re the mother-in-law who couldn’t let go who spoon-fed your son ‘cos you wanted control. The daughter-in-law who kept her mouth shut and they pushed you so low that you couldn’t get up. But now things have changed and there’s hope ahead ‘cos YOUR daughter-in-law was raised with dreams and won’t be lead. She won’t accept those small casual slights she’ll do for you, but with distance. If you want her close, you’ll treat her right. She’ll do what is wrong in your sad book of rules because her heart hates this system and she won’t be a fool. She won’t let you treat her like she’s less than your son so wake up older woman, A NEW TIME IS COME!
I write this part of the story of Microwave Madam to air her thoughts as she tries to understand what creates the people who rape and torture. Have you asked these questions? And if so, what do you think is the way to bring real change? Please comment below and start conversations.
Much as we would like to think it, India does not belong to women in the same way that it belongs to men in terms of personal safety and a wide acceptance of the rights of women to walk on the streets, travel, work, and live in many places in our country.
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.