Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Not needing the Male privilege

In places like India, male privilege is a necessity for survival. Since patriarchy is ingrained in the traditions and customs most of which are the burdens borne by women. What is amusing is the way the women follow the patriarchal traditions and customs in the name of 'choices' and give more fodder for patriarchy to grow.
A startling example of male privilege as observed on my facebook wall is a trend of status updates that I have observed when a female friend gets married. The first thing she does is to either switch to her husband's surname as it happens in much of India or take up his first name as is the norm in a few South Indian societies. And update her user name on facebook.
Interestingly, I have always itched to ask them as to how does that make sense? Is it a public display of affection or a sign of bowing to the privilege that a husband's surname or first name gets her in the society. Again many women may want to dismiss my school of thought and label it as a choice.
But, my question here is how many men have hyphenated their surnames or taken up the wife's surname, to part with the identity that his father gave him at birth.





May I please ask why can't a woman keep her father's name like a man, and why does she have to change it after she gets married?
Is marriage that big a life changer for a woman such that she has to part with her identity?
Sadly in regressively patriarchal societies like India most women think that it is a legal neccesity, or happily decide to hang on to the privilege that a change of name to that of the husband gives them.
There have been a few famous legal cases where the husband filed for a divorce just because the wife was unwilling to give up on her surname. Such is the sorry state of affairs!
Women in India have since times immemorial held on to that male privilege and the thriving of supressive customs like 'dowry' and 'godh bharai or baby shower' where the parents are expected to lavishly spend, only because they are the parents of a woman have never failed to amuse me. Only if more women had the spine to stand against such patriarchal and illicit customs, India wouldn't have been leading the race of dowry deaths. This happens despite the fact that the Dowry prohibition act was passed in 1961.
Who is the culprit in this case? And won't this menace bite the dust had the givers of dowry that is the bride's side strongly opposed it. In that case the dowry seekers would have no choice but to let go their evil plans. Isn't it propagating male privilege, this practice of giving dowry as if to wash for one's sins for being a woman?


While standing at the greener side of the grass I have offtimes wondered how will the Indian women break the shackles of repressive patriarchal customs like fasting for a husband or wearing visible symbols of marriage?
I know of many such women who religiously bow to such traditional tyranny and then complain of the society that isn't giving them their due. I wonder what kind of gender equality are they aiming for?
Conditional or complete.
That is much like the fox that knows the taste of the grapes it is going to eat. Still it decides to eat them and then complains about the 'sourness' of the grapes.
Many other patriarchal traditions expect a sister to fast for her brother on 'bhaiya dooj' or seek protection from him for a lifetime on 'rakshabandhan'.
Most women in India seek their privileges from a male member of the family, due to which patriarchy has successfully pitted women against women. It is thus not a supportive sisterhood but a gendered underprivileged second sex, that leans to male privilege to gain visibility in the society.
To beat the hell out of the patriarchy, what is needed for the starters, is a sense of empowerment that doesn't bend to seek entitlement of any kind.
A woman is an individual as equal as a man. Her existence in the society mustn't depend on her relationship with a man, a father, brother, husband or son.
Maybe that is why I believe that for patriarchy to pack its bags from a repressively sexist society like India, women must strive to make intelligent choices that do not grant her prerogatives of respect and visibility in a society. 

While looking at the "Do it for Denmark" advertisement  that urges Danes to have more sex to procreate and add to a stagnant population. Because the Danish women decided 27 years ago (yes that is the time since the population has been increasing at a snail's pace) to not be "baby breeders" and be careerists instead, which of course has its pros and cons, I was wondering when will such a time come when women in India will be able to break free from a motherhood role that is expected of them, come what may and will take decisions for their lives and bodies to not please patriarchy and seek male privilege.
Seems to be a pipe dream for now!

3 comments:

M said...

I completely agree. And I also feel that should a woman decide to give it all up and make babies and stay at home, she should not because she is expected to but because she wants to and not be called un-feminist or a baby breeder.

rinzu rajan said...

If a synonym like a "career woman" can be used for a woman who decides to earn money, remember that doesn't exist for a man, then I see no qualms in using a baby breeder for a woman who decides to be at home and make babies!

proactiveindian.com said...

Reached here via A-Z.

I agree.

I know of only one couple in India(Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar and Shahnaz S. Anklesaria Aiyar) who have both used both surnames after marriage. Do you know of others?

I would also like to point out that, while many of us are quick to criticise our own and our sisters’ parents-in-law when they discriminate against their daughters-in-law, but gladly overlook the same discrimination when it is perpetrated by our own parents. Sometimes, we even perpetrate the same discrimination ourselves!

I’ve always wondered how, while so many women complain about the regressive behavior of their parents-in-law, very few women speak about the regressive behavior of their parents!

If we want to get rid of old-fashioned, regressive, patriarchal attitudes, we must resist them and fight against them irrespective of whether they are displayed by our parents-in-law or our parents.

Each person must remember that her/his parents are, in most cases, another woman’s parents-in-law.

This applies to all social ills. We all examine others with a magnifying glass. We must also remember to look into the mirror.

For the record, I am male. You may be interested in reading my posts tagged Sexual Harassment at http://proactiveindian.com