Covert Patriarchy


. I am guilty of endorsing it. I promote it when I go shopping with my daughter and coax her to buy 'suitable clothes'. I foster it when I desist from arguing with a belligerent auto driver. And I strengthen it when I advise my maid to overlook the small omissions of her husband. Patriarchy has been so normalised in our society that we look askance at people who point it out to us. We protest the accusations indignantly and firmly deny being victims or perpetrators of it. ' I let my wife go out to work. My husband has allowed me to hire a cook. Both my children, son and daughter, have chocolate flavoured Complan with their milk. Our daughter is like the son we never had...' Our aggrieved tones cover up uncomfortable truths. Our vocabulary is complicit in propagating the stereotypes. The virtues of a son become the vices in a daughter. My son is assertive but my daughter is aggressive. My son is a go getter but my daughter is pushy. My son is a man of few words. My daughter is diffident. My son has a mind of his own. My daughter is so stubborn. The reverse is equally damaging. My daughter is sensitive but my son is an emotional fool. My daughter is accommodating but my son is a pushover. My daughter is easily moved to tears. My son is a crybaby. My daughter is obedient but my son is servile. The regularising of these boilerplate assumptions makes it difficult for children to break the mould. Our daughters are beautiful princesses that need rescuing. Our sons are Knights in shining armours who deliver them from evil. In one fell swoop, these myths transform the girls into hapless, disenfranchised victims, and the boys into super-beings who will never need deliverance. These delusions have far-reaching effects for all concerned. Last Friday, I watched an interview between a well-known star and an erudite journalist. She was gushing over her upbringing and how there was no gender discrimination in her family. The most learned, liberal and modern journalist hastened to agree, stating that his wife always divided an apple into perfect halves for his son and daughter. No inequity whatsoever. As they patted each other on their progressive outlook, I was struck by the ease with which they accepted patriarchy. I only wish the journalist walks the talk and refrains from internalising such a grave issue.

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