A lot already heard and said in our country about patriarchy, is there a new perspective this post can bring in?
“Yes” is the answer!
P – The Fall of Patriarchy
Post #16 of the series: Instilling Social Equality in Children
As a young adult I thought I will have to die without ever seeing any changes for betterment against the patriarchy system, but I am glad to witness the radical changes that have happened in the last two decades at least in the urban population. Of course, the population I am talking about is far less in numbers than the elephant size patriarchal society out there in the country. But, no matter how small the move is, it is indeed a giant leap in mankind!
In the families of those who will be reading this post, I have no doubt that children are growing up with no large differences between the genders. The fathers sharing raising children and home chores and boys being taught to do household works and respect women have begun. Our generation has laid the foundation for the change and I am hopeful it will continue.
But what do we do about the rest of the people out there – both men and women – who are nurturing patriarchy?
Did you notice what’s underlined?
Yes, pointing at men alone for gender inequality and patriarchy is a lie we have been made to believe!
The mothers who usher their daughters to adjust to the physical and sexual abuse at the husband’s home, the mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law who join hands with the rest of the family (or in fact the primary evil) for dowry harassment and gas lighting, the mothers/wives who refuse to allow their sons/husbands to take their plates to the kitchen sink, the women who are involved in girl child trafficking and prostitution, women who consider widows as bad omen and divorcees as arrogant women – let’s get grounded to the fact that:
The fall of patriarchy is not about reformation of men alone; it’s a reformation of the society as a whole.
Patriarchy is not only about men feeling superior to women; it’s also about a woman feeling less powerful than a man.
This is the perspective with a difference this post aims to bring into the lives of our children, of course with no denial of the thousands of atrocities done by men and the patriarchal society. I am not a feminist, but I think I am tired enough of being angry and writing about what men shouldn’t be doing that I turn this post’s intention to raise the bars of women against all odds.
Coming to our children…
The boy at home played together with his class girls until kindergarten. All of a sudden when they stepped into grade 1, that is, at age six, the boys grouped themselves into the ‘boys’ play’ that was about climbing, running, jumping from heights, and other speed games. They wouldn’t let a girl in their play even if the girl wanted to play such rough plays.
A friend who lives in Germany shared this:
I still remember my girl coming and crying to me saying that her class boys didn’t let her join football in the kindergarten. This incident is still consuming most of my time explaining her that there is no boy game or girl game but this had indeed changed her that now she doesn’t want to play football anymore. I am not happy about it but at least she knows now that she should not make any discrimination based on gender.
On one side mothers like me need to keep reminding their boys that girls are no less stronger than boys and also, on the other side, mothers of girls need to keep pushing girls towards the kind of activities they like to take part in. If girls want to learn an energetic sport or play among boys, we should allow them to. Every time I see girls in my boy’s football team play so well, it feels so marvelous about how some areas in the country have progressed in one generation.
But one biggest challenge in progressing out of patriarchy are the male chauvinists in our own families – a grand father, father, or uncle.
A friend shared this honest perception he grew up with and the change he came to see in the world out there:
The constant message from my dad who was a male chauvinist was that women are inferior. As a kid, it was the physical strength that mattered and his message was so powerful. Until I stepped into the corporate world and saw women being equally good, I never disagreed on that message. It was a crushing experience at work and I learnt to change my views.
The friend mentioned above is someone who is unbelievably humble, friendly, and respectful towards women in the last few years that I know of him.
The reason I wanted to include his message in this post is that – one powerful weapon to fight patriarchy are the strong women who children see at home and outside. Beyond the patriarchal ideologies they may see at home, when they witness women being financially and intellectually stronger, their minds begin to expand out from the limited chauvinistic perceptions of their elders. If you are a woman reading this, try to be that role model of a strong woman.
Being strong here does not necessarily mean being physically strong, but also handling finances (both home and others), staying emotionally strong, equipping ourselves with knowledge, practicing physical fitness, having a social presence, being assertive to say a No when required, reflecting courage to analyze traditions or practices that they are expected to follow, demonstrating independence in decision-making, and most importantly, not attaching a rebelliousness in the process, unless required.
Show them and talk to them about women achievers in various fields. When you read such news, don’t close it without sharing with children. As well the stories you heard in your childhood, of your neighbours, of your maids, of that somebody’s somebody – that can inspire and instill in them the worth and respect for womanhood!
Educating girl children and making them financially independent
There is no question of whether the girls in our homes will be educated. But coming to the point that was raised earlier – what about the millions of girl children who are not sent to school?
Of course, that’s not our problem, isn’t it?
Let’s try to come out of this!
As we see our children getting educated, let’s also take a few other girl children along in their education.
Look around – your maid’s daughter, the girls who work at the nearby construction site, the fruit vendor’s daughter – if any are not going to school, talk to them, their parents. If financial support is the issue, come forward to pay their school fees. If sanitary napkins are the problem with teenage girls, sponsor them napkins (this is one of the big reasons for high school drop outs of girls in our country). If lack of awareness about government education policies and facilities is the issue, try to find information to educate them. If nothing works and if you have the time and dedication, teach or join them in private tuitions and make them take private exams. If each of us took some initiative toward girl child education around us, we can drive big changes not only in patriarchy but also in poverty, employment, politics, and sky is the limit with what education can do!