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Does the Patriarchal System still exist in Indian society?

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

“Patriarchy is like the elephant in the room that we don’t talk about, but how could it not affect the planet radically when it’s the superstructure of human society.”

I feel like the question I’ve used as a title answers the question in itself. Does the patriarchal system still exist in Indian society? The obvious answer is, of course! Any feminist would jump to it’s support. Yet Indian society in itself, is not just within the nation of India. It is the also community of 1st generation Indians who may not necessarily reside in India, but outside of their home country.

Let’s talk about the patriarchy system first. According to my dictionary, patriarchy is:

“A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.”

Does this sound true enough?

I believe that the patriarchy system within India alone is built upon the following factor: Income Disparities & Lack of Education.

In a developing country such as ours, there is a large income disparity, between the poor and the rich (and between women and men). Earlier this year the statistics showed that the top 1% of India’s population holds at least 70% of the total wealth in India – with poverty still being a massive problem (Business Today, 2018).

What does this have to do with patriarchy? As the wealthier increase their affluence, the poor only get slightly richer (6% and 1% respectively (Business Today, 2018)). Hence there is a large community of women who do not have the opportunity to educate themselves and their children, with the lack of access to money to educate themselves.  If they had better access to finances and education, they have the choice to change their upbringing and gain knowledge into allowing themselves to grow. Note that I said that it’s their choice; many may choose not to be educated or educate their children.

Having said this, one could say that there is the argument that even the educated families follow a male dominated hierarchy.

From the very beginning, if you have a boy as a child, he is treated with more respect as it is believed he is the one who’s going to be holding your family to it’s name. Subconsciously or consciously, men have been brought up with the knowledge that they hold a large amount of responsibility. They have to be the one to take care of the family. They have to take the final decision. They have to be strong enough to handle all situations. They’re not allowed to cry, as that would be a sign of weakness. They’re given priority on education. How many times do we tell little boys to not cry, because strong boys don’t cry? Boys are built on pride and ego. Girls are built on being submissive and to hang their head low to compromise. If a girl cries though it’s okay – she’s weak, emotional and allowed to bring down her fort.

Men are the ones who are forgiven no matter what goes wrong. If he’s a man, what can we women say?

For starters, we could speak up for ourselves. 

My point is that this doesn’t only lie within our genes, but our upbringing. The very simple fact that from the very beginning, a girl and a boy are treated differently.

This is one of the problems with Indian society across the world.

Patriarchy is a part of our history. In our society, it is an understood fact that men are predominantly the breadwinners of the family. There are cases where women will be earning more than the men, however you’d unfortunately find that these would be at the scorn of the community. “She doesn’t take care of the children; he doesn’t work hard enough, she’s too independent.” These lines are common to be heard amongst the whispers of society behind your back. In fact, women though face situations in the workplace where either of the following happens:

  1. They are not allowed to work/there is lack of support to work by their families (husbands or parents)

  2. Career sacrifices to take care of a child

  3. Marriage pressure – the groom’s family would not want the bride to work after marriage OR the bride’s family are fearful that a possible groom would not aspire to marry an independent working woman

  4. A man can work better than a woman

Therefore again, this allows for the glass ceiling to remain strong. It’s not to say that all men are egoistic and don’t allow for their wives or daughters to work or be independent. This is simply one of the factors that allows for the preconception to be preached upon us directly or by example within Indian society that men are superior to women.

Did you know – in India women earn 20% less than men (Economic Times, 2018)? It’s a very interesting article, link to it here. I particularly thought that the link between years of experience and earning capacity was food for thought.

It’s not to say that woman can’t be educated; but haven’t you heard the line before that says to be careful on educating her too much? If she’s a touch too independent the relatives will start telling her family to get her married off. In a marriage alliance in fact, the man has to be superior to the woman; in his education, his earnings, his physical appearance and his family status. Else God forbid, log kya kahange? (What will people say?)

I know I’ve already spoken about arranged marriage and it’s flaws previously, therefore I won’t go into it further.

I remember in a conversation with an old friend of mine, he’d mentioned a particular difficulty that he was facing.

He’d wanted to quit his job, as he was feeling quite stressed with the workload and other  alternating factors leading to an unhappy career. However his parents had been looking to get him married, and therefore he could not afford to do that. He could not afford to take his chances and explore alternate career options at the young age of 26, as he had to have the responsibility of taking care of his wife once he got married. His younger sister however mocked at him and said that at the end of the day, she did not have this concern as all she had to do if need be was to marry a rich guy, and her woes would be over. She could even choose to not work if she really wanted to, as that by Indian societal standards would be understood. 

This is coming from an educated family by the way. #TrueStory

Which brings me to my next point of this long article of mine. There are educated 1st generation Indian families who live within an Indian community outside of the Indian nation. What about them?

There is a notion that to be influenced by the West and it’s culture is wrong. 1st generation Indian families leaving their home countries seeking for better opportunities are doing so to improve their lifestyle and well-being. However to allow for Western influence to impact you? That’s a big no-no.

The problem therefore arises when the children are educated in a different medium. You can raise your child in your home, but you’ll be educating them in a different culture. In a third culture. Third Culture Kids hence will very easily find that they do not fit in. To be instilled with cultural values at home that are entirely different from what you have seen at school and college can cause a different behaviour pattern. Some young adults are happy to be influenced by the West and some are happy to be more traditional. To define either of these is not up to me, as each individual will have a different definition of each respectively.

So what do we, 2nd generation Indians or Third-Culture Kids, do about this?

My suggestion? Go with your gut. Do what you want to do and what feels right.

When it comes to the patriarchy system? That comes down to the feminist in you. Let’s all remember that feminism demands for equality, not necessarily women empowerment or superiority over men.

In this day, it is both defining and a disappointment to be a feminist.

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