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The Offended Men

"It is tempting to assume that the controversy is simply a case of religious intolerance. But what is even more upsetting is - this hate is not only towards a particular community but towards a gender – womxn, Hindu womxn."




A 45-seconds of advertisement by Tanishq has offended some patriarchal men and womxn who think that the advertisement is promoting the ‘imaginary’ Love Jihad.


The ad showed a pregnant Hindu womxn escorted by her Muslim mother-in-law to her baby shower ceremony. The woman then asks her mother-in-law that "this ceremony is not held at your home...", to which the latter replies, "Isn't it a tradition to keep daughters happy everywhere?"


Artwork - Smish


It is tempting to assume that the controversy is simply a case of religious intolerance. But what is even more upsetting is - this hate is not only towards a particular community but towards a gender – womxn – Hindu womxn. For religious fanatics and the patriarchs, it is Hindu womxn who threaten them, and they can not tolerate the fact that womxn – Hindu womxn are making their own marital choices and are no longer wanting to be suffocated in men’s clutches.




Womxn are properties”

My sister, as a young womxn supposedly ripe for marriage because of her age, has often faced this question from friends and family – how come she thinks of marrying a Muslim boy? Is there no Hindu boy left to marry? I’m sure many young womxn must have to stomach this from time to time even in the 21st century.


I believe that it is not just the religious bigotry but the feudal mindset of the upper-class Hindu men who take womxn as their property and can not accept that womxn can have their own will, mind, and thought process and that they can make their own life decisions and choices.


Womxn in the conservative and typical setting across faiths and societies have been equated with property – one you can buy, sell, destroy, eat, steal, and gift. One should not be surprised to know that the meaning of the term – PATI (husband/पति) in the Hindi language is MASTER/OWNER (स्वामी, मालिक).


This explains how everything in societies created by men was meant to keep womxn as second-hand humankind and not treat womxn as equals. For instance, take ‘sati pratha’- an evil social practice in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband’s funeral pyre. At the heart of this practice was the principle of womxn as property. This was no less than a murder - widow murder. Similarly, it was a common practice to offer womxn for marriage to the rapist as a form of justice and consolation.



The Language for Womxn and the System of Patriarchy

If the Hindi language is to be further scrutinized, words such as RASHTRAPATI (president), SENAPATI, (general), UDYOGPATI (industrialists), BHUPATI (king), GANPATI (master/owner of people), GRIHPATI, VIDYAPATI, and LANKAPATI (see the table below); are rooted in the construct that womxn are PROPERTIES which men control. Whether it is Queen Victoria who was constantly disparaged by men from nobility for being a womxn monarch or an ordinary womxn in rural India, womxn have always been enslaved by men. Even the most sophisticated and enlightened societies were and are built into this system of patriarchy.


© Pius Fozan – piusfozan.in

But I wonder whether human society was always male-dominated. The answer is NO.


In a patrilocal society, while men live with their parents and families, womxn move out to live with the man and the family that was and has been chosen for them. This practice changes the whole power dynamics. The men inherit property and other privileges while womxn are deprived of inheritance and have no property rights. As a result, womxn do not have wealth of their own which would have brought them economic power and the opportunity to be part of the decision-making process. Whereas men, who stay back with their families, have resources to build power, exercise them however they want[i].




This discriminatory theory is disseminated, immortalized, and underwired by Brahminical patriarchy in our society. In fact, many theories have been developed to erode the credibility of womxn as able leaders and decision-makers. A revealing statement by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Ajay Singh Bisht once remarked

“Just like if you leave energy free and uncontrolled and unregulated, it may become useless and destructive, similarly ‘shakti swaroopa stree’— woman as the epitome of power — does not really need freedom, but a meaningful role with protection and channelisation. Women power does not require freedom, but protection and channelisation.”

Comparing womxn to energy, he says women just like unbridled energy can be destructive and can go haywire. He does not just stop there but further adds –

“For only such controlled and protected women power will give birth to and raise great men and when required step out of home to the battlefield to destroy evil powers,” the essay goes on to say.”


Here the words that should alarm us are – ‘control and protect’ – dripping wet with the toxic masculinity, colonial mindset, and patriarchy. So, what does the priest turned Chief Minister means by his intention to control and protect womxn? Steve Taylor has tried to give an explanation for this in his article[ii]

“….perhaps men have resented the sexual power that women have over them too. Feeling that sex was sinful, they were bound to feel animosity to the women who produced their sexual desires. In addition, women’s sexual power must have affronted their need for control. This meant that they couldn’t have the complete domination over women — and over their own bodies — that they craved. They might be able to force women to cover their bodies and faces and make them live like slaves, but any woman was capable of arousing powerful and uncontrollable sexual impulses inside them at any moment. The last 6,000 years of man's inhumanity to woman can partly be seen as revenge for this….”

Caste and Womxn

To look at this issue from a deeper perspective, systematically undermining womxn is an integral part of the well-oiled and planned Hindutva project[iii] of upper-caste men, the current ruling party, and its torchbearers. This project looks at womxn not as thinking minds but as a means to breed children[iv] and raise them for the nation and therefore, their underlying belief is that the role of the womxn is not to run the society or the country but to act as a vessel for its ends.


When we look at the status of womxn in society, we should also seek to look at it from a comprehensive lens of the caste system and how the struggle for womxn’s emancipation can not be separated from the fight against the hierarchical caste system which both perpetuates and strengthens Brahminical patriarchy in India[v].




The solidarity

While it would require us to work on multiple fronts to restore womxn’s equal place in society, we can start with a small and yet very radical empathetic step of solidarity. The feminist movement across societies and countries would need to form alliances, come together, and treat unrelated females as if they are their sisters/friends/companions. Simultaneously, men need to be helped, educated, and liberated.



Though there are several laws that give womxn legal rights – equal to men and yet patriarchy lives on, and womxn are discriminated against. Why is it so? How will real change come? You can make laws but how would you make societies embody them, make them treat womxn as equals? The only answer is that we, each one of us, will need to internalize and embrace these laws and values through our actions, however small they may be, at homes, at work-places, at public places, at parliament, in the government, and at every place on the earth, wherever we exist.


 

References :

[i] According to a study by Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, in 2004, and several schools of thought, the dominance of males in the society was established around 12,000 years ago. With the advent of agriculture and homesteading, people began settling down. They acquired resources to defend, and power shifted to the physically stronger males. Fathers, sons, uncles, and grandfathers began living near each other, the property was passed down the male line, and female autonomy was eroded. As a result, the argument goes, patriarchy emerged.


[ii] Why Men Oppress Women by Steve Taylor - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-thedarkness/201208/why-men-oppress-women


[iii] The Revolt of the Upper Caste by Jean Drèze: https://www.theindiaforum.in/article/revolt-upper-castes


[iv] RSS’ custom babies and Hindutva theory of Aryans as the ‘original Hindus’:

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/web-edits/rss-custom-babies-and-their-theory-of-aryans-as-theoriginal-hindus/


[v] Power of patriarchy by Venkatanarayanan s. https://frontline.thehindu.com/cover-story/article30911470.ece



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