The bible says –
“And god created “man”kind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.”
Hindus believe –
“And then there was the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh, who collectively created the world”
The Quran Says –
“Indeed, your Lord is Allah , who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established “Himself” above the Throne.”
I lost the fight against the patriarchal society the day they claimed “God” was a man. It was convenient, of course, to think that since God was a man himself, it is man who is designed to have more power in this world.
It all started when I was born (or should I say created by a “man”, delivered by a vessel, we call women). They printed a birth certificate. In that certificate, they didn’t add the vessel’s name to my name, they added the creator’s name, my dad’s or his dad’s. I should have realized that even though my first name was unique, I was going to be defined by my father’s name. It was the norm, so I got used to it.
As I was growing up, I realized that I lived in my dad’s house. My mother was there, her name was inscribed on the wall outside the house, but it was my dad’s house and someday it would be my brothers’. I loved my brothers very much, so I didn’t mind.
As I grew up a little more and stepped into puberty, I was told that once every month my body would be unclean and deficient. Basically, I couldn’t go inside the temples or pray, because the supreme Man “God” doesn’t like to hear prayers from unclean women. I was told that the God’s doorkeepers or Pandits believe it is a big crime to let a girl or a woman, who is bleeding profusely out of her vagina, rendezvous with someone as clean as the God.
I also tried to find out why women were the only ones who experienced this horrible pain every month. I was very saddened to find out that there was someone called “Eve”, who once ate an apple in spite of being told not to by her Father, the God. He punished her for disobeying her and turns out “the profuse bleeding and giving birth” was a part of this punishment.
I thought women were the makers of life, after all I came out of a woman, but turns out she gave birth to me only because God punished her to.
When I grew up a little more, I was put through a different kind of “what women should do” manual. I was asked to bring water or snacks to serve the guests at home, even when my brothers would be sitting right there, idle. I was asked to help my mother in the kitchen. When I visited my relatives, I would be picked out of games to help an aunt cut vegetables or buy groceries. When the frequency of these instances started to increase, I foolishly asked my parents why I was the only one picked to do these chores and not my brothers or other male cousins. My mother pulled me aside and told me in hushed tones, “abhi ghar ka kaam karna nahi sikhegi toh aage jaake kya hoga!” (If you don’t learn to participate in household chores now, then what’s going to happen when you grow up!) I heard that particular line at least a few times a day, my brothers were told this never! I knew my parents loved me very much, but something didn’t feel right. It felt like they had already seen my future and knew that no matter what great things I do, I’m going to have to learn to take care of a house, just like my mother did.
As time went by, I grew up a little more and entered college. Once, an incident of sexual harassment was reported against a professor in the college. There was an investigation and it was concluded that the girl student who had filed the case was just doing it for some other ulterior motive. The professor continued to teach and the girl dropped out of college and joined an all-girls institution. The management, in an attempt to keep all the girls safe in our college, took the decision to impose a dress code. Because if you show less, they see less – problem solved.
I graduated and got a decent 9-5 job and everyone said, “She has a good degree. Goes to work on time and comes back before it is dark, no boyfriend business or anything- she’s a good girl.” Owing to my good girl title, they decided to get me married to a well-settled, respected man of my caste. I was told that I will have to leave my house, because his house was going to be my house. I will have to leave my parents behind, because his parents will be my parents. I had to leave my job to go live in his city, if his family, I meant my new family, was okay with it, then I could find another job there. I also had to give up that last name I had on my birth certification for all these years, because I was going to get a new name. His name.
I tried rejecting marriage prospects, because I wasn’t ready to leave my life behind yet. I didn’t think I would ever be. “Why couldn’t the men leave their family behind and come be a part of my life?”, I asked. Everyone said, “He’s a man. He has responsibilities. He has to take care of his parents.” Oki, that makes sense, but what about my parents? I guess my brothers would take care of them. Is that what they were trying to say? I was to be tossed to a new family, but my brothers could live in the house I grew up in forever? It just didn’t make any sense.
As I started to cross the boundary of what was called the “marriageable age”, I was pressurized into saying yes to one man who I liked more than the others. I gave into the pressure and said yes. I had a lavish wedding with rituals that made this man looked like my knight in shining armor, finally here to help me fulfill my purpose in life. Next, I left everything I called home behind me and moved to his house, called his parents mummy papa, and finally got used to calling this new place home.
However, I couldn’t adjust with his parents. They yelled at me all the time and treated me worse than they would treat an enemy. I wasn’t allowed to wear what I thought was comfortable, I wasn’t allowed to go out of the house without their permission, I wasn’t allowed to have a bad day and not want to cook. I was allowed to be their puppet, who did as they asked and never ask a question in return. I just couldn’t do it. If I had to live this new life, I wanted to make it pleasant and most importantly breathable. So I begged my husband to move into another house where I could breathe and live like a respectable human. He told me I was a witch to dream of separating him from his parents and that I should be ashamed of what I was asking of him. I didn’t feel ashamed though, because didn’t I leave my parents too? Why was it such a crime to expect that of him as well?
Turns out it was. He divorced me, because the law said that a woman who tries to separate her husband (a son) from his parents can be divorced and thrown back to her old house with her old parents. And so I came back to my old home again. I wasn’t a good woman anymore. I had upset a man so much that I was banished to live alone, do what I pleased, because there was no hope for me to live a respectable woman’s life.
My role in this patriarchal society was over.
I realized that I was respected, loved, protected, and cared for only when I was a daughter, wife, girlfriend, or mother. The minute I was none of this, I was a woman with no real significance in the eyes of this society.
Living constantly under the steel roof of patriarchy’s criminal misogyny, I was forced to bend to the rules created by men, and accept norms that didn’t make sense. I was forced to give up my life, my voice, my expressions to be a good daughter, wife, and mother. I had the liberty to be all those things, just not what I was or what I wanted to be.
How was that far to me? How is it fair to the women who want to create their lives outside these roles? How long will we succumb to gender inequality. Do we let women share this world because they satisfy the small role we’ve given them in this patriarchal society?
This isn’t my story, but there are a million women who live this story everyday.
If you want this to change, you need to speak up on gender issues and kill gender biases slowly, start from identifying these within your house, schools, and colleges. You can’t change books that were written a thousand years ago, you can’t change laws set by the Government in a few days, but you can change the minds of those around you by having a strong voice. How do you think history was made?
For women around the world who want to fight to curb gender biases and for men who want to help.