By: Reenita V
Patriarchy. It’s a word that is often thrown around in many cultures and quite often criticized. When people discuss current events or culture norms within the South Asian community and culture, patriarchy is a topic often discussed. So in order to determine if patriarchy is bad, we first need to figure out what it means. Patriarchy is a system where men hold the power. The distribution of power may be seen in government, policy creators, and basic privilege or in the household. Basically, men are the decision makers. Having power on one side does essentially create a power imbalance as one side is placed in a position to determine what is needed for all people. Is this a bad thing? Well, that depends on your views and values.
As a woman, a patriarchal based society does not work for me. Before I get painted as a ‘man hating woman’ let’s explore how imbalances in power directly affect myself and other women. One issue that often arises is the need for more investment in women’s reproductive rights. Women have the right to access information or medical support to ensure their reproductive needs are addressed. Women have the right to birth control, the right to a safe abortion, access to safer sex tools and information. However, if we exist, and we do, in a patriarchal society we run the risk of losing accessibility if men are determining what is needed or not needed when it comes to women’s reproductive rights.
India’s women are powerful, smart and determined. India has a huge history of incredible feminist movements which you can see in the political, films, media and even religion. These movements have a rich history and are occurring in our present time. However, in current times, these great stories and movements are masked because India often gets painted in a dim light because of high amounts of sexual assaults that occur and are portrayed in the media. Patriarchal society shifts sexual assault blame onto women and can actually affect a woman’s physical safety. The sexualisation of women, attitude towards survivors, rape jokes and asking someone to cover up is all stems from rape culture. What if the power imbalances ceased to exist, could this possibly contribute to the decrease in sexual assaults? Perhaps we can imagine where women were not seen as property or a right and that a balanced society can create a respectful nurturing society which might ensure the safety of more of its people, regardless of gender.
Recently, I read Sultana’s Dream a beautiful narrative written in 1905 by Rokheya Shekhawat Hossein. In this article, we are provided with a description of a failed patriarchal society which turned matriarchal- meaning the women were in power. While I marveled at the determinants of altering the power imbalances, it still showed that a desire to shift from end of the spectrum just creates power on the other thus perpetrating the imbalances.While it is important to really understand the large power umbrella that hovers above us, the important task is really understanding what all people need and what their rights are, and to ensure we create a society that allows for balance, safety and address basic needs. Understanding the effects power imbalances have is vital to ensuring that we succeed not only as women, but as a society.