patriarchy

“I’ll address the head of the family”

This is going to be bit of a rant. Don’t say I didn’t warn. ūüôā

So there’s this whatsapp conversation that happened last week that I can’t seem to get over. A very very distant relative living here, whom I have met barely twice in my entire life, had called to invite me to her son’s thread ceremony. I am not a big fan of ¬†(mildly saying hate) attending any traditional ceremonies. I don’t understand the purpose of such ceremonies, and I most certainly don’t care about the¬†so called pundits validating anything for me. And I’m not partial…I am disinterested in pujas, thread ceremonies, wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies…everything that involves another human being coming and saying some mantras and sanctifying some aspect of your life. However, I accepted the invitation anyway. My mother keeps saying that I am asocial, and as I grow older, this very “I-care-a-dam” attitude is going to come and bite me in the ass and leave me without any friends or social life. Lately, I have begun to see the truth of her wise words. After all, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions, and just because I have different set of beliefs, doesn’t mean I need to eliminate others who are otherwise very nice and loving people. So in the interest of retaining peace and mental sanity in the long run, and not ending up an old scary lady with a house full of cats (although this seems like a much more interesting prospect than attending any ceremonies), I saved the date.

The next day the lady sent me a message apologizing for not knowing my surname when she wanted to send me the invite. Now you see, she actually does know my surname, but she doesn’t know my husband’s surname. And she was being apologetic for not knowing my “new” surname. So I sent a reply back telling her my original name (since I haven’t changed my name), and then telling her my husband’s full name. I told her she could address the card to either one of us. She replied instantly saying she was going to go the traditional way and address it to the head of the family.

I didn’t know what to say. What when this pearl of wisdom is coming from a very well educated and intelligent woman. I would have ignored something like this if it came from an illiterate woman who has had no exposure to any urban setting. Anyway, ¬†rational, progressive thinking has got nothing to do with education. I mean look at Bahinabai’s writings. It’s way ahead of¬†what a majority of women aspire for themselves¬†even today. But still, this lady had topped her university, has worked in some top IT companies before, and has been living in a metro for over 10 years. Secondly, she doesn’t even know my husband. She has seen him all of once, but would still rather address the “HEAD”. Thirdly, even if she didn’t want to ignore my husband’s name, how hard is it to address it to the both of us?

I wrote back saying, “Your choice!”. I wish though that I had said, “Our family doesn’t have a head, just two hearts,” t0 sort of drill the point that a relationship is not about power and position, but about love and understanding. But this would probably be too subtle a point for someone like her¬†to understand. ¬†The husband suggested that I wrote that we were a headless body. But I doubt if she’d get his wicked sense of humor.

Honestly, dialogues like these make me want to further withdraw in my own cocoon. ¬†This is what I get when I finally decide to socialize a bit more outside my comfort zone. I really can’t help blaming women a little for the current state of misogynist patriarchy we live in. If an educated woman who actually even has the choice to not think like this, chooses to be second to her husband in everything, there’s not much left to say. And this is coming from a woman who has a son. If the mother believes in being second to the father, what are the odds of the son’s wife being treated as an equal? Very slim I’d say.

Thoughts?

Mulgi kunala dili

“Mulgi kunala dili” or “Whom did you give your daughter to?

is an expression in Marathi language that most people, even highly educated and so called progressive people, use without flinching. It’s used in the context of asking or telling people about whom a girl is married to. ¬†But it implies a family she marries, not the guy, mind you.

I find this extremely insulting, like the girl has no right to make her own decision (which in majority of cases she doesn’t) and the decision rests on the elders in her family. I can barely control my temper when this phrase is used routinely by my grandfather or maternal uncle. I love both of them and they are undisputedly amongst the sweetest people I’d ever meet. My grandfather is extremely well read and still it hasn’t even occurred to him how completely disrespectful this phrase is, strange given that since he has two daughters and several grand-daughters. I can still excuse my grandfather this because he comes from an older generation and it just wouldn’t occur to him that there is even anything wrong with the statement. But I simply cannot look past anyone from my parents generation or any generation thereafter using this phrase.

To most people it’s just a linguistic legacy and my angst is met with amusement where people try to explain to me that I am overreacting and they don’t mean to imply that their daughter has no rights. A lot of the times, they are right, they really don’t. And if their daughter was ever to be in a troubled or¬†abusive marriage, they would stand by her. But still, I think we shouldn’t take language so lightly. It’s very reflective of social trends and the fact that this term is still so popular speaks volumes of the status of women. What I can’t stand ever further is women themselves using this phrase to talk about daughters. I agree that people don’t really analyze every word they say unless they are language fanatics. But isn’t it odd then that these people don’t ever say it the other way round to mean whom did you give your son to, even by mistake? How then is it just a linguistic legacy? Shouldn’t our language evolve with our thoughts if we claim that our thoughts have indeed evolved over a period of time?