As I was packing my lunch, my mother was running around in the kitchen grabbing the dirty dishes and dumping them in the kitchen sink. With a frown, I dismissed the disappointment of seeing a sink full of dirty dishes, wondering why my mother couldn’t wake up a little earlier. I didn’t give the least thought that I woke up to run to the bathroom, while every other member was also going about doing their personal chores. Unknowingly I grew up as a flagbearer of patriarchal culture.
The subtlety of patriarchal culture
Of late our society has grown and the awareness of how we should not condone certain mindsets is there in everyone’s mind. However, despite the changes, the onus of the solid foundation of the family still lies with the women. The families where the men who ‘help the women’ are still celebrated. It is invariably superior to those where women are expected to carry the burden. But it is no different from seemingly patriarchal families. Because they also subtly establish the point that the duty of the household is a woman’s responsibility and the man who shares it is ‘helping her’. Inequality was still persistent in disguise.
When my father used to tie my hair and do the dishes, (he changed over the years), I used to think that my mother was the luckiest woman in the neighborhood because my father was helping her. It took me another decade and a half to realize that he was not helping her but sharing the household duty that was attributable to both of them.
When I got married, I exposed myself to a flagrantly patriarchal setup where even carrying the plate to the kitchen could not be done by the man of the house. I was shocked and surprised. From frying pan to a burning fire, I was forced to think that I should also be the perfect woman at service to match up to the benchmark already set in the household.
The perfect mother syndrome
My mother was that woman who strongly believed that a mother should not even drink a drop of water till their family’s hunger is satiated. Waiting for the seer of the family has been a custom that never made sense to me. However, doing so gave her an unfathomable sense of satisfaction. It took me another decade to realize that this was due to the rampant benevolent sexism that existed in society. After my first child, I too fell for it. Who doesn’t like to be praised as the perfect woman in the house? I was living in the crib of the patriarchal culture because it served me well. I found some cruel satisfaction when our known ones used to cite my example to show others that I am a perfect wife and mother material. It gave me a strange intoxication and I continued playing the role of furor.
Self care and selfishness
Self-care, for me, was blasphemy. I used to think that my friends who used to find ‘me time’ for themselves were selfish. How naive could I be? The result- From the lap of the patriarchal society, I fell into the grave of my happiness and peace while depression put the sand on my coffin. Looking back I don’t regret condoning the patriarchal culture. Because it empowered me to learn the subtlety of the sexism that wore the robe of benevolence.
When I look back I laugh at myself and simultaneously praise myself. I was being inclusive, accepting the change, and incorporating it into my life. Now when I call myself a feminist, I add a disclaimer, I am not a female chauvinist because feminism is not placing a woman above a man. With its essence in the real sense, I love myself and my family. I proudly came out of the patriarchal culture to embrace inclusivity.