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  • Women enforcing Patriarchy?


    by Shariq
    12th February, 2009 at 8:33 pm    

    Nesrine Malik has a fascinating post on the irony of older female relatives in enforcing patriarchal values on subsequent generations of women.

    As I grew older and became more familiar with the world of women, I saw the men in my family as less and less the petty female-obsessed guardians of the status quo and more like its final enforcers. When my Sudanese female cousin recently wed a white Canadian, the women of the family were whispering nastily on the wedding night at how the standards of the family had fallen, while the men maintained silence in the face of a fait accompli. The mothers, aunts and grandmothers mocked or criticised the men’s silence behind their backs and saw themselves as the family’s moral foundations, with the men wielding only material and physical power.

    For more, check out the comments thread on this post from a couple of months ago. It explores similar themes and more and Nesrine asked me to hat tip everyone who helped make that a great discussion and which influenced her CIF piece as well .


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    Filed in: Current affairs,Sex equality






    21 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs


    1. Rumbold — on 12th February, 2009 at 8:43 pm  

      Thanks for flagging this up Shariq. It is an excellent post by Nesrine and I only wish she would write more for CiF.

    2. Nesrine — on 12th February, 2009 at 8:56 pm  

      Thanks Shariq,Rumbold. That is a legendary PP thread.

      Wish I could write more too but always stuck at work, as I am now at 9pm!

      Wanted to post something on your Islamic finance thread as well Rumbold. Will do shortly.

    3. Ashik — on 12th February, 2009 at 8:59 pm  

      Women as willing enforcers of honour: surely it can’t come as a surprise to anybody?

      Cultural traditions often have stronger roots and durability than flaky government campaigns and liberal criticism. This is why dowry is still a huge issue in India decades after it was outlawed and govt/NGO’s and liberal chattering classes (who often practice dowry) condemned it. Such comments look good on forums but are not usually practiced in real life.

    4. Amrit — on 12th February, 2009 at 9:06 pm  

      Lol, that thread was like group therapy.

      ‘Cultural traditions often have stronger roots and durability than flaky government campaigns and liberal criticism’

      Yeah, that’s why the Sri Ram Sena’s bigotry has been roundly criticised, discouraged and now will be counterbalanced.

      Please, stop trying to mask resentment and lack of education among people as ‘cultural tradition.’

    5. Ashik — on 12th February, 2009 at 9:16 pm  

      ’roundly criticised, discouraged and now will be counterbalanced’.

      Yet all will soon be forgotten (all the perpetrators were out on bail the day after) and rightist Hinduvta politics will simply continue marching on condemnation or no. Is this not the desi pattern?

    6. Ashik — on 12th February, 2009 at 9:22 pm  

      ‘mask resentment and lack of education’

      Are you saying that the opinion (expressed without resort to violence, of course) of an Indian person of modest educational background is worth less than one who is educated?

      If I am not mistaken BJP and Hinduvta cadres have disproportionate support from Urban middleclass types (presumably educated)?

      As for cultural traditions, is it traditional for a Indian girl to kiss her boyfriend in front of strangers or her family? Do most Indian girls (outside a few areas of Mumbai or Delhi)even have boyfriends?

    7. Rumbold — on 12th February, 2009 at 9:34 pm  

      Nesrine:

      I look forward to your comments.

      Ashik:

      No-one is denying that there is a strong conservative element to the ways in which some Indians think. But it is also true that, as Amrit points out, groups like Sri Ram Sena can become reviled and ridiculed in equal measure.

    8. Desi Italiana — on 12th February, 2009 at 10:39 pm  

      “the irony of older female relatives in enforcing patriarchal values on subsequent generations of women”

      These women are the bane of my existence. If I could, I’d write copious volumes on this, as they have often been the sources of my misery.

      There must be space in debates for women to acknowledge that it’s not only some men who seek to dominate women and replicate inequalities, but some women as well.

      Whatever happened to that thread of wonderful one-liners we came up with to shut nosy, patriarchal aunties up?

      [...]

      Oh joy, here it is: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/2585

    9. Jai — on 12th February, 2009 at 10:44 pm  

      Ashik,

      Do most Indian girls (outside a few areas of Mumbai or Delhi)even have boyfriends?

      With all due respect, Ashik, you are really naive about life in India. This stuff even goes on in the villages, not just the major cities, even if it’s more open in the latter.

    10. persephone — on 12th February, 2009 at 11:06 pm  

      Question for the guys out there: why are they letting the auntiji’s do this? What is preventing them from making a stand?

    11. Desi Italiana — on 12th February, 2009 at 11:51 pm  

      Perse:

      I’m not a guy, but the two extreme polar ends that I have witnessed amongst dudes are:

      1)the power of matriarchy overruns the guy, turning him into a meek little lamb who doesn’t utter a bleat of protest, even if he disagrees with the more dominant women in his family, or

      2) guys who are only too happy to let the misogynist women indoctrinate/inculcate/force women and men to accept and practice certain inequalities and roles because it only reinforces their own power.

      Note, this is just highlighting the extremes. There are guys in between.

    12. persephone — on 13th February, 2009 at 12:09 am  

      Desi @ 11 Exactly - both dude versions mean they are complicit in all of this and its not just an Auntiji phenonemon

    13. Desi Italiana — on 13th February, 2009 at 1:12 am  

      Agree with you.

      One thing I’d like to add is that the influence that auntiejis wield are more far-reaching in case #1 than dudes in question, due to the constant presence of auntiejis at home (as most are housewives).

      My central question however doesn’t involve the dudes OR auntiejis so much, but their offspring. Why, why, why do they submit to the expectations that the auntiejis push? I know the pressure is strong, and it really does come to a point where you’re just fucking miserable being around them because they can’t shut up about women (and men) fulfilling certain gendered “obligations”, etc and perhaps doing what they want you to will finally keep them quiet, but I mean, you could abide by your own pace and/or decisions. Why do they do it? Do their own experiences lead them to believe that this is just how “life is” (a phrase I’ve heard often)? If I got paid a penny for every 25 plus year old man and woman I’ve met who has gotten hitched because their mothers pressured them to, or reluctantly participated in gendered expectations, I wouldn’t need to look for a job right now.

    14. Desi Italiana — on 13th February, 2009 at 1:21 am  

      Just read Nesrine’s post, and these two tidbits jumped out at me:

      “I began to see that women were not the devoid-of-volition players I once thought they were. In fact, the most dominant forces in the subjugation of women appeared to be the older and more established women.

      While it is relatively easy for girls to build up the reserves of energy to confront emotionally distant fathers, uncles and other men in their lives, it is difficult to oppose female relatives, especially mothers who are in principle on your side, but in family politics are actually aligned elsewhere.”

      Now I have to say that I agree more with Nesrine than with Perse’s comment that it’s not all about women. Yes I think men are complicit, but I also think that in some cases, more responsibility lies with women.

      BTW, blog and article trend that I’ve been seeing for years now always quote the prophet. Why.

    15. Chris E — on 13th February, 2009 at 1:25 am  

      There are swings and roundabouts here - on the one hand the dynamic described is exactly what goes on - on the other hand there is a certain extent to which non-indigenous men are actually more welcome than non-indigenous women. The sexes socialise in a segregated manner, and uncleji tends to be a little bit more aware of the outside world.

      #11 is quite an accurate description - with the caveat that some men manage to fall into both categories, they are meek lambs until they start to roar and shout just to prove themselves.

      That these matriarchal streaks in society should develop in malignant ways is no suprise - just look at the prevalence of ‘bride burning’ in India. Usually the mother-in-law is implicated in some way.

    16. Chris E — on 13th February, 2009 at 1:26 am  

      where you’re just fucking miserable being around them because they can’t shut up about women (and men) fulfilling certain gendered “obligations”, etc and perhaps doing what they want you to will finally keep them quiet, but I mean, you could abide by your own pace and/or decisions. Why do they do it?

      Because everyone needs community and being told what to do is the price that some think they are willing to take.

    17. Desi Italiana — on 13th February, 2009 at 1:44 am  

      “Because everyone needs community and being told what to do is the price that some think they are willing to take.”

      I don’t think the price is worth it; and two, if you’re living in any place other than the motherlands (Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, etc) I’m assuming some diasporan Desi folks have “community” that is not entirely Indian and may be more forgiving/accepting of the life choices one makes w/r/t to marriage? My own example: holidays and family get-togethers (which is not often if I’m in school or working*), are really the only time I have to put up with crap from the Indian American “community”. Other than that, I’ve got my own friends (both non Desi and Desi) who make up my “community” with whom I spend way more time with and interact on a daily basis. I mean, surely there aren’t THAT many second and so forth generation diasporan Desis who live in a social cocoon similar to their elders and feel that their life is effectively over because if they don’t get married, “people” are going to whisper at the local gurdwara/mandhir every Sunday (probably one of the few times you come into contact with a tightly woven social Desi community)?

      Or am I generalizing too much, being too insensitive…?

      *Now, if you’re not working, studying, or have your own life, THEN it becomes a problem to disentangle yourself from this diasporan social web. If you live at home, spend massive amounts of time with family and their friends, this then I can understand.

    18. Chris E — on 13th February, 2009 at 10:46 am  

      I don’t think the price is worth it; and two, if you’re living in any place other than the motherlands (Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, etc) I’m assuming some diasporan Desi folks have “community” that is not entirely Indian and may be more forgiving/accepting of the life choices one makes w/r/t to marriage?

      Oh - I don’t think the price is worth it either, in the long run. It’s just that for some people it takes the form of a mental security blanket which they try to rationalise in various ways.

      So - I had a friend tell me that he couldn’t marry half Indian/half Italian girlfriend because “A lot of people look up to me in the community”.

      I think a lot of people also fear what might happen to them should their own choices go wrong in some way.

    19. Desi Italiana — on 14th February, 2009 at 1:57 am  

      Ashik:

      “If I am not mistaken BJP and Hinduvta cadres have disproportionate support from Urban middleclass types (presumably educated)?”

      That is true, actually. And it’s really astonishing to hear the things that come out of the mouths of “educated” middle class yuppie types (or almost yuppie) who support the BJP and Hindutva orgs. Basically, this a constituent that wants India to be a powerhouse economically (in the capitalist way) while a strong nationalism providing the foundation for it.

    20. Desi Italiana — on 14th February, 2009 at 1:59 am  

      Ashik:

      “Yet all will soon be forgotten (all the perpetrators were out on bail the day after) and rightist Hinduvta politics will simply continue marching on condemnation or no. Is this not the desi pattern?”

      Unfortunately, yes. Or there will be an accepted consensus on how bad said party’s/org’s actions were, but no justice will be delivered, few if any will be punished.

    21. Desi Italiana — on 14th February, 2009 at 2:08 am  

      Amrit:

      “Yeah, that’s why the Sri Ram Sena’s bigotry has been roundly criticised, discouraged and now will be counterbalanced.”

      No doubt that there has been an outcry and a great campaign to send your chaddis in, but how is this ridicule and discouragement translate into an effective “counterbalanced”?

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