It is very uncomfortable to share those bitter experiences you face as a woman from a very young age. Who has done this injustice to every woman’s life? Is it our family or the society that we live in?
A very habitual dialogue that I used to hear from a very young age goes like this,’ We don’t have a boy who will look after us in our 70s or 80s? If we had a boy, he would have stayed with us in our old age.’ At the same time, they told us to study hard and find a government job, and then it would be easy for us to find a perfect match and a new family. If you get married, they will say that this is not where you have to live; this is your second home. Your home is where your partner lives.
These discourses compelled me to think, ‘Do women have a home of their own?’ The answer is no; they do not have a home of their own. When they are children, their father protects them; when they are married, their partner protects them; and their son protects them when they are old. The chain of protection continues till their death. Has anyone ever asked women what they really need? Will women choose protection or self-sufficiency? As a woman born into a patriarchal family, I want to be self-sufficient, independent and free. We cannot give our wings of freedom to the hands of society.
All That Matters Is Society
Every Indian patriarchal family often says, ‘How will society judge?’ All the readers must critically analyse how society’s judgment affects an individual’s life. We all are a part of this larger society, but it does not mean we have to live in a habituated way. However, the notion of such judgements is mostly toward women. Conditioned to live within the house’s four walls, the outside world is a nightmare for them or most of them.
My parents did not allow me to travel with my friends, saying, “You are a girl, and you need a guard.” They never let me go with my male friends. Even a phone call from them would create conflicts in the house. I always believed that various arguments with them would bring a change. But nothing has changed in the past 22 years of my life because the values of male dominance and patriarchy seem normal to them. They always behave in favour of societal judgments. All that matters for them is society, not their children’s lives.
Who Draws the Boundaries for a Girl?
From my childhood days, I watched my mother entrapped in the traditional values of society. She has lived her whole life within the walls of our home, building our family. She sacrificed her entire life by looking after my grandparents and feeding the whole family. Who drew these boundaries around her? Who is responsible for the betrayal she underwent in her life? Usually, everyone who visits home never notices her work. Is it because her job is unpaid?
She guided me from a young age, helped me in my studies, and always advised me to study hard and pursue my dreams. She never wanted me to lead a life like hers and wished that my life should be different from hers. Therefore, I do not want these types of boundaries around me. I want to demolish the influence of patriarchy in my life.
Knowing the Values of Freedom
The first enlightening talk that I heard about gender, feminism, and freedom from my one of my cousins. She used to speak about the hindrances we faced as women in our family. The patriarchal norms tried to enslave us in many ways.
When I completed my tenth standard, she told the whole family not to take a decision against my will. I wanted to pursue humanities, not science. However, I chose science in the higher secondary class due to family pressure. But after higher secondary classes, I chose my favourite subject, Political Science. The theories, philosophies, and new ideas in politics changed my perception of the whole system of society which revolves around the concepts of patriarchy. There will be hurdles in your path to achieving freedom. So, being a woman or girl can’t stop you from leading a life of your own.
Why Does Woman Have to Leave Their Home and Family After Marriage?
Women leaving their own homes after marriage and living in their partner’s homes did not mean anything to me until my sister got married.
What if I ask you to leave your home and live in another home with some strangers? It is complicated, and the privileged gender, men, will not understand the mental trauma those women face. I also went through this situation when my sister got married. After she left our home, absolute loneliness caught me. We barely had our conversations and fights. I think she accepted this as a fate or something that, as a woman, she should do.
We often say that Kerala society has reached the peak level of gender equality, but how can we say so when these patriarchal norms still exist in this society? One gender leaving their home and the other having the choice to stay with their parents does not seem like equality to me.
We Are Independent!
We are not mere objects utilised for doing household chores; instead, we want to enjoy our lives and have to establish kingdoms of our own. We want to dress comfortably as we like. Moreover, we do not want to merely survive but live fully. We have only one life, and if you keep surrendering your life to meet the norms of this society, you are wasting your whole life.
Article 21-A of the Constitution of India provides free and compulsory education for all children without discrimination. This not only means achieving high qualifications and jobs but also thinking critically and reacting against the injustice you face in your life. Thus, we as women can choose to live and lead our life on our own terms.
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About the Author
Born and raised in a highly conservative family, Rekha always wanted to shatter all chains surrounding her from achieving her dreams. She is pursuing her Masters in International Relations and Politics from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. Her fundamental research interest is in feminism. She also volunteers for the Sex Education Kerala (SEK) foundation.