Last weekend I started looking for jobs. By tonight I’d have made my first application. By the end of this week I’d have lived 25 years on this planet. You would think this is a time for celebration, Look at me, all grown up and independent. But no, there’s no celebration. Unfortunately for my mum, it’s a cause for worry. 25 and still unmarried. 25 and still not serious about marriage. She tries not to think about it. Tries to heel the worry out of her voice during our daily phone calls, as we both try to keep the conversation light. She tries to hide the tinge of impatience when she tells me about yet another proposal that came and the fear that colours her voices as she talks about the relative who asked about me (read when I’m getting married) at the latest family do.
I feel sad for my mum. Sometimes I get a little angry and impatient with her and abruptly end the conversation saying I have to go, but mostly I feel sad and call her back. From the look of things you would think my mother is uneducated but she’s not. She’s an educated and working woman. She works at the bank, runs the house, pays the bills and follows up on her kids. And yet she’s like any one of those millions of uneducated women who worry similarly about their twenty something daughters. These are the same women who have a harried look on their face at every family event, the same whose throats close up when asked about their unmarried twenty something daughters. These are the same women who face the barrage of “When is the wedding?”, “Have you started looking?”, “My <Insert-some-relative/friend’s-name>’s son would be perfect for her, shall I give you their number?” at every event.
It never ends, until of course, the unmarried twenty something becomes a married twenty something. Then, it’s onto the next. These busybodies who have nothing else to do prey like vultures on hapless mothers one after the next. Unfortunately, there is no getting away from it. This is our society. Our evolved, modern, open society which is surprisingly still as patriarchal and backward as 50 years ago which still looks on an unmarried twenty something as damaged goods. Must be something wrong with her, why else would she be single? From the moment you graduate, or sometimes as you even approach graduation, unmarried becomes affixed to your name. From that omen forth that is how people view you, it becomes your identity, your profession, your goal irrespective of your wishes.
Yes, that was the purpose of my birth. To marry someone, bear his children and devote the rest of my life to him and the children in question. The fact that I have ambition is, let alone a matter for discussion, not ever a consideration. Blasphemy in fact! How dare I? Woman that I am, think for myself, think about myself? Mine is a life that must be devoted to others and the fulfilment of their dreams and aspirations. That is my dream, a dream that was chosen for me even before my birth. But it’s not! that is patriarchy’s dream for me. The same patriarchy that puts women in veils, that kills infant girls, that doesn’t recognise women’s rights, that doesn’t recognise marital rape, that blames the victim for the rape, that slutshames. It’s the same patriarchy functioning in a subtle way. This patriarchy uses words such as duty and responsibility to chain us. The end goal, of suppressing women, remains the same. This kind of patriarchy of course is much milder, nothing in fact compared to the crimes other women all over the world suffer but it’s patriarchy none the less. But if we, educated and privileged as we are, can’t cast the yoke of patriarchy off, then what can we expect of our powerless sisters?
Patriarchy has different faces and rears it’s head up everyday in different situations. Expecting a girl to give up a career she’s built and move to a different place just because her husband to be has a job, that’s patriarchy. Do you expect a man to do the same? Of course not! It’s the girls duty! Expecting the bride’s family to pay for the wedding, patriarchy! Girl should change her last name after marriage, patriarchy! Telling a girl she can’t work once she’s married, patriarchy! Each of these acts is called a girl/wife/daughter’s “duty/responsibility”. Somehow, all the “duties and responsibilities” fall on the shoulders of women. A man’s only “duty” is to “fend for and protect” his wife and family. Women are always someone‘s something(mother/sister/daughter). An object. To be closeted and used. They are never someone. Someone with feelings, emotions and aspirations. A living, breathing and bleeding person.
Women have a profound impact on their children. It is my mother’s strength and efforts that enable me to dream today. Unfortunately, she’s unable to find the same strength in her to fight off this society. But it’s her efforts and fight, and the efforts and fights of so many women all around the world which have allowed us, even the small number that we are, to dream and aspire. It’s easy to say we need change. Bringing about the change is harder. This system of objectifying and dehumanising women has existed since the dawn of humanity. It is not something that can or will change in a day, The change has to be gradual and start at the most basic and smallest of levels. Me telling that my career is as important as any man’s, that is my small way of denouncing patriarchy and fighting for my rights. How are you fighting patriarchy today?