Saturday, October 31, 2009

Patriarchy Revisited


From the film: Mirch Masala (1985) by Ketan Mehta

The Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell!) Campaign is Breakthrough's new and growing campaign to help bring to our attention the grossness of domestic violence in India. It encourages people, especially men and young boys to become involved in this project, and to help bring any form of ongoing physical, psychological, sexual or financial violence within families to halt. The campaign blog is currently carrying a heart wrenching story on an otherwise archaic yet enduring evil practice in Indian society - the marriage of the girl-child. Entitled, "Without a Whimper," and penned ever so thoughtfully by dear friend Aham, it hits us exactly where we live - between the head and the heart.

The abuse of the girl-child in the name of marriage is infuriating and unpardonable. The practice needs to be condemned, but more importantly, it needs to be examined in the context of patriarchy - what it produces and who it privileges. Here is my provocation: patriarchy has its roots in the concept of man as the provider, and woman as the producer. This binary has traditionally privileged man who impregnates and provides the seed for the growth of family, and the male-child, who upon growing up is expected to then provide for the family, in economic terms, even if that means trading his own girl-child. Sadly, as a producer, the girl is considered nothing but a commodity - interchangeable in the market controlled by men.

What we need is to challenge our binary thinking, go beyond the dichotomies of provider-producer, and think of the body as one doing both irrespective of gender and/or sex. Quite in the humanist Marxist sense, production needs to be looked at as both mental (creative) and material (bodily), and their constant interactions in real time-space. Both men and women contribute to this in unique ways. It is in this context that they are also both different and equal. Notwithstanding the tensions between them, this perspective at least offers them the much desired equal footing, for presently even the founding plane has little room for the girl-child growing-up.

India, bell bajao!

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About This Blog

This blog is built around what I refer to as the socio-sexual debate, meaning the simultaneously coexisting conditions of human society and human sexuality in a constant state of inner conflict and pressing debate. To read more, click here.

Opinion Matters

"There is a way of discussing sexuality without using labels" (Mika* in an interview with Shana Naomi Krochmal, OUT, 2008-01-28).

*Mika is a London-based singer-songwriter.

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