‘Konjam odamba kora. Apo thaan kalyanathuku apram sari a irukum’ (tone down a little only then it would be perfect after marriage)
‘Let the menfolk eat first. Let’s serve food for them’
These are common sentences we get to hear in a typical Indian household. Be it a family gathering or just a couple of family friends meeting each other, patriarchy and body shaming is being served, unaware to us, on a silver platter. We tend to practice and propagate meaningless rules generation after generation, unconsciously, and then crib about women’s empowerment and gender equality.
We have been a part of the problem that is plaguing our society these days. I have a few observations to drive in my point.
At any social gathering, with our extended family or friends circle, the ladies would be moving in groups in the vicinity of the kitchen while the menfolk would be comfortable in the living room, guffawing out loud. Except those occasional peeps into the kitchen asking if food and drinks are ready to be served, it is a rarity to see men near the kitchen. We also promote the bias by asking the men to eat first and pulling back our girl children to serve food and drinks, in the pretext of ‘training’ her for her future as a hostess.
Similar is the case of body shaming within the family. Every aunty would have a ready-made opinion on your looks and a handy recipe to reduce the weight or drive away those blemishes in your face. They would be more than happy to express an opinion on everything under the sun, irrespective of whether they are asked for it. We have seen our own people shaming us for being too thin or too fat or too dark or too pale. After all, marriage is a market and we must be THE best product to fetch a super awesome bargain, right?
Every society has a huge role to play in shaping up a generation. We have graduated from child marriage and sati to what we call a more liberal scenario. But how true is that? As girls, we are asked to cover ourselves up in the scorching heat, while boys enjoy walking around topless. We are asked to not place our innerwear in the washroom for laundry lest our siblings see them and get aroused. We are asked to serve tea and coffee to the guests while the boys are allowed to socialise and entertain the guests with Bravo stories of their escapades. We are asked to maintain our weight and skin while no such emphasis is put on boys who are also becoming eligible bachelors side by side. Boys are told to focus on bank balance while girls are told to tone it down.
All these might sound trivial and immaterial, but they go a long way in seeding the thought of patriarchy and gender inequality in people. We are sowing seeds which are going to keep sprouting into non-sensical and illogical gender roles in future.
While we might not like naming it, this is what we call patriarchy and body shaming. It is real and it is there in our own house if we watch closely. We are very much a part of the problem.
How to come out of this rut? Offer to slay the patriarchy from your own female folks. Encourage sharing of chores, help them develop a healthy body image, do not promote stereotypes. We have come this far and are stepping into another decade in the 21st century. We sure do not need men with regressive mindset and women who practice and preach gender roles. Let us begin the change from our own selves.