As a woman with a voice, it is not easy to stay in a patriarchal family. You have to struggle to exercise your choice and make yourself heard. However, the struggle does become easier when siblings fight it together. They belong to the same generation. They deal with the same regressive society and family. And they need each other’s support to defy the gender roles and climb up the mountain of independence and agency together. Because it is no hidden fact that patriarchy oppresses both men and women. So here are some ways by which brothers and sisters can support each other in deconstructing the patriarchy that thrives at home.
1. Listen and know each other personally and not through parents
The first step to support each other as siblings is to know each other inside out. For this, it is very important that one should know his or her sibling without abiding by the perceptions that the parents might have. For example, if your parents think that your sister is too rude or disobedient, don’t just believe them blindly. Try to know her personally and ask her if she is going through some issues. Because parents may develop a bad opinion about their offspring who only dared to go against the conventions.
2. Support each other’s choices, whether it is about career, clothes or relationship
As siblings, you must support each other to stand by personal choices even though you might not like the choice that the other sibling is making. Yes, you can help him or her to make the right decision and also make him/her aware of the possible consequences of the choice. But if the choice has been made, don’t be condescending or impose your ideas. Help him or her to convince the parents and try to turn their denial to acceptance. Often, brothers become the agent of patriarchy and police their sisters (elder or younger) for making defiant choices in terms of clothes, lifestyle or relationships. And in some cases, a sister polices the other too.
But if this relationship of perpetuating patriarchy and creating a void of miscommunication could turn into support and encouragement for each other, the struggle against patriarchy would be easier even though it might not end. Don’t be the first one to distribute the wedding cards if your sibling isn’t ready for marriage. Be the one who becomes the connecting thread between the sibling and the parents but still more tilted towards your sibling.
3. Talk about sex, periods and sexuality
For any relationship to be strong, it is important to remove the silence regarding some topics that have been tabooed by society. Whether it is about sex, sexuality or periods, brothers and sisters must speak about it and share personal experiences. I know of a friend whose brother shared about his homosexuality with her and my friend extended her full support in front of their parents. Moreover, it should be normal for brothers to buy pads for their sisters or advice each other about the safe and happy sex life. After all, siblings are usually the first best friends of each other.
4. Teach each other to not be submissive and to pay respect to people irrespective of gender or class
Harassment and rape is a reality for both men and women. And self-defence is important for both of them. So as siblings, protect each other, teach each other the difference between right and wrong touch, to raise voice against wrong and to hit it back with resilience. Moreover, help each other understand that every human deserves equality and respect irrespective of his or her gender or community. These are some important concepts to build a better society in the present and for the future that parents might not understand themselves to pass it on to their offsprings. So siblings who are a part of the changing society and the increasing awareness about equality must become the modern teachers or parents for each other. So that tomorrow no one will say that a certain social value like gender equality was never introduced to him/her.
5. Tie rakhi to each other and defy the imposed gender roles
Patriarchal families raise their daughters and sons differently by imposing certain gender roles on them. A son is forced to take up the family business, be bold, responsible and manly. While a daughter is asked to make the perfect roti, serve the elders and learn everything that her in-laws will expect from her. But as educated or woke siblings, understand these imposed gender roles and help each other get rid of it and follow the passion and choice. Dear brothers help your sisters to learn driving and take part in the family business if they want to. And dear sisters help your brothers learn basic cooking and cleaning skills, and if he is an expert at activities that are “womanly”, encourage him to pursue it.
6. Don’t let sibling rivalries perpetuate patriarchy
It is common for siblings to fight over noodles, TV remotes or the best dress. And mostly these small fights are the essence of sibling relationships. But then often these rivalries feed unhealthy comparisons, envy and hatred. Sometimes the unequal treatment of a sibling and expectations from him/her lead to these serious rivalries among siblings. Moreover, there is also a tendency of one of the siblings to demean the other in front of parents by fanning their stereotypes. So don’t let your fight over remote turn ugly enough to pull each other down on the basis of gender or social stereotypes and give the worst memories of life. Understand each others’ frustrations and resolve that and the difference that patriarchy has created between you.
7. Make each other feminists
Last but not the least, if the siblings follow the above ways to support each other in the battle against sexism, they become the feminist champions of each other. Realise the common hurdle of patriarchy in each other’s life and vow to defy it together.
Views expressed are the author’s own. Picture Credit: A still from Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na