How Casual Sexism In Indian Households Voids Women's Wins

Casual sexism often uses independence to oppress women. In the garb of providing women with independence, it confines them to an inferior position. Cracking sexist jokes and then shaming women who question them is a classic example of this strategy.

Rudrani Gupta
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Let's face it, casual sexism is the worst way in which patriarchy controls women. Casual sexism is mostly not visible and is normalised as tradition. If you try to question it, you are called out for overthinking or for breaking the harmony of the family or culture. People who might be against men physically and sexually harassing women would be fine with women being enclosed within the kitchens. For them, the former is a clear sign of disharmony but the latter is a norm that ancestors created to retain harmony. Fighting against women's harassment on the road is not enough to clear the fog of patriarchy. We have to introspect, unlearn conditionings and learn new norms in order to create a society that is not only safe but friendly to women. 


Casual sexism starts at birth

As Indian women, we will all agree that sexism has become a part of our lives since our birth. At birth, a girl child is not celebrated as much as a male child. Even today, a family is said to be complete only if they have a male child. No matter how many girl babies a couple has, they are expected to try to have a male child to complete their family. 

Even if a girl child is accepted in a family, the idea that she is a paraya dhan always looms over her life. She is told stories about Prince Charming who is expected to take her away to his house. She is taught skills to be polite, homely and caring so that she can be a good bahu.

Times have changed. But casual sexism still persists 


Times have changed now, there is no doubt about it. Women are increasingly participating in education and working sectors and are building their own lives. Many families teach women about independence and make sure that they stand on their own feet. Yet, how many families in India will be okay with women not marrying at all? How many families will accept a bahu who doesn't know how to cook? How many parents will give enough freedom to their daughters to date different men, have premarital sex, or go on solo trips? How many families will let a woman remain childless without cursing her for her choices or showing fake sympathy for her medical conditions? 

There are many such questions that show how every upward movement of a woman is accompanied by many conditions. It is just not possible for the society to envision women as an independent entity. For one set of freedom, women in Indian households are expected to silently bear the restrictions in another sector. 

No matter how economically independent a woman is, she has to go back home to a messy kitchen at the end of the day. No matter how hard a woman works, she has to sleep only after the entire family is fed and tucked in bed. No matter how late a woman sleeps, she has to keep the morning tea ready for everyone in the family before they wake up.

This sexism encloses women within domestic space without any visible cage. Women do these chores as their responsibilities and seek a sense of satisfaction. They don't feel that they are being oppressed. That is why, casual sexism is never recognised as a problem until it does the damage. 

A classic example of the portrayal of casual sexism: Thappad

A classic example of this is the movie Thappad. Amrita finds no fault in running behind her husband with his tiffin, wallet and other accessories while he behaves as a careless man who cannot even be mindful of his own things. This behaviour of Amrita encourages her husband's control over her which ultimately is released when he slaps her in public. Amrita herself admits in the movie that the slap opened her eyes to every kind of oppression she has been facing. But why should women wait for the worst to happen?   


Thappad | Image from Tumblr

It is high time that we stop allowing casual sexism to brainwash our sense of independence. Casual sexism often uses independence to oppress women. In the garb of providing women with independence, it confines them to an inferior position. Cracking sexist jokes and then shaming women who question them is a classic example of this strategy. 

Brown households need to stop fixing, normalising and internalising women's roles. Women can cook in the kitchen not because she has to serve but because she likes to do it. Women too can sit in the dining area with all the men of the house and swirl their glass of wine. Women can earn, invest and save to protect the financial future of the family. Just stop blinding women to their rights through emotional blackmail. Stop making them feel guilty for staying ahead of time and making their own rules. 

Views expressed are the author's own. 

Patriarchy Women Empowerment Casual Sexism