We all talk about patriarchy in politics, workplace, education institution and social spaces and how to defy it. But the most toxic patriarchal control is the one that thrives in families which often gets ignored as “personal matters”. So the onus to defy that control and to establish a new norm lies on women who are empowered and guide other women within the family to seek empowerment. Here are ten ways in which you can smash the patriarchy at your home:
1. Start the conversation
Patriarchy is as old as our religion and religious texts. Just like we all have a religious text in our houses and a religion assigned to our identity, we have patriarchy dictating the terms of our life. So the first step towards dismantling patriarchy is to start the conversation of equality and feminism and make it familiar to your inmates.
2. Learn to say ‘No’
It is very crucial for every struggle against patriarchy, whether at home or outside, to learn to say ‘no’. Say ‘no’ to anything that your parents force you to believe in and to that which is outright patriarchal. Whether it is about respecting an elder who doesn’t value your dignity, wearing certain clothes just because society wants it or about stifling your desires for the sake of the patriarchal norms, learn to deny. Explain the reason why you think it is unfair to impose binaries on you. And stand by it.
3. Change the way you read or have been introduced to myths and religious texts
Religion is another patriarchal institution imposed and carried forward through families. Girls and boys are taught since their childhood to chant and memorise mantras, shlokas and myths. But rarely those myths and stories are recited by exposing their patriarchal origin or the hidden feminist narrative. And if myths remain patriarchal, how will the religion and beliefs rooted in them be emancipating? So it is important for families to retell the mythologies from feminist perspectives. However, to follow the religion and beliefs or not, should be an individual choice.
4. Share the housework, problems and properties equally
To encourage feminism at home, normalise the idea that everyone should know basic cooking and cleaning skills. No one should be dependent on others to get his or her work done. Get rid of the beliefs that financial problems should not be shared with women because they can’t understand money. Women aren’t naturally incapable of financial intelligence. They have never been taught how to manage money. So, encourage discussions of financial independence, problems and it’s solutions at home. Lastly, normalise women being the inheritor or boss of the family properties, even if that means defying an age-old parampara.
5. Talk about periods, sex and sexuality openly
To smash patriarchy at home, it is very important to get rid of the taboos it has imposed. We need to normalise sex and period talks at home, which has been wrapped in taboos to restrict women. The process of dismantling taboos around period and sex should start from home otherwise people internalise them in their upbringing and carry forward to the next generations. And it shouldn’t be done only among mothers and daughters. Fathers, husbands and brothers should be equally involved in it.
6. Watch feminist movies together, avoid the sexist ones
The best way to initiate a conversation and make it convincing is to do it through a movie. Watching a women-centric movie or those that deal with social issues can play a vital role in removing the patriarchal control in your house. The perspective of the movies, the questions that they raise on the ordinary life situations, not to forget, their powerful dialogues have a lasting impact on the thought process of the audience. If you watch such movies with your family, it will be an eye-opener and make it easier for your family members to look at life from a different perspective. While simultaneously, do not undo these impacts and changes by watching a sexist movie with your family or laughing at a sexist joke.
7. Question and defy the regressive customs; be the new trendsetter
Although the Constitution has banned regressive practices like child marriage, caste discrimination and dowry, they are practised widely by many families even today. The biggest reason behind this is the value that families have assigned to the traditions. There is both fear and honesty involved that forces a family to continue these customs, despite knowing that it is illegal. Laws and logic take a backseat. So the most important step to dismantle these customs is to change the family traditions. Oppose those practices as much as you can. You might be ignored and criticised, but don’t give up. If you aren’t able to change the life of other members in your family, vow to not practice these customs yourself. That’s how you will put an end to the oppressive tradition and begin a new one about liberty and defiance.
8. Parenting responsibility should be shared by both parents
Traditions have deigned that mothers should sit at home and take care of the child. While men should be at work even on the day when their babies are born. Currently, the Indian cricket team captain, Virat Kohli, has taken paternity leave to be with his wife Anushka Sharma while giving birth to their first child. This reminds us that parenting is not an individual’s job but a partnership in which both the parent is equally involved- both should take leaves, have sleepless nights and cherish each moment of parenthood.
9. Encourage your parents to identify the ways they have been oppressed and that it is time to change
The reason why parents impose patriarchy at homes is that they too have been oppressed by it. They inherited it from their parents to raise the boys and girls differently. Until your parents identify the ways patriarchy has dictated their lives, they cannot understand why there is a need to bring a change. Ask your mother if she had some dreams that remained unfulfilled and why was so? Was it because her parents didn’t allow? Or her in-laws restricted her? Why didn’t she speak up? Would she want her daughter to remain silent like she (mother) was expected to? Not only mothers but know about father’s life also and help them understand that patriarchy is not a norm; it is an enforced ideology based power relations. And we as free humans have the right to have our own plans.
10. Lastly, go slow and steady
Defying patriarchy at home might pose a risk of hurting your loved ones. It is followed by misunderstandings, arguments and fights which often creates an unbridgeable gap within the family. And a disoriented family is a big setback in our thrust towards smashing the patriarchy. So go slow and consider the context, ideologies and the upbringing of your partner or parents. Don’t react aggressively when they force you to think or do something wrong. Deny politely without compromising your love and respect for your parents. Remember, to unlearn something that you have grown up with is very difficult. You can’t expect your parents or partners to change their views at once. Take time to explain and give them time to understand.