No, Women Aren’t their Own Worst Enemies, Patriarchy Is

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Fights among women in families is a common sight in India. Family politics is a big part of why we call women enemies. The daily soaps at times exaggerate the family dramas but, nevertheless, they are inspired by real family politics that some of us witness everyday. Even today, in-laws oppress their daughters-in-law, sisters are jealous of each other and sisters-in-law and daughters-in-law are objectified and villainised. But, no, women aren’t their own worst enemies, patriarchy is. Patriarchy deliberately uses some women as their agents to impose restrictions on other women and poses them against each other in a fight where men are either the prize or the spectator relishing a gala time.

It is high time now that we fight out this toxicity within homes and encourage sisterhood and a relationship of mutual respect and empowerment among women in the house. Here are some ways to encourage sisterhood at home:

1. Understand the common oppression that women face in families and society

Irrespective of age or relationship, women are oppressed in the families in multiple ways. Some are oppressed for being too outspoken, others are shamed for being an outsider in the family and almost everyone is restricted just because they are women. Family politics is real too. The first step to fight out the patriarchal restrictions on women at home is to realise that they are being oppressed. Many women internalise restrictions as the norm and continue to bear with them and perpetuate them in the coming generations. So the only way to break this cycle is to scratch the norms set up by society for women and expose the hidden mess of gender inequality and misogyny.

Women enemies of each other? Family politics makes them to believe so? Perhaps it’s time to get to the real culprit

2. Encourage sisterhood beyond casual gatherings

Sisterhood within homes has often been exhibited in harems of ancient days, festivals, kitchens and family gatherings where women sit away from the male members to talk about their lives and society. Sometimes this can be the genesis of family politics but equally so this could be where the sisterhood begins. The freedom, understanding and empathy that women embody at these occasions is something that we need to normalise every day to overthrow the patriarchal dominance in the families. Once women identify the injustices that their gender faces in the family and society, empathy will replace the toxic bitterness among women in families and form a new bond of sisterhood. Women will support each other in questioning the restrictions and leading each other towards empowerment.

4. Support the woman family member when she questions the patriarchs in family

Often, women who are outspoken and believe in equality are shamed as unsanskari not only by the patriarchs but by other women too. As a result, the oppositions and questions raised by the woman make no sense for the families that still have women who live with the same restrictions without any objections. If women in families realise the injustice they have faced since ages and support those who raise a voice against it, they will gain a new perspective about womanhood and the inspiration to defy the norms themselves.

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5. Women who have defied the norms, must help others do so

Empowered women are the harbingers of feminism in patriarchal families. They have fought the restrictions within the family and in the society and set an example that women too can rule and it is not a man’s world. Such women should take the responsibility of helping other women in their families to realise their basic rights as a human, their dreams and push them to defy the norms and win their goals.

As a daughter, empower your mother and help her become a loving mother-in-law in future. As a sister, support your other sisters in dealing with patriarchy and encourage them to chase their dreams. And as a feminist, raise voice against the oppressors in the family and break the normative silence and submissiveness expected from women.

6. Stop considering men as synonymous to power

In families, the male members, especially the elder ones, are respected unconditionally. All their demands and opinions are accepted as truth and order however problematic and discriminatory they might be. Women especially are expected to be at their beck and call and fulfil their expectations. The reason behind the dominance of male members in families is the patriarchal mindset that has entrusted them with the power to make decisions for the women (and sometimes men too) in the family and to outcast or punish those who are defiant.

Break the taboo. Women judge each other? Women enemies of each other? 

As a result, every woman is taught to cater to their demands and expectations. Sometimes this turns into a competition of being more sanskari and likeable than the other to gain favours from the men in power. After all, it is believed that without the protection and favours from male members women will be the most vulnerable subjects of society.

But dear women, you have the right to decide. Then why do you allow someone else to interfere in your life? Yes, sometimes you do need the guidance of elders to make the right decision. But that guide is chosen based on experience and not gender. Women too can be your role model in being a strong and patient leader but their capabilities have been hidden by the patriarchy that never allowed women to flaunt their success.

Remember, in the competition of being the most likeable woman in patriarchal society, women are always at loss. Patriarchy has rendered women as subordinate sex who need validation and approval from men. So rather than being competitors, be sisters and friends that love and support each other unconditionally and together build feminism and sisterhood at home and make it a space where both men and women thrive.

Picture credit: Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash. Views expressed are the author’s own.