Contradictions play a major role in the transformation and movement of any civilization, society, or nation. Contradictions among what? It can be in between two ideas, between two adjacent nations on what they consider their rightful territorial boundaries (which can lead them to violent conflict), or between interests and beliefs of two communities (e.g. rich and poor, two or more religious communities, etc…). A very good example of it can be the recent fall of the republic government in Afghanistan, where the Taliban which proposed an Islamic state has come out victorious. This Afghanistan conflict, in its very essence, is nothing but conflict between two ideas (each proposing two different forms of government in Afghanistan). In every contradiction, one of the two parties wins and shapes the future.
In the last century, the fight between communism (USSR) and capitalism (US) can be cited as one more example. History is full of such contradictions. The purpose of this article is to bring into attention one such contradiction which touches every individual’s life irrespective of their social status, financial status, religion, caste, race, nationality, etc.
Amid this ongoing pandemic, everyone has spent a significant amount of time at home. This gave every one of us an opportunity to observe family as an institution. Firstly, is Family an institution? Many of you might find it strange when I am referring to the family as an institution. In order to accept that family is an institution, you have to look at the characteristics of any institution/organization. Some are given below:
- It is an association of people coming together for a purpose
- There is a hierarchy, who will command who are predefined
- There are certain rules and regulations which are supposed to be followed by everyone
- There are ways to enforce these laws etc…
Family is, too, an association of people to fulfill their needs, for example, parents take care of children, younger take care of older, etc…. Some of its members, unlike other institutions, are created in the family itself (which is also one of its primary functions). and some are invited from outside through tools like Marriage. In a family, there is a hierarchy where the father (mostly) holds the highest authority. There are predefined duties, for example, the mother will cook food, clean the house, the father will go out and earn money. Children, too, have their code of conduct as per their gender. Violation of duties and code of conduct will certainly attract penalties.
One may ask, where these rules and regulations are written? These rules and codes of conduct are not written anywhere but are engraved into every individual’s mind through customs, traditions, beliefs, etc… in such a fined and subtle way that we don’t even realize that they are governing our day-to-day life. The enforcer and creator of these laws is society.
The angle of contradiction arises when few in the family are not happy with their predefined role. Here, I am referring to ‘Women’. Women have come to realize that they have been subjugated for centuries in this institution. This suppression and subjugation of women are prevalent across cultures, civilizations, nations, time, etc… which makes it seem natural and gives an edge to dominating class (i.e., men) in continuing it. As women are awakening, they are demanding rights and changes in their roles. This has shaken the foundation of the family as an institution.
SCENARIO: Girls don’t want to do household chores anymore (and in some cases don’t even want to learn it). Boys, as per their code of conduct, are not supposed to do household chores. We also know that cleaning, cooking, rearing children are important tasks and cannot be avoided. Now the question arises who will do it then? A possible answer may be, they will have a servant (which in most cases is a woman). But not everyone can afford a servant.
As women are refusing to behave as per the code of conduct, conflicts are bound to arise in the family. Remember this is not confined to one family or group of families, this is true for the family institutions as a whole and it has the potential to create disorder in society. So, what should be done?
One way out can be sending women back to sleep, where they will work for the dominant class as they have been doing for time immemorial, but this is impossible and should not be done. Now, the only left solution is the transformation of the family institutions and redefine the roles, duties, and responsibilities by taking into consideration the interests of all the stakeholders. But how this transformation of family institutions will take place?
Men will have to dilute their old-time absolute authority (which will be hard even for most liberal men on earth) and will have to involve themselves in household chores and learn how to cook, rear children, clean house, etc… Women equally have to take financial responsibilities, do social transactions, etc… Both have to come halfway towards each other and learn each other’s work. However, this transformation cannot happen overnight as the dominant class will never give away its authority and privileges so easily and behavior developed over centuries will take a lot of time and energy before it changes.
As women have been discriminated against in a family institution for such a long time, they have to work hard and examine each custom, tradition, and belief critically, because many of them seem all right on the face. For example, an Indian wife will never stop ‘fasting’ for her husband because she believes it will make her husband live longer (even if he drinks alcohol and never do physical exercise). The usual argument given to preserving this ‘fasting’ practice is that it keeps women’s digestion system good and helps them live longer. Whereas, in reality, this practice might have been created to ensure food for men as there was no food security in old times and famines were common.
Another example of such a subtle and hidden tool of the dominant class can be the blessing a married woman receives from elders i.e., Shada Suhagan Raho (always be married) and which is only possible when she dies before her husband (as husband will also die someday). Why would a rational person want to die before someone who is of the same age? Someone may argue because of the love a wife has for her husband, she may be willing to die before him. Well, what about husband then, does he not want such blessing for the long life of his wife?
If we integrate the conclusion of the above two examples, we can conclude that a woman lives longer through fasting and have received assurance that her husband will only die after her (blessing from elders), the only losing party here is the ‘god of death’ who has to ultimately delay this couple death.
We all know this is absurd.
The point I want to make here is, if women have to liberate themselves then they have to look deeper and closer and challenge such old and traditional institutions and their practices, family being only one of them.