uppose someone from a previous century comes to our time today. How shocked they will be when they see women driving planes, cars, buses etc. Imagine their confusion when they learn that one-third of villages in India are headed by female sarpanches, while men may take care of ageing parents or other household chores at home. All this may seem like an everyday thing to us today, but for someone who has very rigid and strict gender-based views, lives and believes in gender-based norms, and views society through the prism of patriarchy, women will be more shocked by interference in their marriages and increasing acceptance of other genders.
Gender roles and expectations have been prevalent in society for centuries. Girls are expected to be obedient, submissive, and nurturing, while boys are expected to be strong, determined, and competitive. These expectations often come with restrictions and demands that can be equally harmful for both sexes. The problem is not only that patriarchy and gender-based segregation are still very prevalent today, but the issue is also that it continues to flourish despite knowing it. If it handicapped a woman by unreasonable and illogical restrictions, it handicapped a man by excessive and unnatural expectations.
Even today girls are seen as an economic and social burden in the family. As a reason, a young girl’s dreams are often cut short, and she is disposed of as a burden on another family at an early age. This is not just a phenomenon in developing or poor countries, even developed countries with good human indices are witnessing an increase in child marriage. When a young girl, who has no prospects in life except bearing children and doing household work, is married into a family, there too she is treated as a burden or, in the worst case, her husband’s property. is seen as. In such cases, women lack any economic agency. They become victims of domestic violence, abuse, marital rape, mental health issues etc.
The role of women has been systematically confined to the four walls of the home and whatever role they might have had in society has been taken away in the name of modesty. Women’s education has been stopped and they are forced to live a life of slavery in the name of good religious practices. The essence of patriarchy has become so embedded in our minds that we often don’t even realize when and how we put it into practice.
Restrictions can have a detrimental effect on girls’ self-esteem and confidence. When girls are constantly told what they can’t do or what they shouldn’t do, they begin to believe that they aren’t capable of achieving their goals. This can lead to a lack of ambition and a fear of taking risks. She may choose a different career path that she is not passionate about. Apart from this, restrictions imposed on girls can also affect their mental health. They may feel trapped and suffocated by the expectations placed upon them, which can lead to anxiety and depression. For example, a girl who is constantly told to be submissive and avoid attracting attention may feel ashamed of her body and struggle with body image issues.
The contribution of depressive disorders to disability caused by neuropsychiatric disorders in women is close to 41.9% compared to 29.3% in men. Most women would be sceptical about travelling alone or going out at night. Even though it will not save them from the harm caused to Nirbhaya, still, they will still get a psychological sense of security in the company of someone they know. Women’s empowerment is incomplete without male sensitivity.
To say that only women are victims of this mentality would be half the truth. In recent times, there has been greater awareness regarding the impact of patriarchy on men, especially given the unfair demands that they have to meet. Since ancient times, most of our stories have centred around a strong and virtuous man who is worthy of ruling the world and must be willing to fight for it without shedding a tear. Such stories have set very high, yet very toxic standards of masculinity on men. From a very young age, these unnatural expectations and hero complexes begin to shape the psychology of impressionable children, leading them to become leaders in whatever field they enter. They are allowed to feel only masculine emotions, power, anger, and passion and should not give place to feminine emotions like love, compassion, nurturing etc.
It is time we understood that nature is extremely generous when it decides to bestow capabilities on humans. Apart from the ability to reproduce, nature does not discriminate based on gender. Today we live in a society where we have the freedom to live the life we want and create artificial standards and barriers, which means moving against the natural flow of the tide. Today we recognize the role that women can play in economic development as well as the role that men can play in supporting the family.
We are on the verge of revolutionizing society by giving marital and conjugal rights to other genders. We must start by empowering our women as well as sensitizing our men. Small changes like changing comments to gender-neutral, pay parity, paternity leave, etc. are being implemented in many places. With the rise of social media, it has become easier to find one’s role models based on their achievements and not gender. Women today are occupying more responsible positions in almost every field. We need to make more efforts at the legal level also. We need gender-neutral laws to protect the interests of not only women but also boys. At the same time, we should try to develop healthy sex education and open communication between different people.
Author is a Research Scholar in Political Science. She can be mailed at email@example.com