Feminists and women’s rights activists have been vocal about the alarming plight of women in India and how the long practiced patriarchy should be done away with. They put forth examples of North-Eastern parts of India where matriarchy is practiced. It is a stark opposite of patriarchy, wherein, the women is the head of the house and the property is transferred from mother to daughter. Ideally, women should not play second-fiddle to their male counterparts in such a society; she should be ‘actually equal’. A layman would take it as a foreign subject, which might have been brought in by the British rulers. Just because it so new, so alien to the Indian sensibilities who are used to useless patriarchy, not much has been written about this practice.
An expedition to Kerela
I am very certain that every woman wants to break free from the shackles of this shallow supremacy and go the north-eastern way. Feminists all over vouch for this revolutionary practice of matriarchy, though its roots date back several years. Inspired by the stories, I was persuaded to visit Kerala that follows the matrilineal system to know more about it. I started off with researching on the topic and was flooded with a mixed bag of articles; some negative, and few positive! I tried not to form any perceptions at that stage and headed straight towards my expedition. It is not the beauty of the god’s own country that had brought me there, it was the conflicting stands on matriarchy.
Having read so much about the high literacy rates of the state, I was expecting women filled with infectious panache and confidence to cross my path. With the same vigor, I struck conversation with this young lady while travelling in the bus about her take on the refreshing matrilineal system. I was expecting a power-house answer, but to my utter disappointment, she sounded rather sad! She explained the whole scenario in just one line- “Matriarchy is the biggest hypocrisy in this region”. I was taken aback, all puzzled by the contrasting views of the girl with what I had grasped so far. From there, my quest to dig deeper for truth began as I headed straight towards Chinmaya Arts and Science College for Women to interact with more girls. One of them opened up to me and narrated an incident that happened with her few months back. She said, “I was travelling by bus when a bunch of guys touched me indecently and passed lewd comments. Others looked on as mute spectators and no one protested”. I questioned as to why she didn’t react for which she said that had she reacted the entire female community would have disowned her!
I was speechless and did not know what to say. With passing time, my quest continued and I had a word with a few social activists working for female rights. One of them, named Ms. Kaikho told me about the sorry state of women in the state. False marriages, sexual exploitation and domestic violence are a common sight there and women have no means to protest, raise their voice and ask for justice. Moreover, the system of the groom living with bride’s family has vanished and with the introduction of nuclear families, people are now following the patriarchal footsteps.
Further, I attended a cultural fest there and met few big-wigs working closely for the upliftment of women. They told me that women are the most oppressed part of society and no young girl, no matter how educated, has the courage to talk her mind. There is no proper guidance, no fair law and loads of unfair practices that have reduced women to the weaker class. Matriarchy on the face of it is good, but deeper inside, it is no better than any other part of the nation. Tollywood actor Prithviraj, who acted in Aiyya with Rani Mukherjee also termed matriarchy down south as Hippocratic.
It’s All Deeply Ingrained
Ever since the inception of mankind, man has been the oppressor and the supposed bread-winner of the family. Women and kids are the ones who are under his protection and he is the decision maker of the house. A very common sight I know, which unfortunately most people have readily accepted! Patriarchy is so deeply ingrained in our systems that it feels second skin to us! People are used to living this way and it seems to be a norm and the obvious way of how one lives. Another facet to the patrilineal system is the ritual of the bride leaving her house to live at the groom’s house after marriage. So what, right? This is so very obvious! In fact, women dream of how they would spend their life after marriage, how will they adjust with the new family, new people, new place and all!
It is a core proof of how accustomed we are to the patrilineal ways of Hindu society. I wish male dominance could have been limited to this, but it extends to the physical aspect as well. Intimacy and love-making, though seems pleasurable, but more often than not we fail to read between the lines. The aggressive (read passionate for some) phase of love making, often evident in popular adult movies are a way of male dominance. The satisfaction men get from ‘conquering’ her body, getting to control her and treating her as a mere object for pleasure reflects oodles of dominance. Ironically, it is taken as a way of showing intimacy and love towards your partner.
My journey was a long one, with many secrets revealed and many notions decoded. All in all, it was a journey less expected and I came back with a lot of myths busted. It is high time that North-Eastern states should not get the liberty for being matrilineal. Strict vigilance, reality checks and proper channels for women awareness are the need of the hour. I hope, the next time I visit there, things would be better. Till then, my pen and paper will not stop from spreading awareness about how matriarchy is nothing but shallow hypocrisy down South.
By Akanksha Gupta
Image Source: Beauty Is Inside@Facebook