I grew up at a home under the tutelage of more women than men, my grandmother, my mother, my sisters, aunts, friends of my grandmother from her prayer group, more aunts, neighbours who would stop by to speak to my mother or my grandmother. And being that strange oddball of a kid, unlike my peers, I would prefer staying at home and watch life pass me by, reading a book, being shy, something I was best at. I remember late winter afternoons, schools closed for holidays, when my grandmother and mother, their faces tired from the chores, solemnly sitting, but invigoratingly discussing the chores for the evening. They would seldom stop. Dinner for my father, something for my grandfather who would be home soon, the clothes had to folded into near squares, water had to be heated, the home had to be dusted. In the little less than an hour time meant to calm their senses their minds would be frenzied planning and prioritizing! While they slogged, were the first ones to wake up, the last ones to sleep, the last ones to eat, the last ones to be asked after their well-being, they carried on smiling, never questioning, never stopping, never resting. Even after all these years, of asking them to stop and live for themselves, they refuse to change and have, without any qualms, made peace with this.
But they are happy, now, that my sisters do not have to do all they had to do and are living a life outside the patriarchy induced claustrophobic walls of home. They find peace and joy in the thought that my sisters are not spending their lives inside the sweltering room of a kitchen, slogging from one meal to another. Little do they know, or maybe they do, that the clutches of patriarchy and inequality extend beyond the walls of a home. Unequal pay, unequal privileges, inequality is not limited to serving everyone and then eating, or preparing a Sunday meal. It remains sadly and disastrously embedded in the air that we breathe.
The world throws glaring examples each day. Our glorious cinema industry where our male actors never retire and never stop romancing women so much younger than them while our female actors fade away without notice. An older man married to a younger woman hardly raises a brow while an older woman married to a man younger than her has the world media wagging their tongues in disbelief! If a woman, with all her zeal and effort, reaches the pinnacle of her career, one when complimenting her success always begins, ‘for a woman, you have reached far and wide’! Does gender define intelligence and triumph? Is it dreadfully difficult to believe that a woman can outshine hundreds of men, that she is equally capable of leading? My home state of Meghalaya, situated in North-East India boasts of matrilineal society but we are also, despairingly, a state, which has never had a woman Chief Minister! Is it so difficult to be equal, equal in thoughts, equal in privileges, equal in pay?
I have always enjoyed cooking and cleaning and I am often told how happy and blessed would my future better half be to find someone who cooks and cleans! Angrily I question why! Why must not chores be shared between a man and a woman? Why must we divide men and women into boxes of blue and pink respectively? Why must a woman eat after she has served everybody in the family? Why must a woman change her happy job when her husband is transferred to another city? Why must a woman always sacrifice and never question? Why is equality a mere concept and never practised in entirety?
Feminism-an equality, equal rights and not reducing opportunities to whether you were born as a man or a woman. I know now I have offended many men reading this post. I may have equally offended some women. However, the next time you casually remark, ‘It is a man’s world’ or see that a woman is the last person dining alone, or find yourself questioning why was your woman colleague promoted, and you assume that she used her sexuality to get ahead of you, do ask yourself ‘Am I being equal?’. Equality truthfully begins here, begins now and if you think I am being prejudiced, I, rather happily choose to be that offending feminist man.