”When the woman moves forward, the family moves, the village moves and the nation moves”
The excerpt from Nehru’s writings, cited above, holds the ground amongst many. Undeniably, women’s contribution make a society whole and perfect. Many believe that a woman is a bridge across generations and hearts. Alas! Despite the heroic roles that women had played in the history and the present, women are the victims of patriarchal subjection and male chauvinism.
It is believed that egalitarianism was the norm of social relation in the primitive societies. Before the birth of the pairing marriage, family and private property; women were socially powerful as they enjoyed absolute mother’s right over the children. However, with the changing modes of production, when physical strength began to play important roles in war, production, booty capturing, and accumulation of private property; under the male dominated marriage and family systems, women gradually lost their prominence. Patriarchal values began to predominate and women are being treated as the property of men. A woman’s body began to be defined, either chastity or pollution began to be measured, and the price or value of her body began to be determined on the basis of the patriarchal notion of an ideal womanhood.
Overtime, the patriarchal notion of womanhood became engraved in the social perceptions and it relegated women to the subservient position in a hierarchically gendered social order. The societal spaces and relations, including politics and religion, began to reflect and reinforce women’s subjugation— more often than rapes and commodification of women are the denial of material benefits and other choices. These became common symptoms of a greater rot lying beneath the social superstructures. All these suggest betrayal of the ‘expected’ trust towards the other half of human composition that is constituted by the women. All these reflect a systematic rot that prevent the society from achieving true progress and all-round development.
In the present Manipur society that we live in; women’s safety, defined in the broader sense, is still an elusive touchstone, although many try to portray the prevalence of egalitarian ethos and practices. Certain moribund and decadent patriarchal thoughts and practices that enslave and threaten the dignity of women continue to operate. Women are being looked down upon as sexual objects to fulfill the unrestrained sexual lust of the men. News of rape and violence on women became the frequent headlines in the media. The patriarchal notion of women’s chastity created prolonged traumatic effects upon the rape victims, as they are being always condemned as the polluted body whose value have been degraded considerably. In other words, male sexual lust and aggression inter played with the patriarchal notion of either ideal womanhood or polluted; and it created insecurity to the women in various ways. She fears for the physical safety and social well-being, from the ruthless force of decadent customs, traditions and attitudes that undermined and subjected women.
The subjection of women under the patriarchal norms is structurally rooted in the relation of production that either confined women in the domestic premise of the men or reduced them into some form of domestic slavery. Their subjection in the relation of production makes them difficult to overcome the patriarchal restrictions superimposed on them. This structural bias misplaces women from the rightful place where they wanted to be, as human beings inspired by the progressive ideals of liberty and full-fledged empowerment in all aspects of livelihood. In other words, the structural bias prevents the women from the full growth of their physical, moral and intellectual temperaments. As a result; many women remain suffering from illiteracy, poverty, malnutrition and lack of choices. They enjoy little freedom for their creative self-development and growth.
Women needed empowerment? Who will do it, when and in what ways; are some of the questions that progressive women have been raising for many years. Many women believe that empowerment is a positive and multidimensional ideal. This ideal implies opening up of opportunity avenues towards the promotion of women’s self-confidence and the ability to determine the course and quality of their lives. This calls for a multi-layered approach, in order to achieve a structural overhaul. Firstly, the priority is to ensure proper education of women along progressive lines. Progressive education will increase a woman’s awareness, her choice and the abilities to take advantage of available opportunities. Secondly, in the meanwhile, proper education must be accompanied by opening up of public spaces for women. There should be proportionately equal representation of women in governance and decision making process that affect them. Thirdly, women must also enjoy society’s material and moral resources. There should be an initiative towards bringing an end to the evil practices like domestic violence and other forms of subjection. It would involve gradual demolition of the patriarchal value system. But, this attitudinal change requires a multi-layered social campaign. To achieve it, children at the school must be taught about the value of gender equality. Apart from the schools, the values of respect for women must be fostered and nurtured in the family domain.
Finally, humanity is like a bird. A bird needs both the wings to fly high into the sky. Likewise, a society becomes wholesome and progressive when gender equality is respected and valued. The society will grow only when women that constitute half of humanity, could contribute at par with men in all aspect of social relations and productions. Equality will bring balance and progress; as it will ensure a new strength that will be founded on the basis of the lived experience of fairness and mutual consensus. A common psychological make-up guided by the virtue of empathy will make this world a better place for all.
This article was sent to Kanglaonline by Flora Remei. She’s doing BA(Hon) Philosophy 3rd Year, Miranda House, Delhi University. She can be contacted at floraremei2013(at)gmail(dot)com