There are several obvious signatures of patriarchy like gendered careers, gendered sports, scale and intensity of sexual crimes, the status of domestic lives, divorce rate, prevalent discrimination in every sector, safety concerns for the weaker sex, catcalling, harassment in the workplace, etc. The list goes on and on. But, these are just the highlights. How do you assess all of them to identify the signature of a true patriarchy? The underlying causes that fester these extreme behaviors are not palpable. Besides the evident signatures of a true patriarchy, there are some very subtle and dormant forces. These forces are always in play. They are not very rash and prominent but, the steady nature makes them leading signature causes of patriarchy.
Being a woman and part of any society means having to learn a list of roles, and the performance every role requires of you. As you grow up, the list keeps getting longer and longer. You slowly start to discover each new signature of a true patriarchy. You are a daughter and sister on one hand and a friend and student on the other. You grow up from being a kid to a responsible adult. Slowly and gradually, as your list grows, your skills grow. People who have been with you since your childhood could be the adequate judge of the evolution your personality has truly undergone. Your employer only sees the professional side of you but your family and friends could still spot those little personality quirks you had when you were nine years old. You could still throw a bombarding tantrum just like you did when you were thirteen. You could still sing the poem you learned in Kindergarten. You still love the flashy green eyeshadow like you did when you wore it on your prom. And, finally, you still love your dream of becoming an engineer, or a writer, or something as crazy as an astronaut. But, the difference between your childhood and adulthood is, that you have transformed those tidbits of your personality to fit a more logical and mature perspective.
And, isn’t this what life is all about? You blossoming into an amazing woman; with friends, family, school, work, jobs, goals, dreams, and everything. Now, you have learned to be better at juggling all these new things in your list. And, that fuels your self-esteem. It makes you proud of yourself. But, suddenly something happens. Suddenly, you start to identify with this established patriarchy until you become a signature; a signature of a true patriarchy!
You realize you have to give up some parts of you to fit a role that you had been destined to adopt at some or other part of your life since birth. The role of a wife and a mother!
Why does the idea of marriage make people uneasy? It may be commitment issues, financial issues, or childhood traumas in other countries. In Pakistan, it is something as simple, yet as complex as being part of patriarchy. It can be restated as fitting within the designated gender roles. These gender roles are equivalent to forfeiting your freedom, your ambitions, and passions. These luxuries are too far-fetched. If a woman has to give up the way she dresses, the way she talks and thinks, the way she cooks, and what she actually believes in, then you would see a true veteran of a patriarchal mindset.
Our accomplishments in terms of career, education, and humanity are mere standards that must be met to be able to land a life-partner in Pakistan. I do not condemn standards if they are meant to fulfill what they are raised for. If you wanted an educated wife, why would you want her to abandon her career at point-blank? The fact of the matter is; you assume you compensate for what she gave up. You think it was a sweet deal for her when she gave up her years of gaining knowledge, investments, and experience of a field of work to be your wife. Trust me, it was not just a job that earned her a few bucks. It was a reward she earned for her years of work. You made her give up her years of hard work and you think it would not take a toll on her self-esteem. You literally took her, tore her apart, cut out the remnants of a part of her identity, and sewed her back up. She is bleeding slowly from the cracks in the bandage. You basically enmeshed her identity into the identity of the family and the kids. Instead of contributing in her evolution, you set her decades back along the journey.
She regretted it when she could not enjoy the flashy green eyeshadow. She regretted it when she could not wear the clothes she wanted to. She regretted it when she heard your news of promotion in your career. She regretted it when she made all these sacrifices. But, did she actually NEED to make these sacrifices? No.
She could have done all of it, slowly and out of her own will and consent, had she been allowed to. But, the deal you offered to her was to choose family or herself.
The role she wanted to play could have been more fulfilling to her, and in extension; more beneficial for you. But, YOU decided her role for her. Now, what you experience is a woman who is of your own making.
You might be wondering if I exaggerated a little bit. This is a true account of today’s Pakistani woman.
The only purpose of her education and qualification fulfills is her being socially designated as suitable for marriage. All her degrees are tossed to the side or attain secondary or tertiary importance once she gets married. All the small nuances of her personality, lifestyle, and belief system are secondary to what she looks like when she is a potential candidate for marriage. She is being tested and judged on the tasks required for the homemaking role; which entails cooking, cleaning, good social skills, and being aware of the unwritten rules and traditional social standards she has to meet to become a wife of A FAMILY.
And, the best part of it all is; manipulation and programming of a woman’s mind since birth. When a woman actually fights for a gender role this society asks her to fill in, then you can identify the signature of true patriarchy.
If you like this article, perhaps you would like to read my other pieces as well.