- Ketaki Singh
‘A Gradual, But Necessary Unlearning’
Physics, in my latter years of school, was learnt with the sole purpose of not having to repeat it, and it only took me so far as to say that a well-oiled machine works in perfect and ineffable synchrony, through controlled and intended movement of all its parts. This can be adequately juxtaposed with the system of patriarchy, continuing to work because of the combined forces applied by countless generations towards intended action, keeping it alive and functioning.
When I think about what has been said, shared and thought with regards to this existing system, unending, flowing reams of opinions and perspectives come to mind, some of which have stayed, and others, which have evolved and turned course with time. After differing opinions and much discussion spread over years and mediums, this debate is now at a point where the roles played by different parts of the society we live in, in building this stubborn institution are set in stone, repudiating revisions to the structure so carefully sculpted, with an unshakable foundation and strong, sturdy walls.
A lot of us have learnt to revolt against this pervasive system on a fairly regular basis, doing everything by the book, as we should; starting an uncomfortable conversation, correcting a friend’s biased statement that emerges out of snug, warm shadows from time to time, pointing out what we feel is wrong in our own homes; reading, writing and initiating dialogue. Now, this comes most naturally to us with each passing day, almost as if we rely solely on muscle memory. As informed individuals, we attempt to demolish and deconstruct, piece by piece. Moving towards a safer and more acceptable future, we feel, will be constructed by our combined efforts, which will one day amount to something bigger, bringing about a sort of paradigm shift.
What does surprise us, every now and then, is witnessing the echoes of something indestructible such as this, as its values and principles seep through the cracks, showing itself when we may least expect it, like finding a hill of termites in one part of the house you forgot to check for three months, worse than what you estimated and doing further damage with every passing second.
This damage can be felt, rather exhaustively, when its ripple effect reaches and brushes past you because of the actions of someone you know, trust and thought you had fervent faith in. It is that which leaves us dumbfounded; scrounging about for a reasonable explanation and basis for such outlook and action, like shaky, nervous hands rummaging through a bag full of things for loose change. You never want to readily accept the fact that the ones you share your home and life with, or those who live next door would also be a part of what you are trying to fight and challenge; an unsettling, unsafe and unfamiliar feeling.
The growing discussion surrounding the far reaching effects of the institution of patriarchy has a tendency, at times, to focus on having clear, demarcated groups fitting the roles of those affected by the system, and those propagating it, helping it stay and grow. Instead, it should be acknowledged that both, men and women, seem to be a part of both, cause and effect. Women who stand their ground, take responsibility for themselves and their families, and who may be even the slightest bit enterprising are often viewed with suspicion and threat for reasons I cannot fathom. Meanwhile, they are also being given the responsibility to teach and take forth this belief system in a family, often being primary caregivers.
On the other hand, men are given more, if not complete power and are considered superior beings, within the system as well as by law, while being bound and restricted in several other respects; what they can wear and how they express themselves, fundamental aspects which do not deserve to be governed or controlled by any source other than oneself. What can be understood here, is the simple fact that we are all, at this point in time, just products and parts of this very system, which only seems to be getting stronger and feeding off of realities such as capitalism and modernity.
Our home and family is where all of us start, and it is here where attention and focus is most necessary. This is where habits are formed, patterns are observed and learnt, and where reactions and beliefs are built. Hence, this is where a change needs to be brought about, attempting to alter such tendencies where they are birthed; correcting, learning and practicing what is right and necessary, minimizing the damage one generation at a time. It is through this that the hope of living in a world where men holding views that are of a feminist, equal nature is not rewarded and applauded or met with shock, but in fact, are considered natural and normal, can be initiated. Education, dialogue and awareness are still powerful tools which will help guide us and begin a process of unlearning what has been instilled in all of us so very strongly.
This social system is a comfortable, well cushioned labyrinth from which those bound need to be freed; teaching them of another, better reality and guiding them towards it.
Written By Ketaki Singh