• Niharika Aneja

Patriarchy in Indian Society


India, a country where the term ‘item song’ exists and people celebrate it. Topping the chart-busters every year, it has become a necessity in every big movie. Seldom have people questioned the place of the song in the movie, which has absolutely no relevance to the plot. When the biggest screens of the country play such songs, the audience whistle and clap as if they saw a ‘Kalpana Chawla Biopic’. That pretty much defines the mentality of the people of this country living in the 21st century.


Objectification of Women

When the biggest stars of the industry have no problem in objectifying women in a movie, what can one expect from the general public? A common yet ignorant rebuttal that men give is that women do such roles willingly, but that just gets to show that women are constantly reminded of the powerlessness that is their gender. They don’t get the same opportunities as men do. It would be a challenge for a person to point out just 10 movies where a woman had a lead role. There are thousands of Bollywood movies, but it is tough to even point of 10. No wonder women try to do their most with whatever opportunity they get. In an industry when acting should be the primary criterion, an actress is expected to look like a model and dance like a professional dancer. Quite often, the acting part is even ignored and many talented actresses are disgustingly screened as if they are mere objects. And yet, this is not even close to the worst aspects of patriarchy in this country.


Exploitation of Women

Women in Indian society have been a victim of humiliation, torture and exploitation for centuries. Even after more than seventy years of independence, there is little to no respite. Dowries were made illegal in India in 1961, however, the law is almost impossible to enforce, and the practice persists for most marriages in one way or the other. There are numerous cases of rape, murder, dowry, domestic violence and discrimination in society. We pretend to look away and move on. From a very young age, women are specified their role in society and are discouraged to pursue their dreams and desires. They are said to tolerate and listen, not to speak up or voice their problems. ‘Adjust’ is a word that comes to mind. In this context, I never understood the Hindi word ‘izzat’ which translates to ‘honour’. A woman often has to consider and defend this so-called ‘izzat’ of a family. “What would people think? I shouldn’t say this... I shouldn’t say that”. But what about the woman herself, does she not have her honour as well? Individuality is something that most women never get to have. Most of their lives are spent in meeting certain expectations and suppressing her own desires. These are very serious issues, but now let’s examine a sport closely and try to identify the small things that could be holding back women.

CHESS: Only 1 Woman in Top 100. Why?

Chess is not a physical sport, so one might not expect there to be a separate world chess championship for womenIndia, a country where the term ‘item song’ exists and people celebrate it. Topping the chartbusters every year, it has become a necessity in every big movie. Seldom have people questioned the place of the song in the movie, which has absolutely no relevance to the plot. When the biggest screens of the country play such songs, the audience whistle and clap as if they saw a ‘Kalpana Chawla Biopic’. That pretty much defines the mentality of the people of this country living in the 21st century.


Objectification of Women

When the biggest stars of the industry have no problem in objectifying women in a movie, what can one expect from the general public? A common yet ignorant rebuttal that men give is that women do such roles willingly, but that just gets to show that women are constantly reminded of the powerlessness that is their gender. They don’t get the same opportunities as men do. It would be a challenge for a person to point out just 10 movies where a woman had a lead role. There are thousands of Bollywood movies, but it is tough to even point of 10. No wonder women try to do their most with whatever opportunity they get. In an industry when acting should be the primary criterion, an actress is expected to look like a model and dance like a professional dancer. Quite often, the acting part is even ignored and many talented actresses are disgustingly screened as if they are mere objects. And yet, this is not even close to the worst aspects of patriarchy in this country.


Exploitation of Women

Women in Indian society have been a victim of humiliation, torture and exploitation for centuries. Even after more than seventy years of independence, there is little to no respite. Dowries were made illegal in India in 1961, however, the law is almost impossible to enforce, and the practice persists for most marriages in one way or the other. There are numerous cases of rape, murder, dowry, domestic violence and discrimination in society. We pretend to look away and move on. From a very young age, women are specified their role in society and are discouraged to pursue their dreams and desires. They are said to tolerate and listen, not to speak up or voice their problems. ‘Adjust’ is a word that comes to mind. In this context, I never understood the Hindi word ‘izzat’ which translates to ‘honour’. A woman often has to consider and defend this so-called ‘izzat’ of a family. “What would people think? I shouldn’t say this... I shouldn’t say that”. But what about the woman herself, does she not have her honour as well? Individuality is something that most women never get to have. Most of their lives are spent in meeting certain expectations and suppressing her own desires. These are very serious issues, but now let’s examine a sport closely and try to identify the small things that could be holding back women.

CHESS: Only 1 Woman in Top 100. Why?

Chess is not a physical sport, so one might not expect there to be a separate world chess championship for women. Wrong, and therein lies what I believe is holding back the growth of women's chess. When a girl gives JEE Advance (All India Engineering Entrance Examination), she has the opportunity to go all the way. And you may get some years when there are very few girls in the top 100 or so, and it may look discouraging, but the solution to that is not to segregate the competition, rather it should be to motivate future generations, to provide equal opportunities and let them take the challenge.

"Competing with Top Males Is Talent and Opportunity", one of the strongest female players of all time, Hou Yifan stated in a recent interview with Chess.com. She is currently the only female player to find a place in the world's top 100. You may find it hard to believe, but since 1971, only three women have made it into the top 100. But why?

Judit Polgar, a female chess player, earned the title of Grandmaster at the age of 15 years and 4 months, breaking the record of 11th World Champion, Bobby Fischer. She once said, “Meanwhile, national federations use their resources, and public subsidies are creating more female-only competitions. It is high time to consider the consequences of this segregation — because, in the end, our goal must be that women and men compete with one another on an equal footing”, strongly believing in the integration of men and women chess championship.

It is evident that women are ready for challenges, they just want the same opportunities. There is no reason to have a women’s tournament, which people look down upon. Again, it’s an indirect way of creating a division indicating a superiority in gender, rather than reducing the gap and providing equal opportunities.

‘Hope’. Does it exist?

The list continues - Female infanticide, Child Marriage, Malnutrition, Poor Literacy Rate, Inheritance to name a few. The list is long and the tunnel seems too dark, with no end in sight. But we must move on and hope for light to be there at the end of the tunnel. And if there isn’t, we must punch and break the walls, no matter what, we must smash the patriarchy. . Wrong, and therein lies what I believe is holding back the growth of women's chess. When a girl gives JEE Advance (All India Engineering Entrance Examination), she has the opportunity to go all the way. And you may get some years when there are very few girls in the top 100 or so, and it may look discouraging, but the solution to that is not to segregate the competition, rather it should be to motivate future generations, to provide equal opportunities and let them take the challenge.

"Competing with Top Males Is Talent and Opportunity", one of the strongest female players of all time, Hou Yifan stated in a recent interview with Chess.com. She is currently the only female player to find a place in the world's top 100. You may find it hard to believe, but since 1971, only three women have made it into the top 100. But why?

Judit Polgar, a female chess player, earned the title of Grandmaster at the age of 15 years and 4 months, breaking the record of 11th World Champion, Bobby Fischer. She once said, “Meanwhile, national federations use their resources, and public subsidies are creating more female-only competitions. It is high time to consider the consequences of this segregation — because, in the end, our goal must be that women and men compete with one another on an equal footing”, strongly believing in the integration of men and women chess championship.

It is evident that women are ready for challenges, they just want the same opportunities. There is no reason to have a women’s tournament, which people look down upon. Again, it’s an indirect way of creating a division indicating a superiority in gender, rather than reducing the gap and providing equal opportunities.

‘Hope’. Does it exist?

The list continues - Female infanticide, Child Marriage, Malnutrition, Poor Literacy Rate, Inheritance to name a few. The list is long and the tunnel seems too dark, with no end in sight. But we must move on and hope for light to be there at the end of the tunnel. And if there isn’t, we must punch and break the walls, no matter what, we must smash the patriarchy.

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