By Varsha Singh
What is the way in which a female looks a male, and a male looks a female?
Since the beginning of the literary tradition, it is perceived, that it is the ‘Patriarchal eye’ which determines the way of seeing. But here, the question which arises is – why do we possess just the ‘Patriarchal eye’? Can’t we cherish the ‘Matriarchal eye’ as well? Can’t we keep two sublime entities conjointly at the pinnacle? What is the indigence of heaving one perspective towards dejection, for the approbation of other at the peak? Why to create a hierarchy?
In an interview, Shashi Deshpande was asked, “today’s women are independent and they are no more appendage to man. What do you say?”
To this, Deshpande replied-
“…I agree with you… we are not independent, nor do we have our own identity. We are still appendage to men because our society is shaped like that.”
This reply of Deshpande renders a crystal clear glimpse towards the plight, that, it is the social structure, which creates hierarchy in the society. It is the hierarchy of patriarchal ideology, which forbids the matriarchal values, from having a voice of its own.
The importance of men and their superiority has been a part of Indian society for generations. Women had always been the less important individuals. When a woman lives in a male dominated society, obviously she undergoes many hardships. It is a wretched condition of women in our society when she has no husband in her life, she is not worthy of respect. Society finds faults with anyone who does not adhere to its laws, in other words, they are the transgressors of society. In a male dominated society and under male chauvinism a woman’s role is hence viewed through a magnifying glass, and she is always watched by others.
As male chauvinism refuses to apprehend woman as antagonist in domain of society, in this situation, a woman is not born but made by the society- “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. No biological, psychological or economic fate determines the figure that human female presents in society; it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.”
Thus, patriarchal practices which reduce women’s status to inferior social beings are further continued by myths and traditions, which unfortunately have been embedded in the fabric of society in various images, such as Sati, Savitri, Sita and Ahilya. Patriarchal society promoted two images: women as the sexual property of man, and woman as chaste mothers of their children.
Even though man is a civilized being now, there is still the savageness of primitive man in him. With savage selfishness he treats woman as “an object that provides physical enjoyment, social companionship and domestic comfort.” This inequality between man and woman in our society is rightly observed by Sarah Grimka- “Man has subjugated woman to his will, used her as means to promote his selfish gratification, to minister to his sensual pleasure, to be instrumental in promoting his comfort, but never has he desired to elevate her to that rank she was created to fill. He has done all he could do to debase and enslave her mind.”
Thus denied the freedom to act, and choose on their own, women remained solely inside the field of vision, mere illusion to be dreamt and cherished. A woman is a woman and she is held to represent the ‘otherness’ of man, his negative.
Simon de Beauvoir finds man-woman nexus quite unsymmetrical and uncomplimentary for- “man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas women represents only the negative, defined criteria, without reciprocity.”
It is only the man who is regarded as an autonomous being, free from any subordination in the society; whereas a woman is never regarded as an autonomous being since, she has always been assigned a subordinate and relative position in our society. It is an appalling condition of woman that they cannot live without men in our social set-up. As they are considered physically weak, so, to venture in the society they need protection from males. This is the root cause of females’ apathy in our society.
“Man can think of himself without women. She cannot think of herself without man. And she is simply what man decrees…she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex…absolute sex, no less she is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference with reference to her; she is the incidental the inessential as opposed to the essential.”
We find references to this aspect of social life, where males dominate the females, and make them the worst sufferer in the novels of some significant women novelists, such as, Nayantara Sehgal, Kamala Markandaya, Gita Hariharan, Shashi Deshpande and Anita Desai. In their novels they bring out male domination as the root cause for all the pains and sufferings of females.
Sehgal in most of her novels creates a society based on the fact, that society and the law are both made and controlled by man.
Kamala Markandaya also presents a similar picture of the real society, where men are treated as custodians for women; first as a father, then as a husband and later as a son. The female characters of her novels keep suffering from the obscurities of life without a complain.
Shashi Deshpande is another novelist portraying the male characters as the dominating one. She focusses on the situations occurred due to the patriarchal system in all of her stories.
Similar oppression caused by the patriarchal society is presented in the novels of Gita Hariharan and Anita Desai too.
All these novelists are recognized as intellectuals, portraying feminine sensibility and female agony present in our society; and they have been highly felicitous in their endeavours . But the way in which the characters of their novels are looked upon, is the patriarchal gaze. In their novels, the male characters are portrayed as the most powerful, dominating and completely autonomous one; whereas the female characters are portrayed as, the meek, submissive, dominant and weak, seized under the clutch of male subjugation.
Contradicting this situation, the novelists such as, Shobha De, Varsha Dixit, Sujata Parashar, Advaita Kala, Rashmi Singh, Ruchita Misra are on the pathway of reverting the ways of seeing and challenging the stereotypes of masculinity.
Surendra Verma, an illustrious name from the field of Hindi fiction, proceeds with an intricate step in order to vicissitude the way of seeing, and proclaims a new insight through his Sahitya Academy Award winning novel, Mujhe Chaand Chaahiye. Being a male, Verma does not portrays the female body from a male perspective, as delineated by the traditional women novelists. In fact, he presents his heroine Varsha Vashishtha in such an intimate mode that it seems as if a woman is describing her own body, from her own perspective, and not from the eye of a man.
The structure of our society is pickled in such mien, that either we consider looking from one eye, or we close both. Consequently, instead of observing from both the eyes we become partial. But now is the time, when instead of just reverting the gaze vis-a-vis creating a binary, we need to adduce a perspective, which must not be sexist, treating every human being as an individual, rather than as a male or a female.
References – Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. Translated by H.M. Parshley. New York. Vintage. 1952 , Beauvoir, Simone de. Selden. 1988, Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. Penguin. 1990,Prasad, Amar Nath. Studies in Indian English Fiction. Sarup and Sons. 2001,Verma, Surendra. Mujhe Chand Chahiye. Radhakrishna Publishers. 2006.
by- Varsha Singh
Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. It was in the late 18th century that for the first time Feminism took its origin in the struggle for women’s rights, more particularly with Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). Male authors like J.S. Mill in The Subjection of Women (1869) and Friedrich Engels in The Origin of the Family (1884) wrote of the need to rethink the role of women and social oppression against them. In the early twentieth century, Olive Schreiner, Virginia Woolf and later Simone de Beauvoir wrote on gender questions from the perspective of and oriented towards issues like education, marriage, economics, sexuality and morals.
With the 1960’s the Women’s Movement became a major political force. While the movement took various issues for the gender-debate (including science, politics, economics, culture, epistemology) literary critics influenced by the movement undertook a whole new project. This included re-reading the canon of English to expose the patriarchal ideology that informed the construction of the canon in the first place, and which made male centered writing feasible. The influences were abundant: philosophy, psychoanalysis, linguistics, Marxism and others. Feminist thinkers borrowed and adapted numerous such modes of critical thought to frame new theoretical positions, as required by their time.
Patriarchy – The Hierarchy of Oppression
There is no one or singular form of patriarchy. It manifests itself differently in different social and historical contexts.
Patriarchy is a hierarchy. A hierarchy is like a pyramid where a few at the top keep the most control, the people in the middle have medium, and the majority on the bottom have very little.
Anyone, whether he/she/co occupies a socially subordinated category or not, can gain degrees of power and privilegde by advocating patriarchal values.
There are many ways to respond to the problem of patriarchy. While few have attempted to claim equal access to the dominance, exploitation, and power of men, others have emphasised the feminine as “better” than the masculine, essentially just flipping the coin. However, neither approach reflects our core beliefs. We understand gender oppression is deeply interwined with racism, classism, colonialism, ableism, the state, the destruction of the environment, and ultimately civilization itself. As many have discovered, single-issue struggles fail to create radical change.
Men Celeberating Feminism
As we know that, few subjects are as fascinating as one’s own reflection in the eyes of a desired “Other”. Lacan, perhaps taking the concept to the extreme, observed that the other is the reason for and prime subject of all discourse. Feminism is always defined as a “woman only” arena, or in competitive terms of male versus female privilege, rather than as a cooperative effort to improve the quality of life for everyone. Indeed, a good deal of feminist scholarship has failed to take into account the relational nature of gender, preferring instead to focus on the ways in which men and women are irreconcilably opposed. This is the time to argue that the feminist movement should no longer view with suspicion those men who have proved themselves sympathetic to issues of gender equity.
It is not men, creating the entire predicament that women endure; it is the so-called patriarchal ideology inherited in society which sets the role models that we tend to learn and emulate. To blame all men for what has transpired in the past is irrational. As the gender roles have developed as a functional fit to historical circumstances, and both sexes have been oppressed by their gender roles; in this situation, the voices of men also needs to become a part of the gender debate. The feminist goals cannot be realised until men and women come together to eliminate the shared harm of patriarchal realities.
Filming the Poem…
A Poem Dedicated to My Teacher!!
Your Burns… and .. My Growth!!
Those blazing visions
Kindle my senses,
Those glowing sparks
Ignite my passion!
Wanting to enter deep
Under your cloudy wings of faith,
Which are as opaque
As your crystalline eyes of praise!
Beneath your sky of impression
I crave to drench my emotion,
The utmost divinity of yours
Flows within my sensation!
I was all flesh
You made me glow,
I became your Cherub
You became my soul!
My wanderings of life
Became the wonders of life,
Oh! My utmost angel…
You burnt every time
And made me grow!
Filming the Poem.
A Poem dedicated to the most special Friend.
A Friend who became my Mirror…
To make me meet myself!!
– Varsha Singh
Someone was in my dreams tonight
Asking – do you know my plight?
I was speechless with fury
As there was no sign except me
A sudden sound surrounded by
Asking – do you know who am I?
I was again tongue-tied
As there was no one to be identified
A hint came out of the tint
Telling – everyone can find them in me
But I don’t have my own individuality
And stay changing with reflexibility
My dream got wet with sweat
I took long to find the zest
A surprise fled all wide
As it was Mirror asking to be identified !
Filming the Poem
My Aspiring Shadow…
by Varsha Singh
My thirsty soul
Seeks to hold…
My heart my mind
My dense sense
All feel for you
Yearn for you
All wait for you
Crave for you ..!!
Oh!! my aspiring shadow
Where are you??
I dwell I fell.. just for you!
I wander in search of you!
You stay with me
Still so away…
You follow me?
Or, followed by me?
I go through sky
To find your sight
Alas! I come back
Without your sign!
I move through clouds
Go through rain
I rove in pain
And roll in vain!
I shout aloud
To seek you out
I tear my flesh
To know your zest
Are you me?
Or, am I you?
Are you within me?
Or, am I within you?
Love begins when the words of farewell were uttered
And Damini, you are not alive in spite of all the fight.
When the Delhi Gurgaon Highroad was slippery
With your blood, loud with your cries in the moonless night
Reverberating all over there…
But they dared to tear the budding flower.
You gave the fight and they killed you Damini
All in one night… just one night…
The well-known secret about the talent of Dr. Bhattacharjee’s writing is; he takes inspiration from anyone, without the knowledge of that person and ends up by writing a supreme piece of verse through his conversation. Hope he keeps carving such pieces with similar intensity in future too.
AN INTER-DISCIPLINARY INTERNATIONAL REFEREED RESEARCH JOURNAL
Vol 1 Issue 3 June 2013