On the 23rd of September, 2017, a student-run organization called The People’s Club, the ideology of which is to initiate a conversation through engagement, organized an event called “Conditioned by Patriarchy” at the Myolo Headquarters, Green Park. The purpose of the event was to discuss the social conditioning of patriarchy in the modern world. The experts Veenu Kapoor Kakkar and Anshu Singh are a women’s rights activist and a Psychology lecturer respectively. The discussion was moderated by Manu Singh.
A large number of interesting and unconventional questions came up during this discussion. Ideas and issues like a woman’s appearance being central to her value and identity in society, clothing being used as an excuse to justify a crime against women amongst others were discussed at length. The possibility of whether a matriarchy (on a vast scale) could ever be established and if yes whether it would beas problematic as the patriarchy was also brought up. A gender hierarchy in families where the word of the father or grandfather is set in stone and how it affects family dynamics was elaborated upon. The audience was an eclectic bunch of people. Engineers, finance students, practicing lawyers, professional artisans, student journalists and activists amongst others were present. The sheer diversity of the participating group acted as a stimulant to the debate. With different people came different perspectives, which gave the discussion vitality.
The first expert, Veenu Kapoor Kakkar, having spent more than eighteen years working for the cause of women’s rights highlighted one problematic trend she had seen all across. Whenever people talked about patriarchy, they saw it as an external agency, an outside element. They completely dissociated themselves from the patriarchy; claiming to have no relationship with it. The idea that each one of us, either consciously or subconsciously has acted as an agent of patriarchy is, unfortunately, true. We have been conditioned by society to think in a particular way and until we recognize that at times the way we think may be problematic, we will never actually work upon actually being able to change it. She told the audience that in her experience everybody is somehow affected and influenced by patriarchy and unless we recognise that our ideologies, thought-process, and mindsets may be flawed, we would never truly be able to fight it. Recognising our shortcomings and actively improving on them is a universally applicable life-hack and this is efficient at fighting hidden gender biases as well. Sometimes it is our inherent sexism that we need to fight and one should now be ashamed of acknowledging that. The second expert, Anshu Singh had an immense amount of experience in how our everyday life influenced our understanding of gender and gender roles. The “conditioning” part of the debate’s topic was expertly handled by her so to speak. Her hands-on practical knowledge along with her extensive theoretical knowledge made the discussion more concrete and scientific. Manu Singh, along with being the moderator was also highly knowledgeable about the cultural, historical and socio-economic aspect of the debate. These people with their experiences and knowledge gave the younger members participating in the discussion a different perspective to look at the issue.
Certain problems, the finer nuances of which often go ignored during general discussions and debates were brought up and discussed in detail. The opinions of both students and experts on issues like caste being inter-related with gender, the protectionist attitude of society towards women, the idea of monogamy, origins of patriarchy, the social contract within marriage, institutionalisation and violence in the current societal system and were talked about at length. It was heart-wrenching watching men and women talk about how patriarchy has affected them in their everyday lives.
The event was concluded by a performance by Sukhmanch Theatre. Some 20 young men and women gathered to present a vivid and lively performance which depicted the condition of women in status quo. Bollywood songs with misogynistic lyrics, catcalling, harassment on the streets, slut-shaming, and child abuse were all incorporated into one cohesive performance that moved the viewers with its intensity. The performance felt all raw because we had just spent the last two hours talking about the plight of women in the modern world. Actors sang lyrics that said “chalti hai kya 9 se 12”, enacted scenes of a little girl being molested or tried to highlight the plight of an acid attack victim, I watched my emotions shift from disgust, to fear, to grief and much more.
Attending this event was a one-of-a-kind experience. It is these groups, be it People’s Club or Sukhmanch Theatre that take upon themselves to play a small role in fighting great injustices. The people who come up with and are involved with these initiatives, whether it involves organising regular discussions to fight prejudice in society or enacting nukkad natak’s to create awareness; have an extremely significant role to play in influencing the mindset of those around them. Witnessing these events, which are full of idealism, with a sense of duty and responsibility and with the purpose to contribute to something greater than themselves that strengthens my faith in my generation. At a time when it is easier to spew hate than giving love; these small initiatives have a big role to play in making the world a better place.
Image credits- The Photography Society of College of Vocational Studies.
Sukhmanch Theatre gave a riveting performance on sexism and crime against women in India.