Why patriarchy?

The Bible says, Eve was created from a rib of Adam. In Eden, they lived the happiest life, until one day, Eve ate the forbidden fruit and gave some of it to Adam. She was the cause for the fall of Man, causing them to be banished by God from the garden of Eden. The fruit took away their innocence and enabled them to conjure negative concepts like shame and evil.

The Bhagavad Gita says that, even though women, along with Vaishyas and Shudras, are of sinful birth, they can attain salvation through devotion towards Lord Krishna. It says that women can be obstacles on man’s path to reaching God, and also that they are less intelligent and untrustworthy.

Ironically, the Quran allows women to initiate divorce in an unhappy marriage (Khul), limited property rights and to refute unfounded allegations of faithlessness by the husband. The Quran places the blame of eating the forbidden fruit mostly on Adam. Both he and Eve are punished equally. Women are not viewed as property, as in the Bible, but have duties and responsibilities, as well as a certain amount of autonomy. But the Quran does sanction wife-beating if they are ‘rebellious’ and instructs them to dress modestly.

Adam and Eve in Heaven

World-over, irrespective of region, race and religion, women have always been accorded a lower status than men, even subjugated and oppressed. It begs the question why. Clearly it isn’t related to the factors already mentioned- race, region or religion. Is it something inherent in the nature of every man and woman? If so, what is it?

Is it because women are perceived to be physically weaker? Men maybe stronger in terms of wielding swords or lifting boulders, running faster and leaping farther. But women are stronger in terms of resilience. They withstand starvation better, survive illnesses more, put in sustained hard work and live for longer. Doesn’t this make them better suited for survival in difficult environments? Throughout history, disease and starvation has killed more people than war and violence. It appears that women are stronger than men in their own way, and perhaps where it matters more.

Is it because men are more intelligent? Men certainly have bigger brains than women, but that is attributed to their bigger body size. While most studies show that men and women have nearly same IQs, it has been found that women are better at multi-tasking, solving complicated problems, synthesizing, learning languages and reacting to emotional and sensitive stimuli. Men have their own strengths, of course, but women have their many talents too.

Is it because women needed the protection of men in a vulnerable stage of life, that is, during pregnancy and for their helpless infants? But, if procreating is one of the most important purposes of mankind, shouldn’t women be respected, celebrated and cherished, especially when they are pregnant?

Social, political and economic deprivations are only the symptoms of the disease and not the cause itself. Men tend to marry their secretaries, not their bosses. Women seem to prefer men in positions of power. Why? Some claim that women have an innate need for men’s protection, built into their systems through centuries of such a power dynamic. Men tend to have a either a protective instinct towards women or other nastier instincts, again through acculturation.

Times have changed. Feminism has emerged as a powerful movement, supported by men and women alike. The dominant political and socio-economic discourse is greater rights and opportunities for women. But liberated men and women of today struggle to shed their traditional roles or instincts. Many women, irrespective of how rich or powerful they are, still want a husband, or a protector. They still want to give birth to children, even though they know it makes them vulnerable. Men still find it difficult to be in a subordinate position to a woman, be it at home or in the workplace.

Science has been unable to resolve the question of why patriarchy is a global phenomenon. Perhaps God has made the woman more caring, willing for sacrifice and compromise, so that she could bear and rear children and show them the purity of love in the midst of a harsh world . Or perhaps its just another quirky thing in our mysterious world, that women have a psychological need to put a man at the centre of their existence.

Author: Mahima Prasad

Doctor, dog enthusiast, UPSC aspirant

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