Silence & Sabotage : 1

Tribal_Women,_a_1938_painting_by_Amrita_Sher-Gil

Part 1 of an exploration on the role of women within the family circle in being both active and passive perpetrators of abuse. Through complicity there is acceptance.

The Mother

From time of conception the pattern is ingrained, the disparity in the treatment of male children, their selection through foeticide / infanticide, continuous appraisal of male offspring at the cost of sisters. The partial treatment extends from meals and clothing, to even education. The template is ancient, from the age of Ram and Lord Krishna the little naughty boy who is the beloved apple of his mother has been immortalized in Indian culture. Perhaps the most contemporary figure is Krishna himself who from a child hood record of minor felonies matured into a womanizing free lancer who gained his great wisdom and greatness on the battlefield after having fulfilled his own desires at the fountain of youth within his own village.

Since then countless songs are sung to little boys in their cots, idolizing them as the “nut khut” (naughty) boy. Not as as a derogatory term, but as more of endearment. The risky and lawless behaivour is encouraged within the home under complicit paternal, but also often maternal eyes that view such behaivour  as signs of their own child’s growing confidence and later, of virility.

Ofcourse there is also an element of oppression and abuse that is witnessed by the children on within their own family unit. This can be  inflicted on their mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, and distant relatives. Whilst some may rebel and break the paternal mould, many mature with the expectations of a obedient and submissive female identity in their own future relationships.

The Mother-in-law

Once the rocky terrain of puberty has been navigated and the “official” territory of an adult has been reached, the family quickly change focus to attaining the ultimate gift that their son requires. The child who demanded the latest toys, clothes, technology, has graduated into an adult who now demands the best female mate and financial endowments. The hunt is on, photography sessions are booked, social networking orgies are commenced, the finishing touches at gilding and varnishing of the veneer of a personality is completed.

Having snared a suitable girl, the final nail in the girls live coffin are sealed. She enters the marital (often communal) home with all the expectations she has come to see on day time television laced with the fear of having heard rumours of worst case scenario’s within her own social circles.

She is encouraged to be the best “bahu” and “grehani” (bride and housewife) and quickly comes to realize the boundaries that exist within her own personal life.

The MIL holds prime position, she herself has most likely suffered similarly at the hands of her own MIL, however is unable to see her own reflections in her past tormentors scars. The MIL views her son as supreme, as correct, as the final word. She equally wields her own power in this relationship with her own emotional ties as black mail, having been oppressed herself throughout her own life, her sole source of consolation and control is her son.

The new bride is of course a source instability in such a hierarchy, and unfortunately instead of often providing a supportive and emotional crutch to the new-comer, the MIL attempts to protect her own hierarchy results in the destruction and devaluation of the next generation of women entering the family home. Such behaivour can be limited purely to verbal attacks, however more often then not there occurs physical violence not only directly at the hands of the MIL, but also via proxy when MIL do not defend or correct other family members who inflict violence and abuse on these vulnerable women.

– Gauri

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