Think of some iconic female villains from Hindi films- Lalita Pawar as the conniving, torturing mother-in-law; Bindu in her younger years as the seductive, husband-stealing vamp and then in her Pawaresque avatar in later films. In more recent years we have seen the calculating and menacing Deepti Naval in NH10 , who unapologetically has her own daughter killed because she married outside her caste. Indeed, I have lost count of the number of times I have heard this. Even the thought seems absurd! Our confusions about why women often act against the interests of other women, despite our assumption of a universal sisterhood, can be clarified by unpacking an often overlooked, but important concept in feminist theory called patriarchal bargain.
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Think of some iconic female villains from Hindi films- Lalita Pawar as the conniving, torturing mother-in-law; Bindu in her younger years as the seductive, husband-stealing vamp and then in her Pawaresque avatar in later films. In more recent years we have seen the calculating and menacing Deepti Naval in NH10 , who unapologetically has her own daughter killed because she married outside her caste.
Indeed, I have lost count of the number of times I have heard this. Even the thought seems absurd! Our confusions about why women often act against the interests of other women, despite our assumption of a universal sisterhood, can be clarified by unpacking an often overlooked, but important concept in feminist theory called patriarchal bargain.
This is the key to understanding why and how women turn oppressors against other women, while being simultaneously oppressed within patriarchy. There are of course other intersectionalities such as caste, class, sexual orientation which play a role in this process.
However, I will not be discussing the contributions of those factors because the violence perpetrated against other women is often by intimate others such as mothers, mother-in-laws, friends etc, and these might be best understood through the lens of patriarchal bargain. She examines two systems of male dominance under patriarchy, one a modified form of classic patriarchy from Sub-Saharan Africa and the other she terms classic patriarchy from Middle-East, South and East Asia.
In the former, polygamy is the norm — a man has multiple wives, often with separate households for each of the women and her children. Women are responsible for much of the expenses of maintaining their individual households.
So while the father may be responsible for certain key expenses like marriages or funerals or setting up a home on a plot of land, much of the daily expenses are often borne by individual wives. The token torturer, is a woman, who has internalised societal norms to such an extent that she is unable to reflect on the fact that the injustices rolled out by her are the same ones she once suffered from.
Colonisation and the decline in access to common land where women had inviolable rights to cultivation as well as the decline of traditional handicrafts in these regions, have intensified these problems, further disempowering women in this context, and in some cases turning them against one another. Thus women are subordinated to men and younger women subordinated to older women and older men often subordinate younger men.
Despite legal entitlements to ancestral property, women seldom raise claims of inheritance because it has the potential to sour their relationship with their brothers. The token torturer, usually a woman, has internalised these norms to such a great extent that she is not able to or unwilling to reflect on the fact that the injustices perpetrated against her as a young bride, are the same ones she may be perpetrating against her own daughter-in-law.
By wielding power in this manner, she consolidates her somewhat tenuous position within patriarchy. If we examine the words individually, bargain is a process of negotiation sometimes involving compromise for one or both parties, where both stand to profit from that negotiation. This can help explain a whole range of confusing and contradictory actions. Mothers police their daughters with much greater scrutiny than fathers. And true to my promise, my junior college life ran with clock like precision — classes, library for one hour, back home by 6pm with just a handful of outings spread across those two years.
Everyone will say she was a stay-at-home Mom. Look at how she has brought up her daughters?! Mothers police their daughters with much greater scrutiny than fathers because in case of any mishap fingers would be pointed at her. Moral policing of daughters by mothers and mother-like figures is not the only example of patriarchal bargain.
We all know that the sole purpose of the existence most neighbourhood aunties is to notify our mothers of any transgressive behaviour. The most vocal critics of women are often their female friends and acquaintances. There is no part of our lives that is not open to criticism from our female counterparts. In her excellent book Fat Talk: What Girls and their Parents say on Dieting, anthropologist Mimi Nichter illustrates that young girls learn to hate their bodies by observing mostly older women, often Mums, and their friends.
There are plenty of similar examples, some with fatal consequences, such as female genital mutilation FGM , bride-burning, communal riots , where women have taken the centre-stage in perpetrating brutal and lethal violence against each other. So why do women continue to do this? The first step to changing the terms of engagement is of course to be aware of what these terms are! So as a start if we all reign in our inner fausts or aunties yes we all have one, that is a function of conditioning , the end result would be fewer judgements and greater affirmations and less bargaining with patriarchy.
Wonderful read! I really like the way the arguments and the facts have been expressed. Thanks for the expressions. Concept of patriarchal bargain is actually answer to many related questions. Love the article. Sign in. Log into your account. Password recovery. Friday, June 5, FII Hindi. Forgot your password? Get help. Feminism In India. Video: Understanding Sexual Consent.
Video: What Is Intersectional Feminism? Brilliant article.. Thank you for further enhancing and clarifying my perspective..!! Leave a Reply Cancel reply. In a world that is marred with COVID, India has been in a lockdown and the practice of physical distancing is in practice. This has severely impacted these women weavers who have lost their livelihood and space of solidarity.
In the case of online school classes, the ones who have it the hardest are the mothers who have more than one child under class 4 or 5 who need to be present with the child during the class time, especially the ones who do not have the work-from-home option and cannot afford a nanny. May 15,
Patriarchal bargain is a term coined by Turkish author and researcher Deniz Kandiyoti in in the article "Bargaining with Patriarchy". Patriarchal bargain is the blueprint for how women deal with concrete constraints of different types of patriarchal systems by accepting gender rules that are unfavorable to women in order to survive. These different types of patriarchal systems reveal the various ways that women use to conform to gender norms so they can gain some sort of benefit in return. Before discussing the actual term patriarchal bargain there are some important terms that make up the word, that should be explained.