The literal meaning of chauvinism is an attitude of superiority towards members of opposite sex. Since males in our society have somehow decided that they are the superior ones that are often proud to be chauvinistic.
Chauvinism is a characteristic which reflects ignorance. Remember Devdas and his modern version in Dev D! Dev’s chauvinism gave him the liberty of having all the fun with females around him and the same chauvinism lead to his break up when he got suspicious about the loyalty of his girlfriend.
Frankly, I had not witnessed male chauvinism till I was secure in my house. I had seen my father prepare morning tea for my mother at times when she overslept. My father knew more about our medication and vaccinations than my mother. My father would not hesitate in going for shopping with my mother. In fact, I can easily say that he can make the best choice of clothes in our family. But as I grew up and went out for studies and job, I came across a variety of people who could be easily categorized as being highly male chauvinistic. There were colleagues who did not want a working wife because according to them women were meant to look after kids and family. Nonetheless, they wanted a post graduate girl to marry. I could never understand the irony of this. Why would a guy want to make someone sacrifice her career for an orthodox bent of mind?
“Have you experienced male chauvinism in your married life?” I asked a female who lives next door. “Yes, chauvinism is deep rooted in all males. Some have it more while others have it to a lesser extent. We live in a nuclear family (it’s just my husband and me) and my husband is off from work on weekends. But still he expects me to wake up early in the morning and do all the household chores while he keeps sleeping till almost afternoon. “
I had gone to interview a male in my society to understand a male perspective. “Do you think men in India are more chauvinistic than in US?” I asked.
“I can’t answer for men in US. But I don’t think Indian men are chauvinistic. They are just a little more protective towards their family” he replied.
“Sarita, this tea is totally cold. You always forget to cover it. Why can’t you work properly?”
Sarita aunty came out, smiled sheepishly to hide her embarrassment and covered the tea cups.
“Sarita, I told you the tea is totally cold now. Go, make two more cups of tea” shouted the chauvinistic husband.
Poor wife went inside after being humiliated in front of a guest who must have been her daughters’ age and couldn’t do anything. If this male is not chauvinistic then I have got the meaning of chauvinism wrong.
Recently, I met a lady in my community who came to the park everyday for yoga. Since yoga was a common practice, we soon became friends. I took to yoga because I had grown up watching my mother do it. This helped her keep fit and flexible.
“What makes you do yoga every day, without fail?” I asked her.
“It makes me fight away anger and frustration on daily basis” was her surprising reply.
“My husband never thinks that I do anything right. Name calling, unnecessary and illogical arguments, use of abusive language, false accusations…. It’s part of our daily routine.” “In order to keep my cool, I do Pranayam and yoga.”
I was speechless for a moment. The lady is well qualified and had even worked for a long time. I could not understand how she could be so wrong in everything she did that her husband fought with her like animals almost every day.
After the yoga session she told me that before marriage she was also very carefree and independent. But marriage changed everything for her. At night I talked to my father and told him everything. I was very disturbed and wanted to talk it out with someone.
“Girls have to make a lot of sacrifices after marriage, beta” explained my father. “Unfortunately, this is how our society operates. Males always have the upper hand in all household and external affairs and females have to abide by what the males say. This is very important to maintain peace and happiness in the family.”
For the first time I was surprised by what my father was saying. A person who had never dominated in his house was telling me to give in to male chauvinism in order to have a happy married life.
After talking to these people I have realized how paradoxical our norms and principles are. Before marriage we teach our daughters that men and women are equal. There is no difference in their rights. But as soon as a female is married, her own parents tell her to be the sacrificing, the submissive, the non-expecting, the giving kind of a wife. In fact, so strong is the impact of this façade that I’m sure I would also be giving the same advice to my daughter once she is about to get married. After all, all parents want their daughters to have a trouble free married life.
But why is our society affected by male chauvinism the most? I don’t know the right answer to this but I personally feel that this characteristic creeps into every Indian male right from his birth. Right from female foeticide to distribution of sweets only on a male’s birth to extra pampering of a male child to first right to education and job; it’s all for a male child in India. I think we ourselves are to be blamed for polluting the minds of males and making them believe that they are the boss.