I don’t really know how to tackle this blog post. I’m a planner and I don’t really have one for this topic so lets see how it unfolds. Deep breath… let’s talk about the untalkable.
Patriarchal culture. Okay this is something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time. Starting this blog and to be honest this summer has been a big realisation of culture for me. I’ve just had more exposure to it, more opportunity to celebrate it (not that I should’ve needed any at all) and honestly having a blog has just given me the space to talk about it, celebrate it and expose people to it. I don’t think culture is something to be possessive over but rather share. Having said all those things though, I don’t want to ever wash the realities of anything. And perhaps actually one of the most interesting things I could talk about is how I, an 18 year old in 2019 am finding my way through my thousands-of-year-old culture, a culture that is patriarchal.
First of all let me define exactly what I’m talking about. I’m Sikh Punjabi. Sikhism is a religion and being Indian or specifically Punjabi is my culture and they are two very, very different things. In my eyes, I see Sikhism as the base identity for my culture. But it gets harder to see it that way when you culture strays further and further away from the foundations of your religion.
Sikhism is one of the youngest religions and it’s with a lot of pride that I say that it’s also incredibly progressive. Most notably, equality in the Guru Granth Sahib is dwelled upon as being key to what it means to be a Sikh (I know I loosely quoted the Goodness Gracious Me sketch, apologies). Everyone is equal no matter gender, race or any other identifiable factor. In fact it was proven in people such as Mai Bhago, a female warrior who in the 18th century was leading 40 men back to Guru Gobind Singh to apologise for leaving. And you can imagine as an 18 year old in 2019, amidst the continuous storms of inequality and injustice it’s pretty reassuring, empowering and equally terrifying that your 500 year old religion, is more progressive than the world you live in. Big stuff.
Having said all that, it seems the religion behind it all gets lost in the culture. And sure, I do it too. I like wearing my anklets but don’t celebrate Vaisakhi every year. But similarly over time, as in most societies we ignore the things we need to in order to create what we want to. And unfortunately, Indian culture seems to have fallen in line to the beat of the patriarchal drum, hence creating a patriarchal culture in disharmony with my religion. And what’s worse, the patriarchy seems to have seeped into the cracks in the foundation of what it means to be Indian or even Sikh.
I think it was something I did notice growing up, the fact that women cooked, men got fed first and then the women ate and cleaned up. A simple but common example that many Indian youths will be used to. But we did it because ‘that’s our culture’ and ‘that’s the way it is’. Is that right? I don’t know. Honestly it’s a mindfield for me, something I think about all the time because whilst I can respect that’s the way it’s always been, it doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t make me agree with it. And I think that’s often a thought for the children of immigrants growing up in particularly western civilisations, because if something’s always seemingly been that way how can it change, is it even possible to change it? No, realistically as a 2nd generation immigrant living in another country, I cannot change the culture of one of the oldest civilisations in the world,. But even if I changed it in my current or future household, I can be seen as nothing more as an immigrant generation straying away from ‘tradition’. Therefore how do I balance my 2019 views and opinions with my culture that is undeniably a part of me.
I in no way want to loose my culture or stray away from it and honestly I’m still thinking and figuring it out. What will I do in the future? How will I raise my children? For example, my Mum raised me and my sisters to be able to cook Indian food and taught us the rules and spirit of Indian hospitality, and believe me, had my parents had a son he would’ve been taught the same. Which is exactly what I want to do. No matter who they are, they will be taught and treated the same. Removing the patriarchy from the culture without leaving the culture behind.
And honestly I’m so glad that I have two sisters and our parents raised us the way they did, without a patriarchal influence. The task of making dinner was never on my mum or dad and in fact we were always surrounded by strong, Matriarchal figures without having a matriarchal culture either. I was brought up to believe that whether you’re male or female or anything in between you can do anything you want and I know I’m supported to get there.
Listen, change isn’t going to happen over night and I don’t expect it too but it is what I hope for. Whilst Sikhism isn’t something I think you can pick and choose from, culture is and I feel it should be a reflection of generations created from their beliefs.
Every girl is currently being brought into a patriarchal world and whilst that’s changing it’s our choice whether to make them feel like they’re stuck in that or free from it.