Where Does Power Lie?
“A man goes out to work, he earns a wage, he comes back home, he eats, he sleeps. That’s what he does. Our men think earning money and ordering around others is where power lies. They don’t think power is in the hands of the woman who takes care of everyone all day long, and gives birth to their children…”
– Malala Yousafzai
Can we ever measure power? Technically speaking, there may be all sorts of formulas and equations to measure power. However, I’m not talking about that kind of power here. I’m talking about the notion that makes people think they have some sort of superiority over others. Over centuries a certain image has been built up in peoples’ minds that men are certainly more powerful than women, not only in a physical sense but also in other aspects of life such as employment, life opportunities and the role they play in society.
This idea has faced heavy criticism over the years and and its longevity within society continues to be questioned to this day. The quote at the beginning of this article originally appears in the autobiographical account of Malala Yousafzai. I particularly like this quote because the wording expresses the reality in its rawest form which exists in many parts of the world even today.
Women have certainly won over the world, no doubt. I myself know and have heard of a number of strong-willed, brave and courageous women all over the world. But still, as is the reality that conventional conceptions take entire lifetimes to change, in many parts of the world, people think that women should not or even cannot take on serious responsibilities. An extreme of this is that they believe that wives and mothers who happen to be homemakers (or who they call housewives) do not have any sort of power or are ‘less competent’. There is no doubt that this claim is entirely erroneous.
Let’s take some time and think things over.
Start from here.
Since the onset of the Coronavirus we have all been locked inside our houses, unable and even scared to go out, –not– even to the corner shop at the end of the street. But even in spite of that, the majority of us still eat, drink and sleep well with what we are provided. Who cooks us these meals every day? Who washes our clothes and even arranges them orderly inside the wardrobe? Who cleans the house and makes sure you don’t live inside a cobweb-filled pigsty?
A majority of us (not everyone, of course) would answer this question by citing their mother or wife, or even their female siblings. Why do we think that taking care of and looking after an entire household is a slight task? It is an immense responsibility. A job that requires women to work twenty-four hours, seven days a week everyday throughout the year without taking leaves, without any holidays and without getting paid for what they do. If your employer asks you to work all 365 days of the year and says that you wouldn’t get paid for it, you would consider it to be an absurd proposition where you would get frustrated, and most likely laugh outright in his face. But that is exactly what your mother or wife is doing right now. The thing is, they never complain.
Just think of a time when your mother was sick and your family had to cope by yourselves for a few days. The house in most instances would be in chaos, disorderly, with everyone being quite frustrated and not knowing what to do. Think again the difference that exists in the household when your dad gets sick versus when your mom falls ill. Who endures it better? Yes, in my family too it’s my mom who has more tolerance and endurance when ill. A woman faces all sorts of pain throughout her life and continues on as usual, enduring everything silently; the amount of pain a woman endures when giving birth to a child is equal to a hundred bones inside your body breaking all at once, and the pain of menstrual cramps is equal to the pain of having a heart attack, as doctors reveal.
Every day, millions of women are fighting for their rights all over the world; for education, for empowerment, and simply for life. As readers, if you’ve perused about some of these all-time great novels like ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini, ‘The Desert Flower’ by Waris Dirie or ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ by Margaret Atwood, it is needless to say how much women have suffered/suffer daily at the hands of men.
In Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography, many accounts of women’s grievances during the Taliban rule of Pakistan is mentioned. It is said that during that particular time period, these extremists banned not only all forms of entertainment like listening to music, watching movies and reading novels, but they also banned women from receiving any form of education, or even going out of the house without being accompanied by a male relative. They made women observe ‘purdah’, which basically means that women had to conceal themselves with a ‘burqa’ garment they wore so as to cover their whole body and sometimes even a veil to cover the eyes. In the context of that period, this act disconnected women from engaging in any personal or social activities outside their homes. And any woman who disobeyed was severely punished publicly.
Malala mentions an incident where a group of men went to the house of a woman who used to dance at the market place, and they asked her to dance for them (note that during this time all forms of entertainment like music and dancing was banned in Pakistan), and when she came out dressed to dance, the men shot her despite her pleadings, then took her body and dumped it in a public square where so many other bodies of those who faced similar fates were dumped.
What I really want to highlight here is that women suffer enough without them having to bear the injustices of the rest of the world pit against them too.
So, going back to our original question, where does power really lie?
Decide for yourself after pondering upon this small thought. Most of you, be you a man or a woman would seek employment and earn money in order to support your family; to grant a better life for yourself as well as your children, parents, and any other loved one in your life. If a man earns money mainly to support the woman who takes care of his house, in whose hand does power actually lie?
“The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only – and that is to support the ultimate career.”
– C. S. Lewis
– Rtr Thanuri Somasiri
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