The India society is patriarchal to the core – simply stated, men rule the roost. The society in general seems to have resigned to this, while women have been forced to reconcile to be the ‘fairer sex’. However, we are a society that worships women. Our goddesses of strength, wisdom, love, and power, are all personified as women. I cannot understand that irony here; India has one of the highest rates of female infanticide and dowry-deaths, while the society and the government claim to vigorously promote the girl-child and women’s emancipation. How can a society that boasts of a rich, ancient, and varied culture simultaneously glorify and dehumanize women – how can mythical womanhood be celebrated and worshiped in the form of a goddess at the temple, while helpless women are subject to eve-teasing, torture, abuse, discrimination, and unspeakable indignity.These fascinating observations come from a post from my dear colleague and friend Catherine Xavier. What Catherine observes is very true not only of India but of all patriarchal societies. Putting women on a pedestal, worshipping women, idolizing them - these practices do not contradict patriarchal values in the least. Just the opposite, these are some of the techniques that the patriarchy relies upon for its very existence.
The main goal of any patriarchal system is to keep women subjected to the needs of men. Female choices, desires, the multitude of differences each individual woman represents have to be reduced to one clearly defined set of roles and expectations that the patriarchy imposes on women. Putting women on a pedestal achieves this goal admirably. Idolizing somebody always translates into imposing a very high set of expectations on this person. As a result, the idolized group of individuals cannot live freely, according to their own desires and needs. They have constantly to render accounts to the society that places them on a pedestal as to whether their actual behavior is in keeping with the set of expectations imposed on them.
There is another role that this women-worship plays in patriarchal systems. In order to exist as long as the patriarchy has existed, every system, no matter how oppressive it is, has to offer some compensation, some benefits to each of its members. Women are compensated for their participation in the patriarchal system in a variety of ways. This is simply one of them. Your life choices are limited, your mind and body are not your own, but in return, you are worshipped and told you represent the "fairer sex."