Male Virility, Patriarchy and Election Frenzy
As we battle Covid 19 on one side, we are also in the throes of another typical Sri Lankan election complete with the overtones of patriarchy with the rhetoric hitting out at women, exalting domestication for women and leadership for men.
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapakse seems to have embarked on a below the belt mud slinging campaign on his opponents which is rather disturbing. His comments on a former King of Sri Lanka having a Muslim wife is immaterial to say the least, considering that majority of our kings had Indian wives and no, not all were Buddhists. But of course, one must insult the wife of a king of yore and stir up religious hatred in a country that does not need any more fuel to the fires. Since majority Sri Lankans don’t bother researching the country’s history and instead listen to fallacies spewed by the powers that be, one can only imagine the purpose of such statements.
Prime Minister Rajapakse also decided to hit out at his political opponent Sajith Premadasa by saying a midwife won’t be visiting his home. The implications of this statement are immense. What he is using here is the patriarchal notion that a man must procreate if he is to be considered a ‘man’ and that male virility is required for a leader. He further insults Sajith’s wife Jalani too by implying that she cannot conceive and plays on this age old notion of the ‘barren woman’ not being a fulfilled woman or a complete one. This statement is in poor taste to say the least but it draws on the insecurities of Sri Lanka’s society which still labours under such delusions.
The very fact that the Prime Minster of this country is using such patriarchal norms as a part of his election campaign is a sign of how much Sri Lankan society, despite its grand claims of a cultured nature, is still stuck in a vortex of male dominated patriarchal opinion. There was also an instance of Hirunika Premachandra, another candidate, and Jalani Premadasa slighting each other which both denied but of course the media too had a field day. This is another instance of the patriarchy in motion – the notion of the bickering women and the stereotypical ‘cat fight’.
All these incidents are just symptomatic of the festering wound that this society suffers from and the elections bring out that patriarchy and the fact that majority candidates are men, though the majority voter base is women. When considering why women don’t enter politics, there are many factors which keep them away and most are to do with these patriarchal issues, both in the personal and public sphere.
Interestingly, most Sri Lankans would see nothing wrong with such things. They will laugh it off, say women are not suited for the political world because it is a ‘dirty world’. Politics is a dirty game. It’s full of puffed up popinjays touting themselves around and they are surrounded by equally smug sycophants who hope to curry some favour once their chosen man is won. This does not mean that women can’t play in that arena. But if we sit silently while the Premier and other candidates decide to exalt patriarchy, even use women to hype up the ‘place’ of a woman in society (refer Dr. Seetha Arambepola’s speech) and insult women and men for not following the patriarchy, then we have no chance.
True equality may not be a sight we will ever live to see, but the journey starts with a single step and we all need to take that step without assuming that we can never make a change. This needs to start with us voting wisely and calling out patriarchal proponents for what they are instead of blindly subscribing to it.