Women lighten their skin tone and to make

Women
plays a vital role in forming the portrayal of Indian culture. Even though they
are part of this formation, women hardly get any opportunity to talk about
their opinion or give any suggestion, especially in a family context as
families are mostly run under patriarchal norms. The fact that women are
surveilled more than men, in consistent at all over the globe. However, in
Indian context this division of surveillance is stark and sharp. A lot of
surveillance in India is more to do with fears around women’s sexuality and
also on importance of women’s virginity for the reputation of the family. It is
not just to keep an individual women safe, but more likely to save the
reputation of the entire family and thereby the society in general. The weight
of all this, falls on women’s shoulder.  (Puri, 1999)

Foucault’s
insight about the appropriation of the body enacted through self survellieance
are more useful when applied to middle class women’s narrative on their
sexuality. (Duncan, 1994) In the book, ‘Women,
Body, Desire in post colonial India: Narratives of Gender and Sexuality’ by
Jyot Puri, most women feel threatened sexually by men, till the time they are
adolescent. However, in teens and after turning into adults most of the women
express their struggle of being responsible to keep themselves protected from
male. Therefore, women themselves, take up the responsibility of their female
body and make it as a priority to keep it safe for the sake of their family’s
reputation.

In
order to understand the surveillance of body especially of a female body, one
needs to start observing from the very beginning on how a female body of a new
born baby is considered in India. New born girl babies mostly are given
‘milk-besan’ bath from the start in order to lighten their skin tone and to
make them come under the ‘standard of beauty’ set upon by society at large. A
girl new born is never left naked as her vagina gets associated with her
‘family reputation’. Girl new borns are often massaged, taken bath by and gets
changed their nappies by a female caregivers or female family member only. If
looked at middle-class family, baby girls are advised by elders, to not use
diapers as it leaves the skin around her private parts dark. This concern
doesn’t come for the rashes or on overall health of the baby but at the overall
skin tone of the baby girl and their best attempt to keep the baby girl under
beauty standard.

As
the baby girl is growing, body language is taught to her to again in order to
maintain societal norms. Young girls are often taught to laugh with their mouth
closed by keeping their hand on it. They are taught, in the name of feminity,
to blush and to avoid eye contact. They are often encouraged to do household
chores and to avoid playing with young boys. And in all means be the provider
and have a pleasing personality in the family to be called upon as a ‘well
mannered women’ in future. Also, in context of how John Berger’s, ‘Way of
Seeing’ talks about gaze, Men watch women, whereas women watch themselves being
watched, fits exactly in Indian family context. Women often in Indian families
are expected to do all the work so as to be deemed as successful, well cultured
women by the patriarchal family. (Berger, 1972)

Once
the girl enters into teenager, extra lessons are forced upon her to dress
appropriately by making sure her bra straps and her cleavage is hidden under
her dress. There are immense numbers of restrictions put upon her in order to
avoid her from having a conversation with opposite gender. Teenage girls are
often morally policed in order to save family’s reputation. They are expected
to take the responsibility of keeping their family or their clans reputation
and often are made to feel guilty for not living up to clans or family’s
expectation.

Once
the girl enters adulthood, she is then trained to get married and are often
scrutinized by potential groom families on being a deserving candidate for
getting married. This scrutiny starts from the girl’s look – her body type, her
waist line, her length of her hair and of course her skin tone – to her skill
in the kitchen – dishes she had learnt to prepare, number of family members she
can provide home cooked food, her hygiene standards – to her ability of multi
tasking – her social life, how she manages her college or office work with
family time and family responsibilities – and lastly, on how culturally driven
she is – her behavior with adults and her attitude towards marriage and her
husband. Her education qualifications are often regarded as a form of
developing the social fame for the groom’s family. Although currently, in urban
city, qualification of a girl is asked upon and is of utmost importance, not to
understand her perspective and her thoughts, her likes and dislikes, but to
understand how many hours can she be available for groom’s family and are often
questioned upon managing work life and personal life. Many a times, women are
asked to relocate their work life, if there is a prospective groom who the
family has chosen for her. However, men are often not asked upon to relocate as
according to Indian family, a man having a stable, secure job is far vital than
for a female, whose professionalism and passion to work is often regarded as a
hobby she has taken to keep herself occupied till the time her actual
responsibility – of running her marital journey smoothly – comes up.

Reinforcing
supremacy of one gender over another strengthens its claim by citing social
norms again. Using same reasons of morality and culture, women are often denied
access to technology, especially the kind that enables them to voice their
opinion. Research conducted on ‘Connected Women’ titled ‘Bridging the Gender
Gap’, 3 billion people in low and middle income countries do not own mobile
phones out of which 1.7 billion are females. By this report the fact that
nearly two-third of unconnected women lives in South Asia and East Asia comes
very starkly. (Khan, 2017)

In
Gulbarga, a city in Karnataka state, my native place from where my parents
belong, the idea on banning mobile phones is supported so as to protect the
girls from becoming ‘ill-cultured’. According to the local newspaper,
‘Mathrubhumi’ mobile phones provides space of privacy and independence which
will lead to trouble for girls and therefore mobile phones are banned to keep
girls out of trouble. According to locals in Gulbarga, mostly elderly men, as
the place is patriarchal, think that mobile phone should only be allowed to
girls ideally after marriage, that too, if the Groom’s family thinks it is
needed for the girl. Obviously the same rule doesn’t apply for boys as boys are
expected to be independent and be in contact with outer world in the name of
professional growth.

In
this sense, desktops are appreciated by all as mostly they are owned by the
family and is kept in a room where it is under surveillance for 24×7. Even the
desktop in schools and colleges are under the supervision of the supervisor who
keeps a tab on the usage of desktop and internet. Many elderly women only are
aware of Green button which helps them in picking up the calls and the red one
for disconnecting the phone. (Khan, 2017) Women, who have more
knowledge about than these two buttons are often looked upon as a disease of
‘modernity’ which if not controlled will affect the overall functioning of the
family.

The
fear of women moving ahead of men is one of the major challenges of fighting
patriarchy. Although government has and has always been taken up initiative for
women empowerment and for their equality in the society, the process is way
slower than expected. Also because major reason for such intervention through
various government initiatives for women empowerment starts from home where the
family is and that particular space itself is inaccessible for women to grow.
Even now there are various villages and communities where girls are not allowed
to go to school because the dress code for the school is deemed to be
inappropriate. The surveillance of body, especially in women, is very strong in
urban as well as rural context and family does pay a vital role in it in the
name of preserving the reputation of the family and so as to preserve the
Indian ‘culture’.