Title:- The Rebellion against patriarchy: A Study of Kamla Das
Author Name:- Mehraj Ud Din zargar
Education:- M.A English (University of Jammu)
UGC-NET English – (July 2018)
The Rebellion against patriarchy: A study of kamla Das
Patriarchal society has given binary division to the genders privileging masculine gender and the feminine gender has been reduced to status of slavery. Women’s past has been very pathetic, she was deprived of basic fundamental right of equality, education and expression. Phallocentric discourse had marginalized her, it had looted her from political, social and economic representation and placed under the clutches of patriarchal domination. Women of modern era questioned, challenged and rejected this phallocentric discourse about women by men. Women started to write herself and in her attempt to rediscover herself she has succeeded to a great extent, though not fully yet. This paper would reflect on the rebel woman poet and point out through her poetry the revolution brought in women’s life by the idea of women writing herself.
Keywords: Phallocentric, patriarchy, marginalized, subjugation, misrepresenting, miserable, revolution, liberation.
Women doesn’t find any place in the history, neither have been they able to start any tradition of their own that could render them an independent, respectable and equal position to man in the society. This inferior position has been assigned to women by the phallocentric discourse of men as women very seldom wrote in history and if any women dared to break this taboo her writing was considered inconsequential and unmeaningful by the male writers. This phallocentric discourse had created a binary division between the genders, and hence privileged man over woman by assigning the positive aspects of human beings that is physical strength, mental ability and intelligence to man and women on contrary is assigned negative and weak aspects by claiming that they are mentally, intellectually and physically weaker to men. Although women together with man completes the structure of society, this structure can’t even be imagined in absence of any one of the two eventhen women lacks representation whether it be social or political representation. The feminine discourse by men misrepresented women and setup the base for their subjugation. It misrepresented their desires and urge for creativity and kept them economically, socially and politically backward.
Women understood and acted upon the fact that sex and gender two different terms, sex is assigned by nature through anatomy to an individual and it has nothing to do with the power structure of society governed by man through patriarchal dominance attained by their repressive discourse about women. The traits that constituted what is masculine and what is feminine in temperament and behavior are largely, if not entirely, social constructs that were generated by the pervasive patriarchal biases, “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman….it is civilization as a whole that creates this creature… which is described as feminine”(The Second Sex).
This phallocentric discourse about women is now being challenged by women, they have analyzed and understood the fact that the male rhetoric about women has been violently misusing and misrepresenting the female body and the only way to come out of this jinx is that:
Woman must write herself: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies – for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text – as into the world and into history – by her own movement. (The Laugh of the Medusa)
They understood the fact that a woman thus far has been the consumer of male produced literature. The identity given to women by male produced literature is completely distorted from the original identity, this socio-cultural identity given to women smothered their original identity by ubiquitous, too dominant and repressive patriarchal culture which puts her under subjugation, neglects hers rights and pushes her from centre to periphery to a margin of existence. To relocate herself to her original position, to define herself and get out of the clutches of the patriarchal domination, to find out her original being and what she has lost, it becomes vital to
unleash her innermost pangs of guilt, misery, fears, doubts and anxieties to reinstate her experience as woman, so that she can acquire autonomy over her being and discover her true self. This realization triggers off a journey into the recesses of her being and like a phoenix she strives to rise to be reborn. It is this struggle of self-realization that becomes the text of most women writers”.(Poetry of Protest and Confession: a study of Kamla Das)
The revolution of women to write their bodies and psychology by themselves in the feminine literary discourse was almost an unimaginable expedition for women belonging to a nation that had been under colonial regime. These women had to face the double bind of suppression; imperialism on top of patriarchal dominancy had made their life miserable but the feminist movement had such a basic but major goal to work with that is to get fundamental right of equality and independence from patriarchy, it was so powerful that women of all nations and all colour actively participated in it for their liberation.
Kamla Das is an Indian English poet who took the challenge to write herself and through her poems she speaks the pain and agony of women. All her poems are an account of her quest for identity in a traditionally orthodox Indian society, her desire for liberation from the clutches of male dominance is mirrored by the poet in her poems.
In the poem “An Introduction” her hatred towards the subjugation can be sensed as she doesn’t want to be chained within the walls of a house, she wants to exercise her free will. She doesn’t want her real self to vanish by submitting to the wishes of the patriarchal society. She rebels against the norms of society by rejecting the idea of subjugating herself to her husband, she is ready to take on and compete with the stereotypes about women laid down by the phallocentric discourse, she breaks the set pattern of orthodox traditional clothing that a women in Indian society was compelled to act upon, she decides to exercise her freedom, her right to choose for herself and wears her brothers trousers, shirts, she cuts her hair short. She completely discards idea and the guidelines set forth by the patriarchal society for a woman to fit within the dynamics of womanliness. She bluntly rejects their idea of womanliness
“Then … I wore a shirt and my
Brother’s trousers, cut my hair short and ignored
My womanliness. Dress in sarees, be girl
Be wife, they said. Be embroidered, be cook”,
Be a quarreler with categorizers. Don’t sit
On walls or peep in through our lace-draped windows”.
Das challenges patriarchal discourse about woman and her womanliness, she makes her perception crystal clear that the pathway to liberation, the antidote for venomous fangs of patriarchy lies in exercising her will against the wishes of a man, in making her decisions by herself and not being dependent on masculine intellect, rather than being a weaker binary to masculine intellect, a new and independent position be drafted for feminine intellect so that women herself could assign roles for themselves
“Be Amy or be Kamala or better
Still, be Madhavikutty. It is time to
Choose a name, a role.”
In “An Introduction” Kamla Das points to the fact that women are ready to change the orientation of the discourse about women, she bluntly argues that her language might have ‘distortions’, and ‘queernesses’. This incompleteness of her language can’t hinder her from expressing herself .she readily accepts these distortions of her language, she knows that she can express her femininity far more correctly with this distorted language than a man can with the perfect language. This accepting her language symbolically represents her desire, her strong willed strides towards liberation from clutches of patriarchy. She is not ready to give up this revolutionary march at any cost.
“speak three languages, write in
Two, dream in one.
Don’t write in English, they said, English is
Not your mother-tongue. Why not leave
Me alone, critics, friends, visiting cousins”,
Every one of you? Why not let me speak in
Any language I like? The language I speak”,
Becomes mine, its distortions, its queernesses
All mine, mine alone”.
Kamla Das in poem “Of Calcutta” reflects up on how the institution of marriage also has been used as a tool by male for their dominance over women. She mirrors’ the degeneration of the protagonist a female child and traces how this child loses all her liberty as soon as she gets married , the status of that women is reduced to a despicable house wife , she has to sacrifice all her desires and be subservient to the wishes of her man “,she becomes a puppet of her husband”,
“I was sent away to protect family’s
Honour, to save a few cowards, to defend some
Abstractions, sent to another city to be
A relative’s wife, a hausfiau from his home, and
A mother for his sons, yet another nodding
Doll for his parlour, a walkie-talkie, one to
Wann his bed at night”.
Kamla Das in her poetry breaks the barriers and speaks against the traditional patriarchal ideology of Indian society that gives husband the status of a god and wife is presented as a slave to him. A woman has to be obsequiously submissive; she is forced to accept masculine superiority over her own gender. Das in “The looking Glass” brings forth the fact that all the phallocentric discourse of superiority of masculinity and patriarchal dominancy feeds on feminine gender
“Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of
Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts”,
The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
Endless female hungers …”
Purnima Bali says “The Looking Glass’ which is not only the mirror of her hurt-self but also shows her struggle to achieve identity and individualism.”(Bali, 3)
She also points to the fact that women has been deprived of their rights, subjugated and whipped into the suppression by hegemonic patriarchal culture. She has a sense of guilt for getting trapped into this patriarchal hegemonic tactic of society. In her “The old Playhouse and Other Poems” Kamla Das writes
Beneath your monstrous ego, I ate the magic loaf and
Became a dwarf. I lost my will and reason, to all your
Questions I mumbled incoherent replies.
She clearly points to the fact that woman herself as well has helped in paving the way for patriarchal domination by submitting her reason and will to man .W. Connell argues in this regard that “Men … enjoy patriarchal power, but accept it as if it were given to them by an external force, by nature or convention or even by women themselves, rather by on active social subordination of women going on here and now”( Gender and Power).
Kamla Das through her poetry has remarkably articulated the concerns of marginalised women. She is the amongst the torch bearers in the march towards liberation of subjugated and marginalised women, her poetry originates from herself, she is the nucleus of her poetry
…Kamala Das did display tremendous courage in revolting against the sexual colonialism and providing hope and confidence to young woman that they can refuse and reject victim positions, that they can frustrate the sexist culture’s efforts to exploit, passivise and marginalize woman”. (Iqbal Kaur).
She very profoundly projects sense of despair and dejection futility of existence, alienation, meaninglessness, exploitation, identity crisis of women cause by domination of man.
Showalter, Elaine. The Second Sex. Random House, 2011.
Cixous, Helen. et.al. “The Laugh of the Medusa”, Signs, Vol. 1, No. 4. U of Chicago P, 1976, PP. 875-893.
Bali, Purnima. “Poetry of Protest and Confession: a study of Kamla Das” The Criterion: An International Journal in English. 2017, PP.1-6.
Connell, R.W. Gender and Power. Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1987 p. 125.
Das, Kamala. Kamala Das poems. Poemhunter.com – The World’s Poetry Archive. 2012.
Kaur”,Iqbal. “protest Against Sexual Colonialism: Kamla Das’s My Story”. Jasbir Jain, ed. Women’s writing, p.234
—“,Collected Poems. ‘Trivandrum, 1984.