In a patriarchal society, what does a father daughter relationship look like? While power operates at multiple levels, in complex ways and adapts itself to plural contexts, generally it is a man who is the head of a household and upholds the role of the traditional patriarch. For many of us, as daughters to even imagine a space where we can pose our views, opinions and desires directly to our fathers is very difficult. However, every structure no matter how oppressive is marked by everyday negotiations which resist, challenge and redefine the way power operates.
Through our campaign #MyDadMyAlly we aim to focus on these father daughter relationships and dig deep into issues which impact the rights of a girls and women. We aim to address these issues by understanding a father daughter relationship, by looking at it within different frameworks. What are these frameworks or lenses?
The first lens is masculinity. Within a patriarchal structure, a father figure embodies and enacts a lot of power. How does this happen? How does he learn about his powers and the ways to exercise it? Through this campaign we are saying that, he either learns it from a father figure in his life or picks it up from other such figures in the society around him. These people become his reference points for learning the norms of a patriarchal society.
The way patriarchy functions is that it has defined roles for each gender and these roles uphold the oppressive power structure. However, another way in which this power structure operates is by punishing those who deviate from these norms. Even the powerful. A man, a father, a patriarch who chooses to deviate from the rule faces the threat of being ostracized. A question is raised on his manhood. He is accused of not being a ‘man’.
The second prism is that of assertion, vulnerabilities and conflict. To understand this angle, we will narrate a story. This is the story of Rashmi. A young girl who has always been promised by her father that she will study and become a matriculate. However, everyone around her tells her that she will be married away soon, just like all other young girls.
Rashmi hears this, feels cheated, goes up to her father and says “Aap jhoot bolte hai” (You lie). This assertion by Rashmi is an assertion of her rights, an assertion for support from her father. If we move beyond the video and think about it, a situation like this can give rise to a conflict for the father. How does he come out in support of her daughter, be an ally? It is at this level of our campaign that we emphasize on our call to action for this campaign. We ask fathers to support the rights of their daughters. And, we ask the community to support the father’s decision to do so.
While through this campaign we are focusing on a father daughter relationship, with a specific aim of understanding fatherhood through the lens of masculinity, we also aim to incorporate into this conversation the crucial need for inter generational dialogue. We are extending our on ground findings from our work addressing early marriage in select districts of Bihar and Jharkhand to run a digital campaign; where we broaden the context of the conversation by looking at the norms that underlie the issue within multiple frameworks.
How crucial is a father’s support in educating a girl child? How important is a father’s support in ensuring that his daughter is not married off early? How crucial is a father’s role in enabling a girl to follow her dreams and if need be go to a different city to follow them? Why is it important for a father, or a guardian to come out in support of a young girl who wants to seek opportunities, choices, dreams and wishes? What is the journey a father, a man needs to embark on to be an ally to his daughter? How can his immediate community enable and support him while he is on this journey? What is needed for a girl’s voice, demanding her rights, to not just echo in empty spaces but resonate amongst known chambers?
We will ask all these questions and aim to address them through conversations. As we launch our campaign, #MyDadMyAlly, join us for the next six weeks as we uphold fathers to promises which call for support, not authority but unconditional support. And, as we do this we promise to be a platform where these conversations will reverberate beyond our echo chambers and pave way for solutions to emerge.