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In Malayali Society, It's Not Very Clear Whether We Strive For Patriarchy Or Just Convenience

In Malayali Society, It's Not Very Clear Whether We Strive For Patriarchy Or Just Convenience

'Men are the kings of convenience’- A line from a very pro-feminist Malayalam movie.

The sex ratio (women:men is 1058:1000) is the best in the country. Many Malayali couples consider it a blessing when their newborn is a girl. So no, we Malayalis don’t murder our babies when we discover that they’re penis-free.

I don’t think there’s another community in India that encourages women to get educated and have fulfilling careers as much as us Malayalis. When it comes to education and employment opportunities for women, we’re #1.

But that encouragement comes with a list – a list of terms and conditions longer than the one on iTunes. If you’re from Kerala, your ability to adhere to what’s expected of you is your support system.

Malayali women Malayali women (Photo credit: Arjun Raj)

You have to dress a certain way, walk a certain walk, and talk a certain talk.

Back when I was a kid, there was this family of 5 living in the neighborhood – parents and three beautiful girls. From what I could see, the parents were really open-minded. The girls usually wore sleeveless tops and tight jeans. Considering the place and time they were living in, that took some serious chutzpah.

The girls would walk around the streets, wearing whatever they wanted. But as soon as they were out of sight, the neighborhood aunties would gather around, like hungry piranhas swarming around an unsuspecting swimmer.

And one of those aunties was my very own sweet mother.

She just doesn’t know it yet, but my mother is a feminist icon to me. She’s a badass, well-respected, working woman who reached great heights in her career while simultaneously caring for her family like a champ.

But she doesn’t necessarily believe in feminist values like the rest of us. In fact, I think it’s right to say she’s not a feminist. Is it possible for my mother to not be a feminist but still be a feminist icon to her children? To me, it is.

Every day, I’d watch her join the neighborhood judgment panel that would pass its daily verdict on those three girls. She wasn’t an active participant in the panel, though she did share valuable inputs whenever she could.

But when my sister moved to Bangalore for college and started wearing all those ‘slutty’ clothes the trinity used to, it was amazing how quickly my mother’s opinions changed.

Suddenly, my mom was a staunch supporter of “liberal attire”. The hypocrisy of the Malayali mother, I tell you!

What’s even more ironic is the weekly schedule of the other members of the judgment panel.

KudumasreeKudumasree (Photo credit: The Hindu)

After all the nosiness and holier-than-thou judging at their weekly meeting, they would go straight to another meeting, at Kudumabshree: the largest, most successful woman empowerment network in the country.

The Kudumbashree project and all the similar ones in Kerala are something every Malayali can be proud of. The concept of “housewife” doesn’t exist anymore in Kerala. Everyone’s contributing and everyone’s participating.

How a society this progressive can be equally backward, I’ll never know. I’m sorry, I can’t decode that for you.

Now back to the men of convenience. A real feminist would say women are still oppressed in Kerala. As a feminist, I should be able to fact check the statement, but as I’m writing this, I’m realizing my own hypocrisy.

A true feminist wouldn’t ignore the blatant sexism of organized religion the way I do while I visit my parents with my sister during Onam. Me? I conveniently ignore the mountain of dishes, so that my sister can take care of them. And she does. Every single time I visit.

Yes, I am a man of convenience. So is my father. So are most of the Malayali men I know.

Maybe it’s this convenience that is holding us back as a community. But whatever it is, in a society where everyone is educated and well informed, it’s not just ignorance: it’s the epitome of hypocrisy.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of


By Arjun Raj
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