Parvathy Thiruvoth Kottuvatta has an unenviable body of work to prove that she is one of the best actors of our generation , but it is her outspoken nature that has kept her in the news for the past few months. It is true that most of her interviews are cringe worthy and over the top , but the points she tries to get across needs to be heeded to. With her misogyny remarks she is questioning the very foundation of the Malayali society which prides itself in being the most gender egalitarian one in the country. Such a serious accusation needs to be probed into.
A society’s evolution from poverty to prosperity involves many visible and invisible changes . One of the most important of them is the change in gender dynamics. With education and economic development women would start taking up jobs outside of the household , resulting in a visible changes in the gender equation. But Nairs of Kerala are an exemption. They were a Matriarchal caste which over time turned patriarchal and hence by the time of attainment of statehood we were all under patriarchy. The communist movement and the entrenched socialist values were the first to challenge the status quo. Their initial commitment was on breaking the caste barriers which were successfully dismantled by the 1970s and that is when they started focusing on the gender conundrum. It had become a complicated maze by then. women were literate and many had jobs , but their position in the society had remained the same. The initial burst of Feminism, supported by the liberals was welcomed by the menfolk but by the 1980s resistance was palpable , especially after the rise of Machismo.
In olden days Masculinity was usually identified with chivalry . By the advent of Mustache in the 70s Masculinity started to get associated with Machismo . By the 1990s Kerala was at its patriarchal zenith as seen from the umpteen number of male chauvinist movies produced every year. The socio-economic Indicators of our state are comparable to Middle income countries of South East Asia , Latin America or Middle East .This could have meant a more gender neutral society . Sadly we are the worst in terms of gender equality outside the Islamic world.
The hypocrisy of the malayali society is evident from the Gender stereotypes that have become so deep seated in our psyche that many try to justify it on the basis of tradition and culture. If a man or a woman acts inconsistent with the predefined gender norms , he/she is ridiculed and even their sexuality is questioned. For eg: A man is supposed to be aggressive and a woman docile . A docile man is called a woman and an aggressive woman an outcast. The appearances,mannerisms and costumes are also important. A man with so called “feminine” mannerisms is called chandupottu and a women with coarse features is called a Hijada. If this is the case with straight men and women imagine the trauma of being a gay or lesbian. The Malayalam media which prides on being the most vibrant in the country have never discussed the issue relating to article 377 in a positive light.
This is what parvathy talked about and we as a society must heed . The world is moving forward and gender equality is the norm. If we remain fossilized in the 1990s the malayali society is doomed.