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Chapter Three Growing Up Female in North India Susan C. Seymour India belongs to an arc of societies that practice what Kandiyoti (1988) has named classic patriarchy. This chapter addresses North India, the part of India where the patriarchal family system, or what Mukhopadhyay and I (1994) have called India’s “patrifocal family structure and ideology,” is most predominant. In her paper “Bargaining with Patriarchy,” Kandiyoti (1988, 279) notes, “The cyclical nature of women’s power in the household and their anticipation of inheriting [the] authority of senior women encourages a thorough internalization of this form of patriarchy by the women themselves.” In other words, women are active agents in the reproduction of their own subordination. Although I agree that the anticipation of motherhood and increased status and power over time is certainly one motivation for many women to help maintain this family system, I argue that the successful early socialization of girls, together with a lack of alternatives, underlies this motivation. First, girls must be effectively socialized into the values and behaviors associated with the patrifocal family system. Later in their maturation, they come to understand their future roles as mothers, wives, and mothers-in-law and that someday they may become senior women in the household with power and authority over younger women. How, then, are girls socialized into this patriarchal system and effectively made the reproducers of it, both biologically and culturally? What potential for change is there? For my insights and examples, I draw on my longitudinal research on Hindu children, families, and gender systems in Bhubaneswar, Odisha , India (Seymour 1999). Quinn (2005b, 475) has formulated four universal features, or cultural models, of child-rearing that, she argues, “together explain how child rearing everywhere so effectively turns children into valued adults,” which I apply to my data on the socialization of girls in Bhubaneswar. These features are experiential constancy, emotional arousal, approval-disapproval, and emotional predisposition. India has a version of classic patriarchy, namely, a set of predominant kinship 51 and family structures and beliefs that give precedence to men over women, sons over daughters, fathers over mothers, husbands over wives, and so on. While more pronounced among upper castes and classes than lower-status ones and while more predominant in North than in South India, these male-oriented structures and beliefs constitute a sociocultural complex that profoundly affects women’s lives. The most significant features of this complex are a patrilocal, extended family residence system (the joint family); patrilineal descent; patrilineal inheritance and succession; gender-differentiated family roles and responsibilities ; a gender- and generation-differentiated authority and deference system; family control of female sexuality and reproduction; an arranged marriage system ; and an ideology of family honor that rests on “appropriate” female behavior, such as chastity, obedience, and self-sacrifice. Early Socialization For reasons that follow from the principles outlined above, sons in North India are preferred to daughters and more celebrated at birth. Due to the selective abortion of female fetuses, made possible with modern technology, and other factors, India has an unbalanced sex ratio.1 Therefore, to even get to the early socialization stage, a girl has had to surmount this social bias. However, daughters are important to the household economy, especially in lower-status families , and they provide fathers with their most sacred gift: a virgin daughter (kanyadan) who can be offered in marriage to another family. This movement of girls and young women in arranged marriages cements kin ties among members of a particular subcaste (jāti). In infancy, girls are treated similarly to boys. They are nursed on demand but not to satisfaction, ritually bathed, held and carried by a variety of caretakers, and always put down to sleep with an adult. There is, accordingly, much physical contact. During infancy, it is not so much gender that is marked as the child’s membership in a group. Rather than indicating the infant’s sex with color-coded clothing and blankets, what is emphasized is that the newborn is just one more member of a group in which collective family interests outweigh individual ones. She (or he) must learn to value familial interdependence. Multiple childcare, which promotes multiple attachments and a diffusion of affect among family members, is a critical technique for instilling in infants and young children a sense of interdependence: the need to rely on a variety of 52Seymour people for care and attention and an incipient identification with the extended family as a whole (Seymour 1983, 2004b, 2013...


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