… “What is the matter, dear?” she said affectionately.
“I feel somewhat awkward,” I said in a rather apologising tone, “as being a purdahnishin
Woman I am not accustomed to walking unveiled.”
“You need not be afraid of coming across a man here. This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm.”
– (Begum Hossain: Sultana’s Dream)
Back in 1905’s Bengal, what initially was meant to be an experiment to test her expertise in English, had in fact enabled author Begum Hossain to usher in the notion of Women’s Rule (although in a eutopic premise) via her above mentioned work, in which Sultana dreams her visit to a magical country with reversed gender roles. Before diving into this notion, It is important to understand that the very idea of “ruling power” is not confined to the political and military dimensions, for power also branches out in the economic, social and cultural aspects.
While this notion may appear to be theoretically contrary to the principles of feminism and democracy which aim to achieve an egalitarian society, an important question to be asked then is to what extent have these schools of these thoughts succeeded in meeting the aforementioned goal on being implemented in the real world.
As was evident from the Athenian Democracy of Ancient Greek period, who claimed to have ensured a democratic system while its citizenship rights were limited to 21-year-old men (excluding slaves and women). Furthermore, these principles and ideologies propagating an egalitarian rule got eventually manipulated by the majoritarian forces, (which in this context being men) for their self-centred interests.
Consequently, women continue to be at the disadvantaged end, even in the contemporary world ,as how is prevalent in the democratic structures of the Indian subcontinent starting from the grassroots level of governance wherein exploitation of womenfolk persists under the veil of ‘reservations’ as village panchayats headed by female panchas act as mere pawns operated by their male kin.
Although on the contrary, history is dotted with instances of female rulers such as Delhi’s Razia Sultana of Mamluk dynasty, Merneith- the earliest queen regnant of Egypt (in recorded history) and Queen Seondeok of Silla whose ruling stood out amidst a patriarchal setup of the world, there has never been an all-female rule in any part of the world. This sheds light on the gap between theoretical understanding and its practical implementation.
Thus, given the present conditions of the so-called “egalitarian structures”, if women ruled the world, it would have triggered implications at various levels of civilizational existence, with its primary strike at the foundational notion that fuels the male-centric globe i.e. the argument of ‘biological determinism ‘ which provides men an upper hand in all walks of life via the virtue of being “biologically superior or immune” than women.
As a result, mankind would have witnessed a social atmosphere that was devoid of double sex standards. Consequently, women would not have had the need to strive for political and substantive equality, as had happened during the second wave of the feminist movement, with a popular slogan – “personal is political” during the 1960s. Consequently, social practices such as matriliny would no longer have been confined to theoretical understanding as matriarchy would have existed in actuality.
Moreover, in terms of the cultural implication of such a reign, women would no longer have been perceived as disadvantaged, subservient section of the community or the basic social unit called family, wherein their identity is narrowed down as one of a sexual agent and a biologically weaker being which further dictated their potential and access to resources and opportunities, including their freedom to express their opinions on matters whether official, familial and even personal to a large extent in the present world.
A change in power dynamics, would, in turn, have its imprints on hierarchical functioning at the workplace and even religious institutions, wherein women would no longer be considered less deserving to manage a task or position based on factors having unreasonable connections to their potential.
Thus, such female-friendly social and cultural conditions would have further given rise to female education and thereby to a boosting economy, due to the enhancement of women’s economic participation unlike the present scenario wherein women cannot equally contribute or participate in economic activities and are treated as glorified unpaid slaves, who are bestowed with title of a homemaker and are tethered to household work , ensuring the well-being of the family, excluding the rights and development of themselves.
Interestingly, since nothing can be perceived absolutely as “black and white”, accepting the above-given explanation as the only possibility would be eutopic in itself. Thus, there would have been an inevitable episode in the long run of this absolute female-centric power as the vicious cycle of reverse gender-biased discrimination in human history would have commenced with the reinforcement of pseudo-feminism and downfall of true democracy as what is happening at present, except with an inclination towards a different sexual identity. Furthermore, this monocratic rule would have severely affected the pluralistic fabric of global society.
To further broaden the understanding of a matriarchal world, one also need to consider the intersectionalities of sexuality with factors such as class, caste, and race which are some of the common deep-rooted discriminatory social structures in any and every communal setup.
Thus, even in a condition where women ruled the world, disparities among women may persist based on the aforementioned factors, such that while a black woman may get to lead the people, yet deep within the psyche of a white woman she may be perceived as inferior in racial terms.
A similar instance is noticed in the status quo, wherein despite government policies such as affirmative actions, men continue to be judgemental towards male members of a former socially disadvantaged category.
Consequently, on one hand, all men irrespective of any social structures attained a level playing field with equal opportunities, however on the other end, there still existed growing differences among them in terms of the very same social factors.
In the light of this paradoxical nature of power dynamics in the global context, it is essential to acknowledge that even if women ruled, the world would have continued to function in ways that normalised the oppression towards a particular sexual identity, just as patriarchy functions in the contemporary world wherein oppression against women are disguised as part of communal beliefs and traditions.
Consequently, in a women-centric global rule, while the so-called mythological and traditional beliefs would have eventually been reshaped in ways that favoured women, thereby facilitating living conditions that are highly desirable for women, who have adapted the contemporary social setup which did not offer a memorable experience to them. However, it is unfortunate that eventually this seemingly ‘empowering power-system’ would reach a point that is no less different from the present patriarchal system.
At last, it can also be concluded that in order to have a stable, egalitarian and successful ruling system, (with the lesser difference between its theoretical and practical understanding) no single sexual or social identity should be placed in the upper pedestal as ruling power for as reiterated in the words of John Acton;
“Power corrupts, Absolute power corrupts absolutely”
– by Rohit Singh