‘Indian Matchmaking’ Laid Bare Toxic Practices Common in the Subcontinent
I recently watched the much popular Netflix series ‘Indian Matchmaking’; and it made me feel so uneasy and sometimes cringed.
Perhaps because the show laid bare the practices commonly followed in the subcontinent when it comes to finding a partner.
There was quite some uproar on social media with some people being pretty agitated and asking, ‘Why is Netflix showing this?’.
I, on the other hand, had a different question, ‘Why have we normalized these practices in these modern times? Why do we still allow this to happen?’
Perhaps being shown the mirror is making people uneasy?
Quite a few of us have moved beyond these practices so we tend to ignore that this indeed still happens, that these practices are still pretty commonplace. We tend to forget that we don’t represent the majority. We need to remind ourselves that, just because we have moved on from these practices doesn't mean everyone else has done so too.
These practices are rooted in Patriarchy, Sexism, Colorism, Colonialism, Provincialism, and Elitism. Centuries-old practices don't just get abolished overnight, especially when no one talks about them openly. Even if we have evolved, we would be surrounded by friends, family, acquaintances who still adopt these practices. They are perhaps misinformed and do not yet understand the implications of these practices.
The subcontinent culture is indeed sexist
The majority of the subcontinent has the mindset that the ‘value’ of a girl diminishes as she ages, or when she moves ahead in her career. A girl doing financially well, and who knows what she wants in a life partner is viewed as ‘arrogant’, ‘too picky’, and ‘unlikely to find someone’. Whereas an older guy with a stable career is labeled as ‘well-settled’, and ‘an eligible bachelor’.
The woman is conditioned from a young age that she has to be flexible to make a marriage work, that the success of the marriage lies in her ability to be accomodating and easy-going (read: having fewer opinions).
There are two problems with this mindset: firstly marriage is a two-way street, for it to function both parties have to be flexible, not just the woman. Secondly, women feel pressured to lower their standards when they are labeled as ‘too picky’ even though a woman has as much right to be ‘picky’ about a life partner as a man.
Colorism does indeed exist in the subcontinent
The series sees a lot of people putting a lot of importance on superficial aspects whilst choosing a partner. The blatant display of wealth, the demands for a tall partner, the demands for a ‘fair-skinned’ partner are unfortunately all true and do very much exist!
The Sub-Continent’s obsession with fair skin is unfortunately rooted in its Colonial past. People faced 200 years of oppression and were discriminated against based on their color. The British, set up restaurants and clubs that denied entrance to darker-skinned individuals, more preference was given to lighter-skinned individuals for employment, and the British were keener to assign roles with higher authority to a fair-skinned individual.
As a result, color-based-discrimination became institutionalized, and the oppressed started associating fairness with superiority. Years later, the idea of colorism is still deeply rooted in our cultures.
Men also face remarks on skin color, but women are targets of Colorism more than men. Women are put under extreme pressures even in their adolescents to use tried and tested home remedies for fair skin, or to reach for the fairness creams stacking the shelves in grocery stores or to bleach their skins! What else could be the reason that fairness creams are a multi-million industry in the Sub-Continent? Many women grow with lower self-esteem, which I believe anyone would when they grow up listening to remarks on their skin tone.
Men are also the victims of Patriarchy
Patriarchal mindsets have indeed made life hard for women, but men are also victims of patriarchy. Seeing Akshay, the guy in the series, being forced by his mother to meet girls despite him not being ready for marriage, but only doing so to appease his mother makes one feel sorry for the guy and also the girl whom he will eventually end up with.
Seeing the Austin based guy Vyasar, being told by a girl that she can’t marry him as he doesn’t earn enough also makes one realize how patriarchy is deeply rooted in our mindset. A girl seemingly evolved and who has got a career of her own still thinks it important for a man to earn more than her.
Why? Perhaps because we have been conditioned to believe in these gender roles where a man must earn more as only he is expected to support his family?
Isn’t it about time to discard such age-old mindsets? Why does a strong independent girl still believe in these gender roles?
The culture I come from has a very skewed view of love and marriage. Marriage is more about showing off riches or bagging the most beautiful partner and less about love.
The series showed only the elite class so far which represents barely 2% of the upper index, the socio-economic issues are even more complex for the masses.
The series to me did not romanticize matchmaking nor did it in any way try to normalize it; it actually did not pick any side.
It simply laid bare all that goes on in the subcontinent in the name of finding the ‘perfect match’ and perhaps that was the whole point here.
For us to see for ourselves what is accepted as the norm and what needs to done to change that.
The Matchmaker in the show is not just that individual solely, it is a representative of the entire society and culture. They are very much part of the culture because we make them a part of it, by not shedding the centuries-old practices.
Whether people feel uneasy or triggered it has brought them to the point of discussing these topics, and it is about time that these topics be discussed instead of being swept under the rug!