Explain how Kamala Das subverts the dominance of a traditionally patriarchal society by giving voice to women's experience and by affirming a strong physical, intellectual and sexual assertion.

1 Answer | Add Yours

akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The work that Kamala Das constructs subverts the dominance of a traditional patriarchal society in suggesting that no amount of control and power can ever remove what it means to be a "woman." For Das, the condition of being a woman is an intensely intricate experience.  It is one that encompasses physical, intellectual, psychological, and sexual assertion.  In the most literal sense, Das description of being a woman is one in which life is teeming with life.

In making public the intensely private experience, Das suggests that being a woman involves intricacies and complex realities that women struggle to understand and men in a patriarchal setting could not even come close to controlling.  Consider such an idea in Das' "The Freaks:"

Can this man with
Nimble finger-tips unleash
Nothing more alive than the
Skin's lazy hungers? Who can
Help us who have lived so long
And have failed in love? The heart,
An empty cistern, waiting
Through long hours, fills itself
With coiling snakes of silence. .....

Such a description helps to subver the dominance of a traditional patriarchal society in a couple of ways.  The idea of "this man" being set against such a complex and intricate set of realities almost reduces him.  He is literally powerless against those who "have lived so long and have failed in love" or against the "empty cistern" that is the heart, one filled with "coiling snakes of silence."  

Das subverts male dominance by suggesting that social and political constructions of power cannot supplant the intricate experience of being a woman. The woman's experience encompasses so much in so many different realms such as physical, intellectual, sexual, and psychological. Such a condition of being lies outside the boundaries of traditionally patriarchal society.  Even the mere act of sexual union is one that Das suggests is not entirely what men might think it to be.  The man who is able to penetrate a woman sexually might believe he has power, but is nothing in comparison to the conditions of being that Das highlights in "The Freaks."  Any man who sees sex as a form of controlling women is sadly mistaken and in this error, one sees how Das has subverted traditional, patriarchal society.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,916 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question