I was flipping through the channels last night when I came across an episode of 60 minutes with a segment on India and its love for gold. The segment can be found here. The segment discusses the obsession with gold and how necessary it is for there to be a wedding. The women being interviewed make sure that the interviewer knows the difference between selling one’s daughter and making her an investment. They admit, however, that daughters are still technically sold, only behind closed doors because it is shameful to do it out in the open.
The White Tiger does not explicitly say much about gender or women, but the implicit messages are clear. The lack of representation of women, specifically women of power, exemplifies how strong the patriarchal attitudes of India persist. When women are mentioned they are viewed purely as sexual objects through the male gaze. On page 261 Balram seems to think he is being respectable when he says “That’s right, Mr. Jiabao: I don’t go to ‘red light districts’ anymore. It’s not right to buy and sell women who live in birdcages and get treated like animals. I only buy girls I find in five-star hotels.” No, he’s not contributing to the lowest and most demeaning part of the sex trade, but he still views women solely as objects (as evidenced by his use of the word “buy”). There is also the incident in which he attempts to “buy” a white, blonde haired woman and throws a fit because her hair is not naturally blonde.
It’s definitely interesting to examine how women could possibly expect to gain any sort of autonomy when men in a patriarchal system struggle to escape the rooster coop as well. The need to provide women with a lavish wedding and a great amount of wealth just to attract a man to marry says that women are not really worth anything on their own. They really need to pay their own way and be sure to produce at least one male heir.
Adiga, Aravind. The White Tiger, A Novel. New York: Free Press, 2008. Print.
India’s love affair with gold. 2012. Television segment. CBS. Web. 13 Feb 2012.