Many years ago, there was a serial on DD called Dadi ma jagi, where a grandmother, who had gone into a coma for 20 years suddenly wakes to find everything changed (naturally!). The serial went on to show how she comes to terms with the changes.
Let me tell you about another kind of sleep, where on waking up, the subject (yours truly) finds that she has gone back in time – with the costumes and names having changed to the present. A reverse time warp of sorts.
One on such occasion, I woke up after sleeping for a while (or was it several years?) and find a strange sight. All these women – dressed in the styles of the 21st century – at home, not at their jobs. I rub my eyes. Not just that, but they are well educated, many of them qualified professionals. So why had they quit working, after slogging to qualify for their degrees?
‘It is our choice to be a homemaker!’ they chorus when I ask.
The term homemaker flies about me. And I hear another one — SAHM (Stay-at-home-mom). In case you didn’t know, they are the same as housewife and Ghar ki rani in a tosh avatar.
Curious about these homemakers and SAHMs, I decide to follow one of them who I think is representative of this new breed. And this is what I find:
She gets up early, does some yoga, fixes the breakfast for the family, while her husband gets the kids ready for school. She screams a bit at the kids to get going lest they miss the bus but is relaxed and affectionate as she sees her brood off to school.
Later in the day she goes out to the bank to sort out some issue, does a bit of shopping and has a quick cup of coffee with her friends. Back home, she catches up with her online friends, does a spot of reading and has a leisurely lunch which she has fixed for herself. In the evening, she drops off her son for his sitar class and her daughter for her badminton practice. Dinner is a family affair with every one pitching in to help, sharing their day with each other. There is much laughter, joking and love.
She looks around at her family and sighs happily, shaking off the memories of her office-going days. Rushing — always rushing — trying to complete her housework, helping with the kids’ homework, finishing that report for the next day’s presentation at work…Thank god, she had quit her job! Being a homemaker was so much more satisfying, besides being vital to the well-being of the family while affording her time to pursue her interests.
‘But….but….’I sputter, ‘Isn’t it patriarchal and regressive for women to expect to be provided for by their men? Hadn’t our mothers and grandmothers done it and been accused of sucking up to the patriarchal system? I was telling her how it had been before I dropped off to sleep.
I get disgusted looks which tell me that I have no understanding of the division of labour at all. Why, the work was divided equally this way, wasn’t it? Did I know how much the homemaker’s contribution was worth? In fact, she should be asking to be paid for all the things she did to keep the home running smoothly, raising kids in the best way possible, and preparing them for their lives ahead….
‘They had no choice in the matter!’ they cut me short most rudely.
‘Ah! So, you qualify for a profession, and then exercise your choice to chuck it to stay at home, right?’ I am careful not to get their temper up by saying something politically incorrect.
‘Right! It is all about having the freedom to decide!’ they say triumphantly.
My mind goes back to the time when women of earlier generations were all at home. The woman’s routine was vastly different from the women I see now, as were the things she did. She got up early, swept the front yard, sprinkled water and made rangoli. She then bathed, fixed breakfast for the family and after they had left, did her Pooja or went to the temple. She then supervised her maid or did the housework herself, had her lunch, read some periodicals and had a short siesta. Evenings were time for family prayers and everyone sat down to sing bhajans and chant shlokas. On festivals and special days they went to the temple. Late evenings were spent talking about their days, telling stories to the children and listening to songs on the radio. Much later, the husband whispered: ‘You are my ghar ki rani, my griha Lakshmi!’
I follow one woman of that generation on a typical day…..
That day she cooks lunch and changes before leaving for her friend’s house in the next street to make pickles along with other women. They had made the preparations the previous week and now only had to do the mixing and bottling. It is a boisterous affair with jokes, songs and sharing of stories. They are flushed with the camaraderie and accomplishment of having done their work. They have each brought some dish from their homes and have a potluck lunch. A couple of them have aged in-laws at home and so rush back…
I wonder: Were they forced to do it all? Were they so unhappy? Did they need to prove that they were as good as men in and out of the house? Wasn’t there division of labour back then too? My head is reeling. Maybe I am fainting….
I am rudely awoken by singing and dancing. I find out that women are celebrating their menstrual periods. The singing and dancing are coming from inside a red tent. Oh, you haven’t heard about the Red Tents?
The Red Tent is part of the spiritual practice of menstruation and the living of the wisdom of the cycles. The Red Tent is part of the much needed honouring of the feminine that our culture requires. The Red Tent is a place, a space, that women retreat to when they are bleeding, menstruating, when they have their ‘moonflow’. The Red Tent or Moon Lodge or Blood Temple can be an actual space or a virtual space, or a state of mind, one way or another it needs to exist.
I find myself in a reverse time warp once again. From segregation during the menstrual periods, to peddling sanitary napkins on prime time with explicit ads, it is all the way back to segregation and bonding – only this time it is all wrapped in western garb, hoity-toity and out of ‘choice’ with a lot of feminist jargon thrown in for good measure.
Our elders had stipulated that women should get complete rest, at least from being near the fire or doing lifting and other strenuous work. Wonder why?
Cramps during their periods has been a common complaint of women down the decades. There is nothing much that can be done for it. If one were to see the number of articles on this, one would realise that it is still much prevalent the world over. And no, it is not because they don’t want to find a cure for it or because it is a taboo subject. It is simply because there is no cure for it. Every ovulation cycle is a preparation for a pregnancy and when it doesn’t happen, the uterus expels the blood and tissues to clean itself and ready for another cycle. Apparently, depending upon individual women and their physical fitness and uterine health, these cramps can go from negligible to excruciating, sometimes even mimicking labour pains! Pain killers, hormone pills – all only help temporarily and aggravate uterine problems on long term use.
I remember feminist writers of the 70s lamenting that even Nature conspires against women by visiting the menstruation on her! I was one of those who had lapped up such literature before coming to this realisation: No, Nature only wants women to respect their bodies for their uniqueness and give them the rest they need periodically! (no pun intended).
A couple of generations ago, segregation during one’s periods was common and taken in one’s stride. I know of women who rejoiced when they got their periods and they could get out of heavy work at home on occasions. There were rooms in houses where the womenfolk stayed, sometimes several of them at the same time. They relaxed, read, talked and recouped, as they were not allowed to go near the fire. The reason being that the body is weak during menstruation and therefore even heat can be debilitating just as strenuous physical exercise can be draining. This also applies to some temples where women are restricted from going and not just when they have their periods as the strong magnetic fields in temples can debilitate women further. This article explains the reasons in the most scientific way.
One of the ruses our ancestors adopted to see that health routines were followed was to do it in the name of religion and invoke the taboos related to it. Out of fear of retribution people followed the rules and consequently remained relatively healthy.
But no one told women all these things when they began rebelling against being segregated. Just that they were ‘unclean’ during their periods and so should remain out of sight! Naturally they had bristled. As if they went dripping all over the place! So they fought and got their right to do all the things that women do today. They went to work, cooked, danced and played sports. While some, whose threshold of tolerance is high and whose bodies are fit, are able to cope, others suffer so much that they are literally laid prone. I am sure no one will deny this truth. I know of any number of women who would just love to curl up in bed with a book or the ipod on those days. And when common sense tells them that this is the reason for their enforced rest, why not adapt it to suit the present times and benefit?
So when I heard about the Red Tents, I wondered if they were finally acknowledging that our elders knew what they were doing when they ensured enforced rest during their periods.
‘Of come on! We are not toeing the line of regressive patriarchal customs! We are celebrating the feminine!’ the women retort angrily.
I begin wondering if there is something profound here that escaped my pea-brain for I am unable to understand how so-called regressive and patriarchal customs and traditions have suddenly become the latest feminist trends and ‘choice’ statements?
I run and stand under a cold shower to clear my fuzzy brain.
And there under the spray I have my moment of epiphany! Bring back old customs and traditions replete with their wisdom (just be careful not to acknowledge the fact), give them tony names, get them air-brushed, give them a dab of make-up and colour, and voila! You have a liberated, empowered woman who has the freedom of choice! And oh, don’t forget to get the all-important endorsement of the ‘liberal’ and modern West for added authority to wave at the regressive patriarchy’s face!
For the record, I am very happy that old customs are making a comeback in new avatars. Because, unless they evolve with changing times, traditions and customs tend to die out, suffocated by rigid rules. My request is for people to keep an open mind, and think logically about any tradition or custom without the tinted glasses of religion, region or nationality, before chucking them out. Our ancestors (of ancient cultures everywhere) were not fools.
Every culture has its traditions and customs which have deep roots in scientific facts. While some might be religious in origin, the vast majority have health at their core. Only, our forebears were not educated in modern science to give them fancy names and provide scientific proofs to impress the later generations of skeptics.
Whether it is the suryanamaskar, the wearing of toe-rings after marriage, menstrual segregation or any number of ‘regressive’, ‘religious’ customs – they all have sound scientific basis. We research into trivial things to prove a point on social media, or argue cases that have no lasting impact on our lives. Why not into such customs? I find it incredible that we readily accept a filmmaker’s interpretation of a custom we had followed for centuries (Red Tent) to bring it back as a fashion statement, but are reluctant to discover the wisdom behind them ourselves. While there are any number of them we have imported back from the west, I am yet to find one such custom that has been popularized by us, here, indigenously.
It is not necessary to talk openly about our great past if that makes you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. But don’t close your minds to their wisdom, please. Adapt them, personalise them, but for heaven’s sake, don’t reject them! We could not only rediscover our strong cultural roots to live happily but also save millions in doctors’ fees.
Think about it!
Some traditional fitness routines that have made a comeback through the backdoor and windows in modern avatars.
Homepage image: www.thehindu.com
[…] Have you read the first part? […]
Finally, I get to read this wise post, my lady! 😀 I know this won’t count for a comment….will talk to you. I loved the post, btw.
Ah! What a relief that you liked the post 😀 Else I wouldn’t have heard the end of it from you 😛
I liked your balanced take on the subject Zephyr. It’s the science behind the customs which if elaborated on could have made all the difference. If the theory made sense for a woman to follow it, I am sure many would have opted to ( assuming that they had a choice in the matter ). If the importance had been given to the “why” and not insulted people’s intelligence who might not have understood them better, if the reasons had been made clear. The objection is against blind following of any tradition just because “it’s always been done that way”. We are witness to the fact that there have been many regressive practices against women including sati, which we cant embrace because it belonged to the past.
Now , to share something personal. I have grown up this way, segregated and alone. Confused because I didn’t know what was wrong with me, why I was being treated like a leper, why I had to wash all the clothes if I touched anything accidentally,when I had to have a separate plate, why I had to sleep on a had bed without a mattress, when my body was aching, when I needed some comfort. And then came a day, when I discarded everything, threw away all the rituals which made me feel unclean or inferior in any way. Then I began doing everything, going to work, working in the kitchen everything. There were days when my body ached and I wanted to lie down. And rest I did, and I would tell my husband and he would cook. Not only when I had my periods, but days when I was sick, he cooked. Do I need tradition do that ? Not really. But I understand that there are men who would not do this, if it were not for the tradition. And I did think back and had the inkling on why it would have all started.
But would I really want to go back to my younger days. No, not at all. I have been there and I know what it was and it wasn’t pleasant for me. Because the following was “blind” and it was always a dictat.
The protests against this custom had started as far back as 50 years ago, Asha. I was in the forefront of it. Yes, they didn’t know about the health aspects or other reasons to explain to us and so those of us who wanted nothing to do with them protested and managed to get out of it. We paid in terms of our health, as we had to do the housework and the outside work too. Today your generation is better placed to get the best of both the worlds as you have done. I am sure most young women can do it, if they learn about the real issues that put these customs in place. We can pick and choose what works for us. I keep hearing the argument that women should be given a choice to follow them even after getting to know the health aspect of such customs. This is something hard to digest for me. Which woman in her right mind would refuse rest during the worst cramps? Why not use that reason to get the rest? Men are increasingly being more and more supportive and will surely do so much for their women?
And why should you go back to your younger days? Have I in any one place asked women to do it? All I have said is that they should take the good part in old customs, which are essentially social customs, and benefit from them. I agree that no one wants to be made to feel small and ashamed of something that is biological. I hope you will keep tuned to the posts that will follow in this series. Do let me know if there are any custom which you would like explained? I will try my best to gather the wisdom behind them.
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I know someone who was a rank holder in school and now calls herself a ‘proud housewife’. Although initially I did not quite understand how a homemaker could be proud, I’ve seen now that it was her choice that made the difference. She is the head of her family, and is highly respected throughout her neighborhood. I guess we must all respect the other’s choices instead of judging them.
And it is true that all traditions had reasonable origins, only that it is not known by the ones who practise them today. Not all customs may be sensible in today’s modernized lifestyle, which makes it all the more important to understand them from the grassroots.
You are right. We should never judge anyone but respect the choices they have made. Choice or not, earlier the social conditions were different and the work was cut out for both men and women and there had been no conflict. So we can’t say that they were unhappy in their homes. Most of them were happy and also made a great success of their roles as mothers, wives and grandmothers, guiding and supporting the families. My appeal is the same: don’t put today’s yardsticks to earlier customs and judge them as being regressive. It is like dissecting a period movie like Bahubali and condemning as being sexist. It borders on the ridiculous when this is done. We have to pick and choose the customs that can be customised today and maximise their benefits to suit us. That is all the post and the following ones are going to harp on. Don’t condemn our customs on the belief that they HAVE to be regressive because they don’t have the stamp of approval from the west.
New food for thought. Am glad you are not condemning anything – neither the tradition nor the so called progression. Perspectives change with time. I think instead of brandishing cult femininism it is better to view the man-woman role playing as complimentary to each other. Can we exist in confrontation? I mean not only women but men as well. I fully agree when you say we should not outrightly reject something which we don’t fully know about. However, there have been instances of cruelty in the name of adherence which is deplorable. Similarly, modern, educated, well earning women being subjected to domestic violence is also another side of the coin. Extremes should be toned down by logic and isms should be replaced by understanding. I hope am getting you.
Unless we see the good in evil too, we can’t exist and it lies in our hands to utilise it to the best of our interests. So too patriarchy. Cruelty, domestic violence are all outside the purview of this post, for the simple reason that this one deals only with customs that have benefits, healthwise for us and which we have rejected as being patriarchal or adopting forgetting it is patriarchal. If we just looked at a custom objectively and evaluated its merits and then adapted it to our circumstances, it would be wonderful wouldn’t it instead of waiting for some ridiculous red tent to celebrate our feminineness? Many of the women objecting to these are the liberal, independent ones who make their choices. I am addressing these issues to that segment, because they are the ones most vociferously opposed to them.
I’d say that a big part of our traditions getting plastered with the regressive tag is because you only got the answer that it is our tradition to do it and not the real reasons when someone asked ‘Why?’ If only we had remembered both the rationale AND the tradition, we may have kept most of them and known what have become irrelevant due to changed circumstances
Very true, Suresh. That is because we believed in our elders and their wisdom. It is only when they started becoming irrelevent or meaningless in the 20th century that we began questioning. Even my MIL and mother used to be angry with me for wanting to know the reasons behind our customs. ‘That is how it has been done all these years,’ was the response I got much to my chagrin. So I began working things out for myself and had to break some shackles, make some compromises, tweak and adapt them to suit me. That is what our women today can do too. Instead of rejecting something because it is patriarchal, even if it benefits them. We might hate the government but are first in the queue if there is a scheme that benefits us, aren’t we? Likewise, for our customs too. Why wait for the west to come up with their feminist twist and market it back to us?
I think it comes to a personal choice. But, traditions should serve as no means to fetter our thought in looking at life from a fresh perspective and be more rational. Fresh perspective, though!!
Very true, Vishal! I am just asking the women to exercise their choice to not just throw out outdated customs, but find out the validity behind them and adapt them for use in this day and age. If you reject a custom for being regressive, how come you adopt it when it comes back from the west? Is it the miracle of advertisement and PR? 🙂
Certainly, it shouldn’t be that way and I believe in ideological belief not because something comes back from the west. Isn’t it double standard? Yeah! It makes sense what you are saying where certain things can be adapted.
We had a separate room in my grandmother’s place for this and separate vessels. We used to read a lot in those days. But for us, we had shifted to Chennai and so this was followed only when we went to our grand mother’s place, after a few years. In cities, space constraint was there and nobody followed it. So slowly our house also changed. Otherwise I and my sister were taking turns to cook before going to school, I remember!
Very good analysis! Yes, most of our traditions are coming back via the West!
Sandhya, the most orthodox community is now the most forward looking, like it or not! There are still rural communities in MP, Maharashtra and other southern states where they observe this custom and give the women rest from household work on the pretext that they are unclean. The custom has died out in most urban families which is translating into many uterus related problems for women, as ads and the west tell us that it is perfectly fine to run, play, climb and do all kinds of strenuous activities. I speak with the authority of my elder sister who is a qualified naturopath and also has done extensive research into the customs pertaining to health. She has in fact got her source in Asara Kovai of Tamil literature!
I was nodding along to many of your points Zephyr. Instead of blindly forcing someone to follow customs and practices if a proper explanation is given, quite a few would be receptive I think. The effect of the temples magnetic field on a menstruating woman was something new I learnt from your post…. I think the whole problem started when society started misusing some practices and started belittling women… As in refusing them a proper education etc… We simply need to query the reasons behind something and incorporate them according to our times
Jaish, the women who have now got the choice, have got an education and are intelligent enough to question and find out the common sense reasons behind customs should implement them after tweaking them to their convenience as I have said in my reply to Rachna. Agreed that women are still repressed in many ways, but the larger picture for educated women is changing for the better. It is about time that women should exercise their right to use tradition to their advantage, as they had been meant to. As we know, it is those who have misused them to subjugate women who are the causes for the customs being rejected and rebelled against. Once we know this truth, why should we still harp on cases where they are being misused and reject them? That and the fact that we are letting the west set the agenda for women’s issues and funnily we accept them when they endorse the wisdom and bottle it in their own brands!
Old is gold. At least more often than not. Especially when the old has been tested, tried, abused, rebottled, reshaped, rethought, reframed, renamed, renewed. Of course, some old gold also goes out of fashion, then it is heated and melted and re-made into newer jewels. It is this heat that is important, because only in the heat the old wisdom takes on a new form. But just because new form has now become more acceptable (because it has this designer label or that designer label and a hefty price attached it, not to mention the nice, attractive packaging and the gimmicky marketing), doesn’t mean that the people should become blind to the truth that the real value of the jewel lies in the old gold. Sadly, that happens more often than it should.
Somehow this analogy is what came to mind as I read this another gem-studded post of yours. It could simply be that subconsciously I am yearning to buy me a new piece of jewelry! Just for the record I like old gold, and I also like old designs 🙂 But that doesn’t mean that I have to reject all the gains of modernity, how can any sane woman do that? At the same time, choice is the modern key word we seem to have adopted almost blindly. Like many other words and ways. And perhaps without knowing that choice is only one word of the full equation. We often forget that choice is meaningful only when it comes with discernment, wisdom and mutuality. That is the full formula for happiness in life.
Thanks Zephyr for this wonderful post.
PS – Oh, I simply can’t understand why or how could it make some people uncomfortable or embarrassed by talking about our glorious past. Beyond me, really! But then the world is a big place and there are all kinds of people I suppose 🙂
I loved your subconscious mind speaking out , asking for that piece of old gold 😀 Perfect analogy for what I am trying to say. Because like you, I also am an advocate of adapting, reshaping and moulding old things to suit new times and sometimes discarding some customs too. ‘And perhaps without knowing that choice is only one word of the full equation’. How well you have encapsulated my lengthy explanation about choice! *Respect* The full equation includes taking responsibility for the consequences, to avoid which, many opt to remain in the status quo. It might sound cruel when I say this, but I have seen and heard so many hundreds of cases where this has happened and is still happening.
One thing I have realised is that this topic is so vast that I can spend the rest of my blogging life writing about the aspects touched here by me and the commenters! As for embarrassment about our past, don’t you know that it was all mythical and in the realm of literature? So naturally it is a matter of embarrassment when someone talks about it as if it was all real 😛
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I was going to write a long comment but then I read Dagny’s and she has articulated perfectly what I wished to say. While I do agree that perhaps sometimes we tend to openly accept philosophies or wisdom especially if they are appreciated in the West which seems to be looked up to especially in terms of freedom of women, there is a reason why traditions that offer no choice no matter how much sense they make are stifling. I was oriented to pursue a career while my mother was not. While she was happy in looking after the home, she was brought up in a manner which did not give her any other choice, I would not. I always had the urge to do something outside of housework. Now that I can do both, it makes me happy and fulfilled. So, yes that choice that I could give up my work and then later take it up again was important.
About menstruation traditions, we never had this custom in the North at least in my family. So, I don’t know about it. But I heard my South Indian friends hate this custom. Frankly, in today’s nuclear families, especially when women are working, can someone really afford to sit in one room of the house for 4-5 days? Also if I am given a choice not to enter the kitchen for 5 days, I would be glad to take it up but to attach it to things like not touching utensils or entering the kitchen or not pickling etc. have no scientific basis and only lead to making a woman feel small and discriminated against. In our families, we don’t treat menstruation as normal but something to be ashamed of and hidden from the larger view of the family especially the male members.
I agree that all of us do need to be more open towards understanding the wisdom behind the rituals and traditions. But the operative word for me has always been choice. Explain to a woman and still give her a choice not to do something without a bias. Most families in older days did not offer this choice especially to their women.
The point I was trying to make is that the patriarchy that is flogged at the slightest pretext is the reason why this choice is available to women! I feel there is a slight hypocrisy here. Unfortunately too, I don’t subscribe to the Deepika Padukone kind of choice which is too presumptuous in saying that a woman is a man’s privilege. Also, in times when the work of men and women were clearly demarcated, there was little opportunity for women to feel dissatisfied. Of course, even then there were great achievers outside the home and many women, often from conservative backgrounds made it. I am not at all advocating that women sit at home or slog at work without a choice, but merely that they should acknowledge and give the devil its due. And why be defensive while opting for staying home? There is always a way when there is a will. I am talking of normal conditions here, not of abusive and violent marriages. The thing is, it is easy to lay blame on something or someone for one’s own lack of action. When a woman makes a choice, she has to take responsibility for it, which is hard for many many women, Rachna. It is easier to be dependent and absolve one of taking control of one’s life. And I don’t just mean financially, but in many other ways too.
About menstrual segregation, due the reasons cited in my post, it makes no sense today at all — I mean not touching things or entering kitchen etc. It is sadly one of the customs that has become an empty one to be misused by people. The reason I wrote so much about it here is not to discuss the demeaning aspect of it, but the health aspect of it, which educated women can research and find out. And havne’t I asked everyone to adapt, personalise and get the benefit of these? With menstrual cramps crippling hundreds and thousands of women, and when they proudly proclaim ‘I am bleeding!’ on social media, why can’t they put their foot down and tell their families that they won’t cook and that they are going to rest? This was one of the ways in which men were made to contribute in housework. And contrary to belief, men of conservative families were good cooks, especially if they lived in nuclear families or when several women of the house had their periods simultaneously, for this very reason. There was no ordering out of food or going out to eat those days for such families, you see!
I have not elaborated on all these in the post for fear of making it too lengthy. As for being banished from the presence of men, there is a very very sound reason for that too.
All I am asking is for people to pause and think a little and leave their glasses with the patriarchal tint behind when they do it. There is not just wisdom but a lot of common sense too in our customs. I will try and share as many as I am able to research, learn and find out about. You guys do it too, when you research for your articles and posts 🙂
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I am reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. You should read that book. It’s an eye opener. Yes, patriarchy harms men too. But it harms women immensely. Even today how many houses will have men taking on household chores even when the woman works out of the house full time. About men in older days being great cooks, I have seen something very different. At least today’s men will cook once in a week or so. My father’s generation did not step foot in the kitchen. My point is that segregation of duties due to patriarchy has consigned women to household chores. What if I don’t like to do household chores? Do I have a choice? No. If there was no patriarchy, there would be need for men to handle financial burden alone. Men and women could chip in equitably. Men will shirk from sharing duties for bringing up children saying that women are better equipped. I don’t agree. I think men and women should contribute equally in child rearing. When I say choice, I don’t mean by ignoring what the others in the family want. I just say that the man and woman should decide together who should do what. I don’t think it is the society’s or even the family’s right to do so.
About telling the men to cook on those days or other days, let’s just say that all men are not open to that. 🙂 I also see a huge role of mothers in how they bring up their sons and treat their husbands. If they put their needs behind those of the menfolk, the sons would grow up feeling entitled to get the same treatment. I guess this will be a very long discussion which we should do offline. 🙂
About the rituals bit, I do agree that it is important to research the logic behind them and not just discard them at a whim. But I would still maintain that to follow the ritual or not should be a matter of choice and not enforced upon any woman. I am also interested in knowing if there were any rituals prescribed for men in ancient times.
Didn’t I say that the customs as they were originally intended took care of bringing men into the household duties too. Not the watered down ‘customs only’ kind of adherence. For then there were very strict rules for both men and women in the society. Yes, men too. But slowly everything got watered down to mere actions without any meaning. Having lived in over five states and interacted with people from all communities from different social strata, both urban and rural — to get to know their customs, and having seen them myself, I think I have enough information to say something with authority 🙂 I am not at all contesting that patriarchy is bad or that it doesn’t exist.
Btw, we are not discussing rituals, are we? I have specifically said customs and traditions, and I have made it clear that they are social customs, not religious rituals at all. Because if we go into rituals of any sort, the men would be at the receiving end of the stick, for they have more things to follow and adhere to than women. So let us leave that for the moment. Also, the discussion about men’s role in the family and societ will be subject for another post, as I had told Dagny in my reply. Social customs change, evolve, get consigned to the bin depending upon their relevance to the times and so on. The concept of women not crossing the threshold of their houses after wedding is a social custom. That is soooooo ridiculous that it has died on its own. And yet, I knew of a woman who died about a decade ago, who had not left her husband’s home except with him to attend important family functions or to go on pilgrimages till she died. She had refused to leave her home after he died because she said she would only leave on a bier!! Now, someone like you, if she didn’t like to cook, can tell her husband that she hates it and come to some kind of compromise, right? It is that choice we need to work on.
This made me grin almost all through. What a delicate, benevolent leg pull. But as they say, a little sense of humor keeps us all grounded.
While I agree with you wholeheartedly that our ancient ways had sound scientific reasoning behind every behavioral guideline, I think these guidelines became shackles when they were used as an excuse to control and restrict instead of being nurturing and caring. When today’s woman protests, perhaps she protests against the compulsion that the behavioral norms impose. I wouldn’t know. I was never subjected to any restrictions while I was growing up, hence had no reason to revolt.
To work or not, ought to be a joint decision between a woman and her man, with the final ruling being a woman’s prerogative. Compulsions of any sort- whether for or against a woman being professionally active- are restrictive. One woman may want to work and she is not allowed; one doesn’t want to work and she is compelled to! Both are unfair.
I think it comes down not only to priorities but also to circumstances and personal ambition/need. I also think both men and women should be given the choice- why only women?
Is there a term (like feminism is standing up for the rights of women) which can denote standing up for the rights of men? Or better still, standing up for the rights of men and women- without any gender bias at all?
I just love these gems of yours! ❤
I agree that the shackles had begun hurting badly, which is why women of my generation fought so vehemently against a lot of them. The reason I took up menstrual taboos for discussion was because of my own experiences and how I broke out of them. It took me a long time to understand the health reasons behind the custom — from my elder sister who is an authority on native wisdom in health. She has worked extensively in rural Tamil Nadu creating awareness among the villagers about following traditional systems of treatment and therapy. It was then that I began taking some interest in the matter and began trying to understand it. I still refer back to her about health issues and she gives me gyan about them. This post was just the curtain-raiser. Hopefully I will bring up more such examples. The first one is going to follow — about customs that form the basis for a lot of modern day sports and fitness regimen.
I understand that having a choice is important in life and I am glad that the women are increasingly able to. As for everyone, including men having a choice, I feel that they are more victims of patriarchy! I might just be opening that can of worms too Dagny 🙂
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I look forward to it. Open cans of worms are very educative. 😀
Not to speak of hornets’ nests 😀
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Brilliant perspective!! As always!!
Thank you, Deepak!
The trend of the educated woman choosing home over a career boils down to priorities. It’s making a choice that makes us happy, be it the challenges of the corporate world or being the mistress of your own time.
Agree when you say that traditions rooted in the past are more practical than regressive. I feel feminism is going through transition and its militant voice is drowning the voice of the sensible.
The point I was trying to make is that this choice to stay at home is made possible only because of patriarchy, isn’t it? If the man is not earning or able to support the family, how can she do it? I remember many of my generation who would baulk at taking money for their personal expenses from their husbands. It was a total rebellion against patriarchy then. What I find now is convenient rebellion against what doesn’t suit them.
Traditions and customs were put in place for a certain reason and our poor elders and ancestors couldn’t give ‘proof’ of them to convince us. I remember fighting tooth and nail to stop segregation during the periods and am sure would have been happy if I had been told all these things. That is why I want this generation of women to research and find out the whys and whats of customs before laughing them off and suffering health issues. Feminism is evolving like everything else, but it is not going the sensible way, as you rightly point out.
This reminds me of ‘serving old wine in new bottles’ to aptly describe the situation! Like always penned in your style to take a dig at the same time convey the message, Zephyr:)
Thank you Rahul. Actually, it is not bad at all that old customs get a makeover, but not giving any of them credence at all till some American or European comes out with a fad based on an ancient custom. And then these are aped! And that gets my goat big time 🙂