Also published on Huffington Post India
|Pic Courtesy - IndianExpress.com|
The last few years I have come across an evolving brand of feminism - women who are so proud to be a feminist that they’ll flaunt it like their newly acquired Birkin. Mostly hashtag feminists, they’ll mount the high horse of morality and slay anyone who disagrees with them. And then there is this other set that treats it like leprosy and cannot stop telling anyone who’s willing to listen - I am not a feminist, yaa. Please, please, don’t stop loving me! Here, let me post yet another cleavage shot to prove my point.
Little wonder I feel like a borderline feminist. I don’t relate to either of them. I felt acutely embarrassed when I didn’t get women outraging about women who keep a Karvachauth fast to be able to remain a Mrs for the rest of their life. Had it been to protest against its blatant commercialisation, I would have happily joined in. I mean this is the time when salons, jewellery and sari stores do roaring business and women get to strut their stuff in embellishments bright enough to light up Times Square, right? But calling it a patriarchal conspiracy to keep women hungry and at the mercy of their husbands is a little too much to digest. If she can starve for an upcoming wedding, or to fit into her new skinnies, why not for a man and also get to make him feel guilty as hell!
If we expect men to respect the life choices we make, why can’t we respect another woman’s choice to starve for her husband’s long life! Remember, all good men are either married or gay and one of them happens to be your spouse.
What baffles me the most is, while we are calling Karvachauth a regressive, meaningless ritual, we are also spearheading a movement that demands women be allowed inside temples like Shani Shignapur and Sabrimala, traditionally meant for only male devotees. At a time when organised religion is increasingly becoming the cause for all strife and is more divisive than spiritual, this new found religiosity puzzle me no end.
Now let’s think of these ‘reserved for men only shrines’ as the women’s only coach in the Delhi Metro. Now imagine a bunch of aggressive men demanding equal rights as women and to be let in! Surely we’ll turn into female incarnates of Lord Shani (of Shani Shignapur fame) and send such strong vibrations their way, these men will start wishing they were not born in the first place. And why not! The Metro coach is our sanctorum sanctum where we can squat on the floor, do our makeup from scratch, doze on our neighbour’s shoulder without the fear of body odour. Why, I’ve even got a lap dance from ‘thoda adjust karlo’ enthusiasts!
I am sure male devotees share similar sentiments while resisting female presence in shrines like Shani Shignapur. A place where they can pray to their God without females who deliberately dress tantalisingly to distract them from their spiritual quest. It’s their women’s only coach in the Mumbai local where they can unwind and gossip while they shell peas for the evening meal. A refuge where men can truly be themselves without the fear of getting nagged and taunted for misdeeds they have no recollection of.
If women can have reservations in trains, buses, queues, seats in Parliament and be exempted from the odd-even scheme, why can’t men be extended the same privileges? So what if it is in a measly number of temples.
But no, we women refuse to leave them in peace! We have to go where every man has gone and prove to them we can do it better, even when it comes to fasting and praying.
I have always prided myself as a woman first and a feminist later. Which is why I have never wanted to be equal to a man. It’s because I’ve always felt this fight for equality is based on the assumption that men are superior. Sorry, but I don’t agree. If men enjoy certain privileges, so do women. We’ve both had to fight our own set of battles to get to where we want to.
So, when a woman wants to be able to do everything a man does, she’s not fighting for equality. Rather, she’s inadvertently placing him on a pedestal and aiming to reach that pinnacle. Tell me, how many men aspire to be as loving, caring, emotionally invested as us?
I feel keeping women away from certain religious shrines on basis of flimsy and not so flimsy excuses is the ultimate ode to the power we wield over men. We’ve been told for centuries that it’s women who come in between a man and his greatness. Buddha had to leave his wife to start a new religion. The naughty Indra never tired of breaking tapasya of sages by sending Apsaras to seduce them. Just our mere presence is so distracting, we have to be kept off religious premises at all costs to let our men focus on all things godly.
When women were finally allowed inside monastic orders in India, they were forced to follow more rules than men. They had not only to control their own desires, they also had to ensure they did not 'tempt' men. In temples that house women-shunning deities such as Shani and Ayyappa, celibacy is seen as the hallmark of religiosity and purity.
If you look at the number of female deities, they easily outnumber their male counterparts. And this particular gentleman from Bihar has amply demonstrated how much we care for our Maatas by filing a petition against Lord Ram for the ‘cruelty showed’ towards his wife, Sita.
We still think that we have to fight for equality?
Rather than storming in temples that uphold the customary exclusion of women in the name of equality, we women should revel in the power we hold over men’s senses. Let’s not grudge them the few remaining bastions of male only sanctuaries where they can heal themselves from the constant onslaught from feminists.
Don’t we all need an oasis where we can burp, yawn, scratch our unmentionables away from the judging eyes of the opposite sex!
And women please, can we get rid of this militant stance against men! By doing so, we are only proving them right when they try to brand feminists as an unhappy, vitriolic, power hungry, man hating fiends. Also, not all traditional rituals are regressive, meant to hold back women. In fact, our forefathers were a lot cooler than us and made sure there’s a scientific rationale behind most age-old rituals. Let’s try and understand them first before agitating about stuff we have little or no knowledge of.
It’s overzealousness that kills a well-intentioned movement like feminism and gives rise to many more women who’d rather hug a lizard than call themselves a feminist.