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Thursday, April 26, 2018

When women and traditions stand against women #womenissues

Where there is a mention of tradition or culture, most of the times women are the target. Specifically, in patriarchal societies women go through lot of discrimination. If a man from such society is reading this, imagine the horrors of leaving your comfort to live in someone else’s home and succumbing to the traditions made only for you. Atop it also facing the biases and preconceived notions from someone else’s family. When it comes to stigma and superstitions, a woman is always held liable for the accident she has met or luck/misfortune she has brought. Mostly such judgements are passed by another woman present there. 
I won’t go very far, I will start with traditional Indian (majorly Hindu) practices. Women sit together and talk about wealth in the form of dowry a bride has brought. Mothers of grooms praise or humiliate the newly wed based on that. In still an alien home she is expected to wake up before everyone else, take place in kitchen and relieve everyone who was there prior to her. There are still many homes, where a ruckus is created (by another woman) when she doesn’t abide by 500 rules of marital dressing.  A lot of my friends went through the horror of wearing compulsory bangles after wedding for a year despite the rashes, burns and what not on their hands. Others are decorated like a Christmas tree despite dreading them citing illogical traditions. The head in their family, a woman turned a deaf ear to their agonies. 
Remember the book “Animal Farm”, where Orwell talked about sheep bleating blindly after hearing the bleat of first sheep. This is what tradition has done to us. We are mere followers, blindly accepting everything that has been happening from ages. We don’t intend to question it, not for our sake, not for the sake of our generations to come.
When Karwa Chauth comes, a woman is expected to stay hungry, even if she is pregnant. Because nothing else is important for “mothers”-in-law than their superstitions and sons. Post delivering the baby, birth of a daughter doesn’t create exhilaration like birth of son in many families. If a son is born, lo and behold, there is another set tradition to follow. But again, only for the mother. A mother of a boy is expected to keep another fast for his long life and well-being. Nothing for a daughter. Because in patriarchal societies a man’s life is more significant than a woman’s life. In case she doesn’t want to follow it, she stays silent in a fear that the family of groom will boycott her. After which a biased stigma of separation will haunt her more than him. Therefore, she continues to follow sexist traditions till her death, ignoring her age and health. 
During the wedding, her parents do Kanya-daan. Being a woman, it seems more regressive it sounds. Suddenly she becomes a thing to give in charity from being a daughter who lived with equal dignity. Mothers don’t object it, and future mothers wont object it either. In work places as well, many times, women get insecure by other women and create tsunami of problems for them. Women haven’t totally learned to stand for each other. 
Few days back, I saw a video, where a famous Islamic preacher Zakir Naik was giving a talk about symbolic beating of wife. He seemed to be putting efforts to reduce violence on women through his misogynistic statements. He never said that a wife should not be beaten, not even symbolically. He also didn’t talk about rule of metaphorical beating husbands, for the much bigger sins like when they rape in marriages, abuse physically or publicly or caught in infidelity etc. If you observe closely, you may find sexist things in most of the traditions.

If there is a God, he cannot be sexist. Only a culture, a community, a tradition, a religion or a human can be! Stand up for the women in your life, be it your daughter, wife, sister, friend, colleague or someone-in-law when needed, if you haven’t already. But before everyone else, a woman should learn to stand up for a woman. 
Have you faced pressure to follow sexist tradition in your culture, or religion? Do you also think that we are brain washed from ages? Do you have an experience to share?


  1. Women and traditions go hand in hand together, and its the women who will follow every tradition and they are ones who will be talking about dowry, cooking, duties of the new bride,do's and don't in the family. I have seen very few men involved in all this- very rarely I hear father in law involved in cultural and traditional customs.It is very sad that women are condition to think, feel an behave in a particular manner. The conditioning has become so strong that despite education they continue to follow blindly without even rationalising for a second. There is a theory in psychology called Learned Helplessness by martin seligman who speaks about how victims become so habituated that they accept violence as part of life. Having worked in the area of domestic violence, I was shocked when i heard some stories of women in a managerial cadre and living in a abusive relationship and violence in all forms have become an accepted norm. Women need to come out and help each other in empowering themselves, instead of just following the traditions and customs blindly there is a need to articulate and express one's thoughts and opinions. In my in laws house as a new bride I was expected to wear a sari 24/7 and being a working women and used to wearing dresses it was very uncomfortable. I wore two days and i couldn't wear the third day and I told my mil directly that I am uncomfortable and not used to... she was silent for a while and then told me ok wear what you are comfortable. From then on till date I wear what I am comfortable.. its a small example.. big battles are won from small victories:)

  2. Women are their own worst enemies. According to author Ms. Kelly Valen “Girls can be mean to other girls, but it is adult women who vie to destroy each other”. Very rarely a father-in-law is involved in dowry negotiations or asking the DIL to wear a certain dress or bangles. This destroying each other happens between 2 female friends and also between 2 female colleagues at work place.

  3. Glad you addressed this topic. It's true...unless women respect other women, it is only a distant dream for men to start respecting women.

    In Indian households, children are usually guided by the thoughts, words and actions of their parents - and especially their mothers. I think the principle of gender equality can only start taking shape if parents influenced their kids positively in this respect.


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