Soo. Ever wonder why many married women speak with such fervor about feminism and gender equality? I believe our lovely marriage system and traditional practices turn them into feminists. Ah, do you have a scorn on your face now? Well, read on, this is for you 🙂
These women, when they were single, tend to be the bold, confident ones, who question authority if required. But when they get married, they become helpless as they don’t know who to fight with, because every side they turn, they experience gender-inequality occurring in the name of “traditions and social expectations”.
In reality men, when they are by themselves, are mostly understanding and supportive of women. It’s the society, the group of people doused in traditions and decade-old practices, who seem to give unjust importance to men, right from when they are born till they breathe their last. And so when a woman enters the married life, she doesn’t understand why men require all the fuss when she has been brought up the same way and end up getting irritated.
Men on the other hand, also get frustrated as they don’t understand why these women complain about equality when they do their best to make life as fair as possible. Frustrated guys, listen up, the woman isn’t angry with every man in the world, she is angry with the system – the system that expects her to get up and do chores in her in-laws place while guys can happily rest their legs in their in-laws’ place.
She knows it is difficult to win this war, as the enemy is an army of old people drenched in traditions and prejudiced views, but she still tries to fight her war after marriage. And that’s when the bold woman gets the label of a “feminist”.
If you can’t understand what a married woman is up against, check out the list below to know how her world is like, “as soon as” she enters her married life. And then you will understand she is not actually fighting with you, but with a faceless enemy – “the Indian marriage system”.
1. Wedding rituals – everything begins here!
If you sit back and think about it, most of the practices in our Indian marriage system tries to subtly send out messages that the groom is a little superior to women.
- There is “Kanyadaan” where the bride is given away as a gift to the groom who is considered as a form of Vishnu(!!!). [There is no “Putradaan” where the groom is given away as a gift..hmm].
- Oh, and of course the most important ritual in a wedding – the tying of Mangalsutra is only done by men. Come on, IF a mangal sutra is all that is required to denote the holy union of two souls, shouldn’t it be tied by both of them, just like the exchange of rings? Can you find a guy who would accept to a wedding if the bride has to tie the knots and he has to sit meekly with his head bent down?
- The dream sloka! “Mangalyam Thanthunanena mama jeevana hethuna Kante badhnami subhake sanjeeva sarathas satham”. Ahh, the sloka that sends thrills down our spine when recited during tying of the knots! Here is the translation – “This is a sacred thread. This is essential for my long life. I tie this around your neck, O maiden of many auspicious attributes, may you live happily for a hundred years (with me).” Lol. The hopeless romantic I am, I kind of expected the sloka to mean something a little more sweet and divine..But..frankly, how many of you think the meaning sounds a wee bit patronizing? So much of self-importance proclaimed to men! Sigh, no wonder my eyes well up every time I hear this in a movie or in any marriage!
- On the subject of wedding rituals – ever heard of a Hindu marriage officiated by a woman priest? Oh yes, they do exist! Here’s one such wedding ordained by a woman priest – http://www.lassiwithlavina.com/faith/women-pujaris-between-man-and-god/html. If you think it’s a little weird, I think you are a little chauvinist.
Sooooo…we spoke of the wedding rituals. I am not questioning every single ritual in a wedding. I wish to only point out those that give one sex a higher importance than the other. I am all for following rituals and traditions that consider a husband and wife as equal partners in life. And here’s a trivia for you guys – this tying of MangalSutra wan’t even in practice in days of Ramayana. None of the Ramayan versions speak about Rama tying a Thaali to Sita. They do speak about tying a sacred thread on wrist but BOTH Rama and Sita did that. So people, who compare a husband should be like Rama and wife to be like Sita, why are you offended by my suggestion of Thaali being tied by both the bride and the groom?
Anyways, my point is don’t you think all these small practices together would give the bride an impression that men are considered a little more important than women in a wedding? Oh, but wait, there’s more to come after she is married.
2. The dream home.
Ah, you are married. What’s the next step..? Going to your “new” home, of course! Right after the wedding ceremonies, the couple are required to be dropped off at their “new” home, which, as you know, is the home of the groom and his parents. Parents of the bride wave tata, bye-bye with tears in their eyes, and the wife is suddenly left all alone in a new home with the groom and his parents. Now seriously, shouldn’t it be only fair that both the bride and groom bid farewell to their respective families and enter “their” home, just by themselves? Perhaps a guy would like to begin his dream life in his wife’s home, with her parents abiding by their rules? Sigh. Do you see how the so-called “traditions” give fringe benefits when you are a married man?
3. What’s in a name?
Hmmm…when was the last time you heard a married guy change his last name to his wife’s first name? That’s a laugh, you say? Well, here’s a trivia – many guys in other countries have done so after their marriage. When it is common for an Indian woman to change her last name to her husband’s name, why shouldn’t guys in India do that too? Seriously, has the society instituted a law that only married ‘women’ should change their names? I wish a bold Indian guy would do the honors and create history by adding his wife’s name after his first name. (Er..don’t forget to mention my name while doing so)
4. His Royal Highness!
Ever seen a guy lift a finger for anything except to eat or change channels on TV at their in-laws house? It’s never expected of a son-in-law to help in the in-laws’ kitchen or do any chores. Not to blame the guys, the wife’s parents always treat them like royalty. Quick change of scene, and now let’s imagine a woman in her in-law’s house.Cross your heart and tell me, is she given the same royal treatment as you are given at her place?
ROFL right?! Oh and if a wife thinks she deserves to be treated the same way and acts just like her husband does (when he’s in her parents’ place) she is scorned upon and looked as a “bad” daughter-in-law. Why do the in-laws expect a daughter-in-law to help with their chores, and a son-in-law to relax? Where’s the gender equality police?!
5. Questioning in-laws
In-laws questioning their daughter-in-law about her whereabouts, her actions or her plans to visit “her” parents is something common. But can you show me an in-law questioning their son-in-law about his actions, his office work, or his plans to visit “his” parents? Parents somehow never cross their ‘limits’ when it comes to son-in-law, but when it comes to daughter-in-law, anything out of the blue can be asked. Tough baby!
6. Buying a first home
Think about this – if a couple decides to buy a land/home “after” marriage (in India), for whatever reason most of them register their property in the guy’s name, even if the wife parted with her savings. I do know a few who are different in this area, but they really are a few! Help me, tell me, in your circle of friends, how many have registered their property in their wife’s name?
I am sure everyone has this question in their mind..why is that the initial/last name for a little one, has to be that of a father’s and not a mother’s? Of course, all that she had done was undergo 10 long months of difficult pregnancy, and so many hours of painful labor..nothing compared to what the father underwent..hmmm, what did he go through by the way? Not to belittle the dad figure, but seriously why does a kid’s initial/ last name has to be that of a dad’s? I am curious to know!
So everyone’s heard about Savitri puja(vratam), Gauri Vrat puja that a wife performs for her husband’s long-life. (Not everyone does it, of course, but a good many do this). And there are so many slokas that are all good for providing the husband with longevity, good health and everything he wants I guess. Perhaps I am wrong, but can someone tell me if there even exists a puja, vratam or sloka which a husband has to perform for longevity of a wife? Hmmm…still thinking..
Well..so what do you think? Do you see why married women are frustrated about not getting equal importance as their husband? Think about it – let’s say the roles were reversed in each of the scenarios listed above, in other words, if every privilege given to a man above was actually given to a woman and vice versa…who do you think would be considered superior? Wouldn’t the men be fighting for equality then? So there you have it.
I believe it’s our marriage system and married-life-practices which belittles women and thinks high of the male gender. Just because a family has a male child doesn’t make them any way superior to a family having a girl child. Both families raise their son and daughters the same way. So why should a marriage give one sex more importance than the other? They get married to be equal partners in life, so give them both equal importance and treat them equally well. Don’t expect a wife to follow practices that are not expected from a man.
All I wish to state is there’s no way to bring about equality when resorting to follow the centuries-old traditions and norms. If the current generation wishes to change this unfairness, they should give up a lot of old practices, change traditions, to make sure a wife is given the same treatment as a husband after marriage. If that happens, we can say feminism has won on the social front. And a marriage can be a peaceful ground for husband, wife and both their parents.
P.S. – I loved the cute picture and hence used it in my post. Nothing else behind the image 🙂
New addition - Many people have asked me what changes I can suggest, to each of these scenarios. To not make the article any longer than it already is, I have listed the changes below, that I personally would like to see happen.
What could be done instead to each of the cases above -
Instead of parents deciding for a couple, why not let the husband and wife decide for themselves on how their life needs to be after marriage? Ideal solution would be to take a new home, close to BOTH their parents' home, if that is possible or live together as one big joint family. Both sides' parents are old, so it is not fair to leave one and pick the other by doing inky, pinky, ponky.
Changing a last name is a choice. If a wife wants to change it, out of love for husband, why not let the husband change his name too and show his love? It is romantic both ways! Let's not embrace one and ridicule the other!
Treat them equally well. A son and daughter are raised the same way. Let them be treated the same way. If not, the women need to speak out.Or the men should speak out demanding equal rights.
Speak out when the limits are crossed anywhere. No one else can speak for you, except yourself.
Discuss with your wife on whose name the house needs to be registered,instead of blindly following what another person had done.
Many people are keeping two initials (mom's and dad's) to their kids. Let's be open to that.
A husband and wife can take the vratam and do puja together, IF at all it needs to be done. They both need longevity and good health, don't they? :)
Disclaimer – This post is to voice out the minds of majority of women. Views expressed in my blog are solely my own.