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Women are traditionally expected to wear symbols of marital status, the marital status of a woman being necessary for official documents too. Why is this?
Yesterday when I was filling an official document, I got stuck on a column where I had to choose one among Mr/Mrs/Miss. As I have recently got married, this was the first time I had to think twice before filling it. I filled Mrs hastily but it kept bothering me.
I fail to understand why the world wants to know only about the marital status of a woman? I always wonder why another honorific is not made for men who are married.
One or two decades ago, another term as Ms became popular which was originated in middle of 1900s. It is used for women who can be married or unmarried. Women who use the term seemed to be more identified as a ‘women’s libber’ rather than as married or single.
But is this really a solution? May be yes, but you can’t see this option everywhere or on all the documents and Mrs still exists.
Marital status of a woman is still an important point to be considered in the social fabric almost everywhere. If people look at a woman, they gaze at her head to toe to check if any of the signs of marital status is found on her body or not.
Our tradition teaches women to put vermilion on her forehead, wear mangalsutra, put bindi, wear bangles and toe rings after marriage to look married and stick some illogical reasons behind them like not wearing them may reduce your husband’s life.
In the 21st century, how can people even relate someone’s life to another person’s attire or accessories? And why do those people don’t even care about a wife’s life? They should also make some traditions for men to care about women’s long life. Women are also often asked to wear a particular type of attire after marriage which is not at all the case with men.
The biggest irony is women are asked to stop wearing all these if her husband dies.
I have heard more than hundred times in six months of my marriage that I should look married and wear all these marital symbols. And this is not only from the old-aged orthodox people but also from the ‘highly educated’ modern women. I have observed that it is the women who have time on their hands, doing nothing much the whole day, who are the ones who carry on their shoulders the responsibility of not letting traditions disappear, and who worry about the welfare and long life of other women’s husbands. They are the ones most curious to know whether a woman is single, married, divorcee or widow.
Many of my friends give excuses of unproved scientific reasons and health benefits for wearing these marital symbols like – applying sindoor controls blood pressure and activate sexual drive. So, should we assume that only Indian women and especially Hindu women need this sexual drive and that the women who don’t apply sindoor don’t have any sexual drive? I have also heard that wearing bangles causes constant friction with the wrist which increases blood circulation. Then, why are our poor men not privileged enough to take benefit of this simple solution to improve their blood circulation? This doesn’t ends here, there are many more such ‘beliefs’!
If women continue to give such illogical explanations, how would things change? There is still a long way to go for women to get equal status in Indian society. One of my friends told me she likes it, and does it as her personal choice but, I strongly believe that her choices are derived from our patriarchal societal norms.
If for a moment, if we assume that there are really some scientific reasons behind these traditions, even then I believe traditions should not be bigger than one’s personal choice. If not, we have no right to call ourselves living in an ‘Independent India’.
It’s high time we women need to stop following this stereotypical patriarchal norms blindly. We should together say No to be identified as someone’s someone. The least one can do is to stop pulling one another down and think about this before practising such traditions. We should also stop saying, “our ancestors followed this, and so are we” or “what’s wrong in following the traditions?”
I might sound offensive but trust me; it is for the good, and for equal rights of women all over the world. I don’t have any personal issues with women who follow these traditions as I truly believe everyone has her/his own perspective but, yes I too have my right to speak what I feel needs to change, and allow myself to choose what I feel is equitable for me.
Published here earlier.
Image source: shutterstock