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Women And The Religious Mantle

Posted: September 21, 2012

Folks get all huffy when I express an opinion on regressive practices followed by their religion until they realize I am equally rejecting of mine. More so, perhaps, for somewhere within me I hold an admittedly irrational belief that Parsis, with their greater access to education and more global lifestyle, should know better. And of course they don’t.

The lines are usually pre-drawn and clearly demarcated. Men vs. women, young vs. old, believer versus non. And I think it is a right shame women are considered more susceptible to irrational/supernatural/spiritual/mythological beliefs than men to the point where they become upholders of ritual symbolism, charged with the brief of preserving and perpetuating it, a task most take on only too willingly.
I will admit it. I am deeply disappointed when I see women “like me” (meaning those I perceive to have had a similar education and upbringing) following traditions not because they believe, not because they’re remotely interested in their significance, but because they should and must, no questions asked. When otherwise positively engaged contributors to society who have the temerity to call themselves modern succumb to the pressures of childhood/social conditioning, convenience and feel-good fluff and turn back the clock for a day (or nine).

How does it hurt, you ask? Not at all, if you live in a vacuum. Not at all, if your existence doesn’t affect another soul on the planet and your actions don’t influence their thoughts and decisions. If you live under a rock, by all means, starve, chant, tie a squillion threads. But chances are, your world is peopled and your actions will influence a generation’s beliefs up or down (strengthen, upward and sow, downward).  In India, the lines between the social and the religious are shaky, at best. For the most part, there are no lines. So when a woman rebels against the religious, she is, in effect, rejecting a social role as well. And that upsets the apple cart, the apples being social order, familial expectations and the propagation of cultural mores to future generations.

Most men I have had this conversation with have readily admitted that while they may not actively seek it, they anticipate(d) that their spouse will be more rooted in religion and socio-cultural rituals than they are, merely by virtue of her gender. Put bluntly, a fearful-of-the-forces, superstitious mother will rear exactly that kind of daughter who will appease the powers that be by enacting her Good Wife/Daughter in law/Round-peg-in-a-pre-carved-slot role.

What alarms me is the easy expectation of women’s acceptance and execution of irrational beliefs, a foregone conclusion that with the exception of temple priests, mysterious religious power is the domain of the woman. And it appears that women encourage and abet the perpetuation of such myths because it grants them greater agency in a still largely patriarchal society. Clearly in the minority, I continue to shake my head in sorrow at this mantle that many among my gender grab with both hands, plonk on their head and look as pleased as Punch about.  Such a shame, really.  Especially when heads can be put to far more helpful uses.

Pic used from Pixabay

Dilnavaz Bamboat manages communications and social media for a Silicon Valley non-profit. She is

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