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Rakshabandhan as a festival, is one we need to question and reinvent to fit our times, rather than carry on with outdates notions of women needing ‘protection’ says Saumya. Read on!
Men irrespective of their age have always been entrusted with the need to safeguard/protect women around them. Go back and think of all the times boys younger than the women in question have been asked to accompany them as guards. A scene in Queen depicts this almost perfectly. When Rani’s brother, clearly a bare teen, is asked to accompany his much older sister even to a coffee shop within Delhi, and it is even suggested that he should accompany her on her trip to Europe.
Why? This is damaging at two levels. One of course, we are constantly establishing women as the weaker gender, in desperate need of protection and guidance at all times. And the mantle of responsibility and often impunity is given to the men. Equally toxic is the nature of this responsibility, thrust almost instinctively on their fragile shoulders, even before they’ve grown up. A responsibility or weight they must carry all the way through. Almost as a compulsion each day, because that is how patriarchy defines their role.
There are many myths around the festival celebrated with aplomb. Why doesn’t it trouble people as much as karwachauth does? Rakshabandhan reduces women’s capability to consider themselves capable enough to take care of themselves. It also tends to celebrate extremely conventional definitions of masculinity in terms of strength, valour and courage. Should our traditions not alter with time? The advantage of the name of the festival is that it is gender neutral. Then why do we not alter its definition and make it more inclusive of all genders? Why can’t we have siblings tie each other Rakhi, that promises them both protection by each other?
I’d urge you to take a look at how Wikipedia defines the festival. A specifically jarring line ‘….. Hindu and Jain ritual is one principally between brothers and sisters, observed both before and after she gets married thereby marking her continued relationship with her natal home and brothers.’ This reeks of the age old belief ‘of ladki paraayi ghar ki amaanat hai’ because her ties must be forged and re-forged with the home she was born in and the parents who gave birth to her. Why? Why is that not as much her home despite being married? As much as the man’s who in her place would never need a festival to re-establish his relationships?
Protection is a recurring theme even in our politics of the day. Think of the number of times politicians have made statements like ‘Had she called him bhaiya they would’ve spared her’ or the anti romeo squads created on the pretext of ‘saving’ the woman. A constant reinforcement of the points that this article starts with.
Traditions must evolve, and be questioned every single time, despite the celebratory ritualistic stance they may have. What are they based on? What is the core ethos with which we act on them every single time? What is the language they use, and what then do they consistently reinforce? Fighting this battle is never easy. But in the din of patriarchal notions that surround us, it is more important than ever, to think, vocalize and rebuke them.
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Saumya Baijal, is a writer in both English and Hindi. Her stories, poems and articles
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