Sunday, 16 April 2017

Menstruation and Feminism - from a village.

In my village, the women choose not to go to the local temple when they have their periods. They are not apolegetic, or evasive, and directly say, they cannot come for this reason. When a child attains puberty, it is not hidden, and a small function is conducted, and all of us take sweets for the child over the eleven days, and she is fed well and feted.
Is this gender inequality ? or patriarchy ?
Senthil Kumar J Choose? Do they have an option?

Aparna Krishnan Well, when I light the lamp at home, i wash my feet before that. Do I have a choice ? Perhaps not. But when the choice is one's own, that question becomes irrelevent you see. Same here.
Aparna Krishnan Lets not create bogies where none exist - insisting on seeing thro' our cultureing. Yes, urban daughters may feel offended, and then that urban family certianly needs to negotiate it.
Kala Ramnath I think that the choice is influenced by patriarchy, no doubt about it.
Kala Ramnath That whole mantra about being unclean...
Senthil Kumar J gender inequality too.. why glorify a biological change?
Aparna Krishnan in isolation i agree. and i also used to question thus when i lived in a non-community as cities are. as part of a community i have decided to understand the community as it understands itself, and then address what the real concerns are, it is not my business to 'bring awareness' ... when my own urban community is where real awareness is needed. i have seen both worlds.
Aparna Krishnan Also patriarchy is not my demon. Mine is modernity and industrilisation and westernisation - which have laid waste my community. The others are smaller demons.
Senthil Kumar J as a community why celebrate a girl attaining puberty, is it just an announcement to the community that we have a girl ready for marriage? During the celebration, the girl is suddenly passed with lot of advice subtly and directly, which never happens to boys, rather they become more free and girls become more conscious. Subtle messages about how to dress, how to talk, how to behave and so many things.
Aparna Krishnan well, on one side we complain that its kept under wraps. on another side we complain that its made too public. ayyo - cannot cannot satisfy the city types !!
Senthil Kumar J I don't try to rate the demons, am just saying gender inequality and patriarchy = demon.
Aparna Krishnan  we'll discuss when you come to the village. there are very contextual, and there is a need to understand a community in depth. and see the inner strengths and weaknesses. there are actually not academic arguments at all.
Giridhar Ragavasimhan According to Vedas...the girl becomes a kanya from bala....she is given respect for her next stage... The girls brothers have to become More responsible...the girls maternal uncles give shares from the mothers family... There is village feeding done 11 days....the girl gets new clothes...the village priest, astrologer. Musicians get is a time of celebration....similarly even for boys there is function... When the boy starts having moustache... Hair they have a function called lungi or dhothi function conducted by maternal uncles
Shafi Patel It is a celebration of fertility. The women avoid temples because it has been dinned into their ears for centuries .They have no reason to hide a natural fact .
Senthil Kumar J Why brothers more responsible. Everybody should be responsible
Subha Bharadwaj I think it makes sense to instill a sense of responsibility in boys. The need to protect and respect women starts there.
Subha Bharadwaj It is so much as providing rest and relaxation such restrictions were imposed on women. She was not allowed to work in the home or go to crowded places like temples in olden days.
Ashok Choudhary This is respecting Nature and Culture !
Aparna Krishnan yes, no reason to abuse every practice that is indian. things have to be seen in context.
Aparna Krishnan and the culture of any community has to be respected. i see stupid protests saying that menstruation is hidden, and so girls walking in stained clothes in delhi. and when a function like this is celebrated openly it it said it is sexualisation. idiotic responses - both. Walking in stained clothes, or deriding a local festival regarding menstruation.
Vidyasankar Sundaresan It is not so much about traditional patriarchy as about the growing chasm that separates the traditional and the contemporary amongst us nowadays. It is when you take a traditional value (like a menstrual taboo) out of its native setting and put it in a completely alien context (like contemporary urban life, as Aparna aptly notes), that there is a big disconnect. Perhaps in both urban and country settings, boys *should* get a rite of passage too, and taught certain dos and don'ts, especially when they hit puberty. During times of major social change, men are able to change more rapidly, find new kinds of jobs, change the way they dress, the way they think or just go about their daily lives, sometimes willingly, sometimes under duress. Merely by virtue of the biology of childbirth and rearing, in any community, women always end up carrying a greater burden of conserving and transmitting culture and values. Criticizing some conceptual thing like patriarchy for every little thing is barking up the wrong tree, especially when what is criticized is a traditional patriarchy, and absolutely nothing is said about the patriarchy inherent in the modern industrialized, urbanized, corporatized world.
Aravinda Pillalamarri Is there anyone saying, "come to the temple regardless of your period?" If not then how is it their choice not to go? Can they exercise their choice on whether to go to the temple or not without deeming that their body is unfit?
Vidyasankar Sundaresan Aparna, it looks like some worldviews are fundamentally incomprehensible!
Aparna Krishnan Aravinda Pillalamarri, I was once where you are. In my teens it was my agenda to upset each and every such notion. Partly it was because I grew up in a city, which today is a non-community. Many years in a village, which engages deeply and responsibly with the community, helped me understand that there are norms in every valid community. As Vidyasankar Sundaresan says, there is as much patriarchy is modernity, which we fail to see. Tight jeans in a tropical country, is as much of a liablility as in the white cloth the muslim women in our neighbouring hamlet drape around themselves. Both are by choice.
Aparna Krishnan And as Suranya Aiyar says choice is also illusory. I am less interested in that notion in a sense as days go by, and more in what keeps individuals and a society integrated. Maybe it is the ancient Inidan notion of 'an individual for a village, a village for a country ...', and incidentally we have made those choices to some extent in our own lives also. My village peole also make it when Lakshmamma says that dharmam is to feed each hungry person, and God will see about our meal tomorrow. Though this may seem tangential, it is not - it is about a personal choice made in consonence with a larger societal choice.
Aparna Krishnan COming to trivialities, in a sense I do not have a choice about not lighting the evening lamp in a village, as all do. In another sense I have all the choice in the worlds, and my choice is to sync with the community. To demand to not light the lamp, or to step into the temple during periods is rather adolescent imo.
Aparna Krishnan Vidyasankar Sundaresan, it is not about worldviews being incomprehensible. It is that one needs to make that effort to also see through the other community's lenses. I wonder why it is fashionable to celebrate the ghotul which is as alien to us, but to deride this temple practice which is also equally alien to the moden mind.
Aparna Krishnan Rajiv ji, there is such a clash between the traditional indian mores and the educated indian mores. Totally different worlds are inhabited. Sometimes talking from a village position to an educated Indian, is like talking to an European. The language is actually that.
Piyush Manush for u aparna amma ..communiity and the hive structure of a village has become a excuse to protect all rituals imposed by the priestly class ///... the most reverend village god is Muniappan in our part of this earth and originally muniappan was respresented by a small stone ... signifying the purpose of everything living and non living and the need to protect everything around us .. This value of protection was nutured highly and regarded as a absolute way of seekign higher spiritual path ... the priestly class conveniently brought images to coapt the value and kick started idol worship which is actually alien to the village folks ( which u are pushing down their throats) and started the bribe culture where a value to be nutured became reduntant and pursuit of justice became an object to be outsourced by engaging in bribing the idol with anything that is available with the villagers ...material offering's is a convenient loot tool for the priestly class .....i hope the best for u / so please do not fault me if i would like to break a temple or any other structure and replace it with a small stone or any other design that cannot be upsurped in the future ..
Naveen Manikandan Periasamy "Your kind of worship can be usurped and my kind of worship cannot be" - this kind of thinking is nonsensical, presumptuous, self-indulgent and can only come from a exaggerated sense of self-righteousness. Idol worship is embedded in the Dharmic belief system with certain rules of propitiating to the Devatha representing the idol. Ofcourse the system is not practiced in the way it is intended, but to claim say that "my" system is better than the one that is accepted and practiced in a society for tens of thousands of years is quite ego-laden. It only takes a few devious materialistic minds to twist any religion and corrupt the very root of it's ethics which is supposed to insulate it from perversion. The same goes for Nature Worship, laudable it may be!
Suranya Aiyar Aparna Krishnan Not just wearing tight jeans in our hot and humid climes...but going back to Deepika Padukone. Women in her profession are at the extreme end of so-called "patriarchal" notions about women's bodies. I know that actresses have to literally starve themselves to meet the figure requirements of the film industry. One actress told me "we have to be thin because the designers say that otherwise it is very diffuclt to find clothes for the actress. On a thin women anything the designer makes looks good." Talk about reducing yourself to a clothes hanger! Not to mention the plastic surgery. And, more seriously, the kind of sexual exploitation by powerful men of all women (and to a lessor extent of vulnerable young men) in that profession- its there in all these other glamourised walks of modern life too - but its at its worst in the film industry. Its a joke. I find it amazing how urban, modern women are still parroting about choice and the patriarchy of the village when evidence of the personal, moral and spiritual devastation of their great modern choices is all around them. The amount of energy me and my girlfriends spent recovering from the serial dumpings of "free" love (considering that we were free to love anyone, it is extraordinary what stupid men we mostly "chose" - and those men weren't inherently awful, they were just products of the modern values that we so revered) could electrify all the villages of India. In my experience having choice, the choice to choose your spouse, and concomitantly society's exit from the enterprise of assisting members of the community find a life partner, has made men more important than ever before to women. And in the end, those who did find a life partner made the choice in exactly the same spirit as any women entering a marriage arranged in India - to settle down, start a family and get on with life, hoping that love will follow and then much fuss for nothing.
Aparna Krishnan completely agree. 

Aparna Krishnan the educated indian lives in western concepts and notions and paradigms. he is welcome to - but my grudge is that he holds the reins of power to direct the country's future.
Aparna Krishnan i wish the e.i. had the humility to realise his utter alienation from the indian, and begin at the very beginning and understand his country. that is sadly unlikely, because education also bestows a deep sense of 'i know better' ! Suranya Aiyar
Mahima Thangappan I have had no problem to stay away from regular chores when I am leaking a body fluid out, and jus sleep all day. Certain people really want to ponder over this issue, when women dont have an issue !!!
Aparna Krishnan exactly Mahima. my village women dont want to go to the temple then. . i also, after so many years there have internalised not going to the temple then in respect to a community i respect deeply. (tho' as a teenagers i demanded to know why i should not, just as i stopped my bindi, and made many other equally futile gestures, which were just due to hormones i think !). why try to convince them and me that we are subjugated to patriarchy. seeing the way i can scream at home, i do not think i am very much 'subjugated' !
Vidyasankar Sundaresan As most of this discussion involves women and their lives in India, let me offer some food for thought from the other side of the world. "Feminism doesn’t really have a philosophy. It’s barely even an ideology. It’s mostly just a series of temper tantrums thrown by a small, privileged minority. And, unless it changes, it will soon be irrelevant." This was the opinion expressed by a writer here in the US, a few months ago. One doesn't have to agree with most of what this opinion piece says, but one can still see the levels of ridiculousness that are being reached nowadays in the name of feminism. 

While one can say much about the need for empowering women all over the world, we should be careful about internalizing concepts arising from temper tantrums thrown by upper class women from the so-called first world. Life, and the world, are complicated enough as they are, especially for the women that Aparna writes about. We educated, urban people from India, whether living in India or elsewhere, don't need to make it more so for them!

Read more at:

Aparna Krishnan you (and i) will be called retrograde and worse Vidyasankar Sundaresan !! but that has been my own gut feeling, though i cannot pretend to have read up deeply on westerm feminism. My own learnings from the village have contrasted strongly from the positions i see there - and so i could not buy it.
Aparna Krishnan my touchstone for the relevence of any philosophy for our country is my village - as it is in a sense representative of our country. and in my understanding gandhi's writings come closest to it, in understanding their life and thinking, and looking at it with respect rather than with the aim of 'redeeming them from their ignorences and from themselves' !
Aparna Krishnan Vidyasankar Sundaresan, you talk of ridiculousness there, Today I saw some posting here that college women in Delhi were going to challenge the menstrual trapping by going for a walk with blood stained clothes. Inanity, indecency - and simply as a woman I object strongly. There is a decorum and a code of any community that is observed in a civilised manner, and also challenged in civilised ways. This is not my country's ways,
Subha Bharadwaj Morality and code of conduct is forgotten to prove a point!

No comments:

Post a Comment