It seems that oversensitivity is the norm now, with people ready and waiting to get fired up over the most inconsequential things ever.
And the media is certainly using those bits to their advantage, with The Print quickly rising in this area.
Recently they were under-fire for essentially writing fake news, when their article seemed to insinuate that Netflix had agreed to censorship, but the actual news was very different. (We covered that bit in this piece here.)
And now, this piece popped up on my Facebook feed, about how Priyanka Chopra is being a hypocritical feminist who is, on one hand, promoting a female-oriented app Bumble and on the other hand is wearing sindoor and chooda.
‘Weird article’ is a good summation of the piece, which although not entirely wrong, but is being very contradicting to the very essence of feminism.
While reading it, I literally rubbed my head to stave off a coming headache, with all the bitter vitriol the author was spewing.
But there’s just something very unsettling about watching Priyanka Chopra talk about choice, agency and rights for Indian women, while wearing thick red sindoor (vermillion) and choodas (sacred Hindu bangles).
First of all, I am unable to understand the connection between a woman talking about these very important issues of a woman’s choice and agency and what she is wearing?
So you can only talk about feminist issues in selected clothes and accessories?
Hmm… where have I heard and experienced that before? Patriarchy anyone?
And who else but Piggy Chops, the cosmopolitan, Hollywood-transitioned, go-getter icon, to better understand the Indian woman’s hard fight against archaic norms.
Yes, I will agree that Indian women have fought long and hard against the plethora of patriarchal societal rules and are still fighting, to get just a little bit of equality.
But in all honesty, it is also not right for feminists to look down upon women who ‘choose’ to go the traditional root and say that all the work they have done till now doesn’t matter.
All because they took up some cultural and religious traditions that could probably be something close to them and means something to them.
Some scholars point out that according to the ancient (and much problematic) Hindu text Manu Smriti, the husband applies the vermillion mark onto the woman’s head to signify the wedlock, not only as a cheesy gesture of love but a marking of territory. The woman is a property, which needs to be protected by the man.
Okay, I will not disagree that there are some problematic connotations associated with sindoor and that it is not always used in the right way. But it seems you are entirely dismissing the other mythological meanings of sindoor and even some physiological ones.
Red colour is supposed to stand for power while the vermilion is a symbol of female energy. If you want to get into Hindu culture, the forehead houses the Mesha Rashi or House of Aries, and red is the colour of Mars where Lord Mesha resides.
It is also a sign of good fortune (saubhagya) and considered to be auspicious for the bride. In Hindu mythology, after watching Sita apply sindoor for her husband, even Hanuman painted his whole body in sindoor, as a way to show his affection for Lord Rama and to wish for his long life.
This is something that is till date followed, with many temples coating Hanuman sculptures, in sindoor when doing their pooja. Sindoor is also offered to Lord Ganesh.
Besides that, sindoor is made from turmeric-lime and metal mercury, where mercury helps control blood pressure, stress, and keeps the brain active and alert. It also helps to increase sexual drive.
Now, I am not denying that women are still forced and expected by society to take up these symbols as a way to show that they are married, and thus should be approached appropriately. And women who don’t wear them are considered to doing something unholy by the larger society.
But we cannot deny that times are changing, very slightly and slowly, but they are. And some of the metro areas are becoming more used to women not taking up marital symbols like sindoor and chooda.
In fact, it is actually a surprise for me when women do end up wearing them, since even normal ladies in my colony and mothers and female relatives of my friends don’t do so.
And so, the concept of a woman actually choosing to apply sindoor, or wear a chooda as a choice and not as a burden is coming around.
We still have a long way to get there, but once again, that does not make it okay to shame a woman because she is wearing sindoor just like it’s not right to shame one for not wearing them.
The society makes us biased in our own judgments by shoving ‘sanskar’ down our throats. It takes a lifetime to unlearn our biases and the irrational customs we are told to follow.
Again, I agree with the last line, there is a lot of conditioning that happens in society and the author is totally right in saying that it does take a lifetime to unlearn them.
But at the same time, at least for the modern women who are well aware of their environment, I don’t think we need some popular female celebrity to validate us and our opinions.
we even walk into sacred spaces when we’re menstruating as an act of rebellion
To be honest, this line is quite problematic and entirely screws up the women fighting for their right to enter the Sabarimala temple.
Rebellion? You want to enter a sacred space for a rebellion? Just to show, ‘hey men and the world, we can do whatever we want without any consequences.’
The Sabarimala issue is not a rebellion ma’am, it is a fight for a very basic right for women to worship where they want. It is something deeply related to one’s faith and religion, and for you to wash it all away by saying that we use ‘menstruation’ as a weapon is just not right.
We compromise on the ‘awakening’ by conforming to the same ideologies that suffocate us, and label it as ‘choice’. That’s worse than being naïve, that’s denial. The same privilege of ‘choice’ that Priyanka has for adorning the sindoor or the chooda is actually a compulsion for many brides in India who don’t get to say no. They don’t get the ‘choice’ to say no to sindoor, sex, pregnancy and domestic violence.
What? So what do you want Priyanka to do here? Control her every action to make a statement?
Not wear sindoor, to make a statement of how she is a powerful woman who is above that.
Not wear saree, to show she is a modern woman who is not bound to olden fashion styles.
Compulsorily wear a short skirt to make a statement of how girls can wear one.
It is really disturbing to see that the woman has absolutely no agency or choice to do something in her private life. Instead, everything has to be a statement for the upliftment of other women.
It’s funny and interesting, how in a bid to advocate for women empowerment, these very so-called feminists or social opinionators, are binding women to a certain standard where if they diverge from it, they are immediately ostracized.
The very people who are fighting for women empowerment are taking away even the basic choice of how a woman wants to take some very personal and intimate decisions in her life.
Because the choice of whether or not to wear sindoor and chooda are intimate and personal, based on someone’s faith and willingness.
I feel like there is a growing dislike with anything traditional that a woman does, and according to me, it goes completely against feminism.
Feminism, first of all, is about equality between men and women, and more than anything it is about women having a choice, something they were robbed off by patriarchal society.
Now, a group of feminists, do not get to decide what that choice is going to be. A woman can choose what she wants to do, whether that is to remain unmarried at 40 and be a career woman or be a housewife raising 3 children or doing it all. It doesn’t matter what, if that is what a woman’s choice is.
Also, The Print is taking full advantage of this, with a title that is extremely clickbaity and purely for views.
A lot of readers did call out the publication for this strange and offensive article:
But I guess, the main point here is that people shouldn’t try to interpret or find meaning in every little thing.
It is quite concerning to see how everyone is becoming so hypercritical and sensitive towards everything and anything.
I mean if you start to see all things around us as some sort of prejudice or acts that are being used to oppress, then there will be nothing left in this world.
Image Credits: Google Images
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