What makes an Indian Woman a Real Woman

What makes an Indian woman a woman? That is, what makes her a proper woman? What makes her womanly, and not a “slut”? Doing what makes her not “invite people to rape/sexually harass her”?

Is it keeping her eyes down when talking to men? Is it thinking her body and her essence to be something shameful? Is it being dependent on her husband for her financial security? Is it sacrificing her health to produce a “waaris” to carry on her husband’s lineage? Is it not eating until the men have eaten? Is it coming home before 10pm so that men are not “provoked” to rape her? Or is not going out of her house at all the ideal?

Here are ten of the most basic things which make an Indian Woman a Proper Woman -:

#1 Wearing a saree

#2 Being a Pavitra Nari

#3 Serving her Pati Parameshwar without any complaint

#4 If she doesn’t have a PP, going on “vrat(s)” to ensure she has one

#5 Working like a slave for the men (and her in-laws) while they rest

#6 Not losing her virginity until that First Night

#7 Being scandalized when anybody talks about smoking, drinking and/or sex

#8 Thinking sex is something men do to women and therefore, suppressing her sex drive by doing “pooja(s)” all the time

#9 Cooking the favorite dishes of the men atleast once in a week

#10 Not speaking out against anything a man says. Anything.

Here are two Never Ever bonus points -:

#11 Never ever reporting a case of rape or sexual harassment to ANYBODY because all her honor will be lost and she will be called “dirty”

#12 Never ever acknowledging it when somebody molests her on the street or the bus (or anywhere) because it is a matter of great shame and she will be thought of as a Loose Woman because, obviously, she must have invited it herself and provoked the poor man.

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Here are the meanings -:

Waaris – Male Heir

Pavitra Nari – Chaste Woman; Pure Woman

Pati Parameshwar – Husband the Prime God (rough translation)

Vrat – Fast

Pooja – A Ceremony to Invoke the Blessings of a God (or Gods)

***

PS This list is about a Hindu Indian Woman. I thought I might start with Hindus since they constitute a majority BUT some of the reasons might be applicable to all sections of Indian Women by making minor changes, for eg – replacing words like “Pavitra Nari” with some other equivalent of a community, or replacing saree with burqa or hijab, and sometimes not making any changes at all, like #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12. The words used in #3 and #4 also have equivalents in most Indian communities, that is, women are expected to serve their husbands without any complaint and pray they get one when they are single.

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I tweet @Archsmta

15 thoughts on “What makes an Indian Woman a Real Woman

  1. Where do I start from? Well, for starters, you’ve taken the worst possible case and blown it out of proportion. And though I agree with some of your points put forward in this what I guess is a ‘list’, some of them are not even considerable! I’l help you out realise where to really draw a line from being an aware feminist to an obsessive-compulsive-feminist-who-snaps-at-any-possible-story. If you’re being a feminist, at least get your facts right!

    #1 Wearing a saree

    Correction:

    With all due respect, where is the fault in this? I mean, well, what I’ve known is that women crave for sarees! And I can assure you that, women wear saree by choice and not by compulsion! It is a tradition, what exactly do you want them to do with a saree, now ? Its like saying you force them to keep LONG HAIR! It is so ridiculous I don’t even feel like commenting more on this point. -.-

    Source: You should really see them at a saree-stock-clearance sale!

    #2 Being a Pavitra Nari
    #3 Serving her Pati Parameshwar without any complaint
    #4 If she doesn’t have a PP, going on “vrat(s)” to ensure she has one
    #5 Working like a slave for the men (and her in-laws) while they rest

    What? Really? What? Wait. What? Sigh, here it goes, I heard someone once say this to a man, ‘If he is not Ram, why are you searching for Sita?’

    Accepted that women and men are equal, why do you think they can’t stand up on their own and for their own? If a woman is aware and really wants a change, I believe SHE has the power to do it and make a man realize where he is wrong. She can’t be pulled back if she decides against it! All it takes is some trying.

    I think, you’ve written this blog with a pre-requisite that women are incapable of doing anything and are always suppressed.

    This is err, *thinks how to say this without being rude* , BULL$HIT. *perfect*

    Sorry, but I see no reason why a woman of today can be held back without her will, unless, she decides to resigns at her FATE and not do anything about it.

    Source: Common Sense.

    #6 Not losing her virginity until that First Night
    #7 Being scandalized when anybody talks about smoking, drinking and/or sex
    #8 Thinking sex is something men do to women and therefore, suppressing her sex drive by doing “pooja(s)” all the time

    Really?

    http://winnersdelhinews.com/2011/08/premarital-sex-found-to-be-more-common-in-rural-india/
    http://www.indianexpress.com/news/village-youth-have-more-premarital-sex-tha/582136/

    I am NOT telling you what to do, but what I think you should do is rather than blaming a particular sect of the society, you should concentrate more on spreading awareness and writing about HOW women should stand up if they are forced to follow any of the points in your list.

    This could rather be a forum for re-assuring women, that power lies inside them and revolting is not something restricted to men.

    Source: Awareness

    #9 Cooking the favorite dishes of the men atleast once in a week

    What’s next? You’l have problem against chefs at the restaurants? This is all “moh-maaya”, you know.

    To be honest, if you really wanna talk about the women in India, majority of them are not even bothered by this. Face the reality. They have only one set of saree to wear. They have nothing else to cover their bodies. And you talk about Vrats? They are not forced, but out of ‘majboori’, yes, they have to. Rarely do they even get two square-meals a day. Cooking a favorite dish? Their favorite dish is FOOD. Plain Simple Edible FOOD.

    You write about feminism, I appreciate that very much and like the way you write, but please enlighten me as to whom do you address with this blog of yours?

    You have written about women who just can’t stand up for their rights and are constantly suppressed. You have written about the women who are unaware and just live with the way they are made to. You have written about weak women. Now, the problem. That category of women do not exist.

  2. Please read the tags before commenting bullshit on my post. Some of the tags are – humor, sarcasm, stereotypes, feminism.
    I started this when I saw some saas-bahu shows which potray such women and got inspired when a couple of acquaintances were talking about stereotypes. However, before reading more you should acknowledge that you were born in a position of social privilege (man), social conditioning is insidious and often women internalize misogyny (we see so many females taking part in victim-blaming and slut-shaming)
    #1 many married women are forced to wear sarees by their in-laws for the first few weeks, atleast. Even if she doesn’t wanna, she feels guilty if she doesn’t because it is “tradition”. Why do men not wear dhotis or such for the same duration? They are not made to feel guilty if they don’t
    #2 being a “pavitra nari” – you are seriously arguing against this? But then, being a man you can’t really understand this (its called privilege) – people who access the net constitute about 5% of India’s population. Even then, all of them can’t say its not there BECAUSE most women are forced to conform to dress codes, minimize talking to men and everything. I guess you heard of killing rape victims and have you heard of the man who killed his daughter? Beheaded her because of her dalliances with men? And this is just one case – many go unreported
    #3 #5 please go to indianhomemaker.wordpress.com and read the lived experiences of women (no, they are not rare – but only a few stories find a public forum) and then you can continue with your half-assed rant.
    #4 in many homes, they do it. I have seen many myself. Many still consider unmarried women a burden and yes, women’s experiences trump privileged conjenctures
    And RAM AND SITA – really?????????? That story where the husband does not trust her wife enough to face his kingdom without her agnipaiksha?????? cough *pavitra nari* cough and then sends her to a forest when she is pregnant because of a dhobi??????? I’m sorry, but the rams of this world are losers in marital relationships and women are still brought uo to be sitas.
    Next, remember social conditioning? Internalized misogyny? No social support for a woman if she stands up for herself, lame judicial process, etc etc. Many women trapped in abusive relationships are emotionally manipulated too. When such factors are against a human, you cannot expect them to get rid of such conditioning since their birth just like that – strong women are made weak with these factors.
    #6 #7 #8 as I said , I got inspired from soaps – but no serials and such are not “just a serial”. They reflect the condition of our society and culture. Would they even think about such characters if these behaviors were not widespread and expected among the middle class? The lived experiences of thousands of women will contradict you. That is why they are so popular – they relate so much to the expectations placed on a woman.
    Am I blaming? Not really. I was laughing at the sheer absurdity of the rules for women. I find it funny. Ina sad way. Because it is true for MOST.
    #9 again, the experiences of middle class women will contradict you – why do you think there are so many house-wives but not house-husbands? Society conditions us to think that these are the duties of a woman, so she must do those + her job, if she has one. Women are not superhumans, so when they can’t cope they leave the job. Even if she earns more than her husband. True. Socialization is powerful.

    I address nobody. I do it for my pleasure and if people find it interesting or inspiring or funny or love it, fine. If people hate it or ignore it or can’t even understand the essence of a post, it is a matter of indifference to me, I do not write to please. I write to make people question concepts they hold for granted and make people realize their privilege.
    Yes, there are many many poor women in India but I cannot presume to speak for them because I realize I have privilege and do not know what they go through – only they can tell me how patriarchy affects them and how poverty and patriarchy intertwine and my conjectures cannot take their place.
    Anyway, this blog will reach only middle and upper classes so it is them I target and it is them the serials target and this list was supposed to question the beliefs they might hold which these soaps reinforce (the issue of virginity for eg – patriarchy tries to control a woman’s sexuality by these rules. Many women internalize this. That is why a sexually liberated woman is called a slut and that is why a villager in Rajasthan beheaded his own daughter)

    Yes, I have written about women who can’t stand up for themselves and are constantly suppressed. I have written about women who are unaware and just live the way they are made to. I have written about normal women weakened by systemic oppression and suppression and who internalize such horrid beliefs so much that they don’t even know its wrong – its the way it is supposed to be, they think.

    The reason? That category of women exists.

    *

    But you being born in a position of privilege do not even know it.
    PS look up “mansplaining” in google. That is a start. Or just check out this link – http://www.lawsonry.com/2011/891.html

    PPS the reply button to your comment wasn’t working so I commented in this manner.

  3. You have mistaken me for being someone who just hates the freedom of women. No. I agree with you and even more with the cause. All I have and wanted to say is that women, who are being discriminated against (the majority, I’d say) have somehow resigned themselves to this patriarchal system. They have lost their ability to think that there MIGHT be a better life for them provided they fight for it. Most of them are content. And by content, I by no means mean HAPPILY content, its more of ignorance. They don’t know that they can protest and live a better life. They don’t know that all that is happening to them, can actually be stopped. The Reason? They think that their life is set at ‘by default’ and they can nothing about it. This is where they need to be enlightened that THEY HAVE A CHOICE.

    I wanted to tell you that, instead of putting the blame on someone, if we work towards spreading awareness, their lives may be better and there would hence be the need to blame someone would be moot.

    • We agree on all things, then. And as I already said, I’m not blaming ANYBODY, I wanted people who come to my blog to question some beliefs they might have with sarcasm, therefore the hyperboles of “Pati Parmeshwar” and such. Although, for a section it is not really a hyperbole, and that is very sad, indeed.
      Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

    • Okay, just curious here, why should you be so jittery about putting blame where it is due? What’s so wrong about blaming people/circumstances/social systems which deserve that blame?

      Who are you kidding?

      You can’t spread awareness by being in denial. You can’t improve lives without pointing out exactly why they need to be improved, and a prerequisite for that is to acknowledge that there are problems here, acknowledge that there are issues here, acknowledge that there are a million factors which are to blame for a screwed up cultural reality, acknowledge that certain things must change if we are to provide equal opportunities and freedoms to millions of people who don’t have them today.

      Blame is important, because blame stings.That’s how things move in the real world. You must know your villain before you begin to fight it.

      • He accused me once of blaming “a particular sect of society” by which I thought he meant the women in these circumstances or some such. So, that is what I was talking about.
        Do I blame the patriarchy? Misogynists?
        Absolutely.

  4. Really? I don’t think we have a clear villain here to even blame! Who can you really blame?

    The Society? For living with it.
    The Husband? For blindly following society.
    The Wife? For silently being a victim.

    The list is endless, hence saying that we need to fight a villain is vague and completely absurd! Perhaps, in this case, it is futile since it is more like a cycle.

    That’s what I meant by stop blaming and start acting.

    • I blame the social system of patriarchy. I blame misogynists who don’t let women live a happy and free life. I blame us, our generation, for not fighting out more. I blame the social conditioning which devalues the worth of women.
      I blame the husbands – for not speaking out against his family when they manipulate his wife. Why? Because we cannot deny that in a patrilocal system (our society is patriarchal, patrilineal and patrilocal) a husband has more power to improve the life of his wife without a divorce or a separation. If he does not stand behind and respect his wife, abuses her – directly or indirectly by not speaking out – then without a doubt – he is to blame.
      Sent on my BlackBerry® from Vodafone

    • That’s a fallacious argument.

      ‘Stop blaming and start acting’ is little more than a politically correct cliche. ‘Act’ means nothing unless you know exactly what you’re acting against. If I act against crime, I know my fight should be focused on fighting the mentality behind criminal acts. To do that, there are concepts like deterrence, rehabilitative justice yadda yadda yadda. Fighting oppression isn’t all that different. Just because you can’t see the villain doesn’t mean that the villain doesn’t exist.

  5. i understand your point very well. you’ve used sarcasm as an aid to bring out the prevailing ills in the society. and i also agree with what you’ve said. an “Indian” woman should remain restricted to her home and kitchen to be called an aadarsh bahu. this mentality has to go and every woman has the right to do what she wants to do.
    but i hope you do not see it this way that all women who were sarees or do vrats are submissive and servile. because, i, as a woman loves to wear sarees and am not forced by anyone to do anything. cooking favorite dishes can be done out of love and not necessarily subservience.
    today, we have all become divided on 2 opinions- the not-so-educated people think that women are animals and have restrictions. this is the part that lives in misogyny. and then there is the highly well-educated sector where people,again are no less narrow-minded because, they on the other hand, consider that all housewives are to be looked down upon as they are submissive and incapable of making their own living. if a woman is making favorite dishes for the husband, is he not going out bringing things that make her capable of making his favorite dish!. i know you mean well and your observations are all valid. i am just adding another point and urging people to think in a broader way. a housewife, a homemaker makes life worth living and has an equally important role to play. neither should she be looked down upon and thought to be low class because she is financially weak, nor should she be forced to remain just a homemaker. it is the woman’s right to do what she wants to do. 🙂 peace out.:)

    • No, I do not judge people (man or woman or any other gender) for choosing to be a homemaker. It is a person’s right to do what zhe wants to, as long as it is not harming anyone (otherwise it would be a crime, yes?). I thought this didn’t need to be stated (I felt it was obvious). And, plenty of “educated” people think “that women are animals and have restrictions”. I do not think we can neatly divide opinions and classes, since everything is not black or white. And I love to wear sarees too. My post was about a society which forces women to conform into roles.

  6. and oh yes! all ‘saas bahu’ serials are not about promoting misogyny, as everyone thinks them to be. they portray a central woman figure as the protagonist, and if you go through them or watch them carefully, its about breaking societal norms and certain misogynistic beliefs. they are portrayed in that manner so that the majority of India, the homemakers can connect with them and relate to them. in the end, the story is about breaking from prejudices and establishing woman power. there are 2 sides of a coin. everything depends on how you take it. it’s always the perception, you know. the crimes commited today-honour killing as they call it or dowry or whatever..should not blame the serials. the so called ‘saas bahu’ serials reflect the society that we live in and try to bring out the message that every homemaker is great in herself, she should not be looked down upon, nor should she be restricted to just being that-a homemaker. the woman does get her freedom and lives happily ever after,just the way she wants. it all depends on the way you look at it. 🙂

    • I must disagree on that. Just because a woman is the main character does not make something feminist. It is the attitudes, behaviours, etc which make a particular soap opera non-sexist.
      “in the end, the story is about breaking from prejudices and establishing woman power.” Um, no. Most are about reinforcing prejudices and bigoted attitudes (ideal bahus, villains are mostly the ones wearing “modern” clothes, if a woman is hit, she must “deserve” it, etc). And nobody is blaming serials for dowry deaths, but they do reflect the general culture we live in.

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