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Why I Think Temple Bans On Women Are Absolutely Fine

04/02/2016 8:16 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Woman holding candle inside Hindu Sri Srirangam Temple in Trichy (Tiruchirapalli) in Tamil Nadu,South India,Asia,Unesco Heritage

The last few years I have come across an evolving brand of feminism -- women who are so proud to be feminist that they flaunt it like their newly acquired Birkin. Mostly hashtag feminists, they'll mount the high horse of morality and slay anyone who disagrees with them. At the other end of the spectrum are women who say "feminist" like it's a dirty word and will tell anyone who's willing to listen " I am not a feminist, yaa. Please, please, don't stop loving me!" Then they'll post yet another cleavage shot to prove their point.

Little wonder I feel like a borderline feminist. I don't relate to either extreme.

If women can have reservations in trains, buses, queues, Parliament and be exempted from the odd-even scheme, why can't men be extended some privileges too?

I felt acutely embarrassed when I didn't get why some feminists were outraging about the Karva Chauth fast being kept by women to ensure their husband's longevity. Had the outrage been against the blatant commercialisation of Karva Chauth, I would have happily joined in. I mean this is the time when salons, jewellery and sari stores do roaring business and women strut their stuff in embellishments bright enough to light up Times Square. But calling it a patriarchal conspiracy to keep women hungry and at the mercy of their husbands is a little too much to digest. If she can starve for an upcoming wedding, or to fit into her new skinnies, why not for a man and also to get to make him feel guilty as hell?

If we expect men to respect the life choices we make, why can't we respect another woman's choice to starve for her husband's long life? Remember, all good men are either married or gay and one of them happens to be your spouse.

What baffles me the most is that while we are calling Karva Chauth a regressive, meaningless ritual, we are also spearheading a movement that demands women be allowed inside temples like Shani Shingnapur and Sabarimala, traditionally meant for only male devotees. At a time when organised religion is increasingly becoming the cause for all strife and is more divisive than spiritual, this new found religiosity puzzles me no end.

I feel the barring of women from certain religious shrines on the basis of flimsy and not-so-flimsy excuses is the ultimate tribute to the power we wield over men.

Let's think of these 'reserved for men only shrines' as the women's only coach in the Delhi Metro. Now imagine a bunch of aggressive men demanding equal rights as women and to be let in! Surely we'll turn into female incarnates of Lord Shani (of Shani Shingnapur fame) and send such strong vibrations their way, these men will start wishing they were never born. And why not? The Metro coach is our sanctum sanctorum, where we can squat on the floor, do our makeup from scratch, doze on our neighbour's shoulder without the fear of body odour. Why, I've even got a lap dance from "thoda adjust kar lo" enthusiasts!

I am sure male devotees share similar sentiments while resisting female presence in shrines like Shani Shingnapur. A place where they can pray to their God without females who deliberately dress tantalisingly to distract them from their spiritual quest. It's their women's only coach in the Mumbai local where they can unwind and gossip while they shell peas for the evening meal. A refuge where they can truly be themselves without the fear of getting nagged and taunted for misdeeds they have no recollection of.

If women can have reservations in trains, buses, queues, Parliament and be exempted from the odd-even scheme, why can't men be extended some privileges too? So what if it is in a measly number of temples.

But no, we women refuse to leave them in peace! We have to go where every man has gone and prove to them we can do it better, even when it comes to fasting and praying.

Rather than storming into temples that uphold the customary exclusion of women, we should revel in the power we hold over men's senses.

I have always prided myself as a woman first and a feminist later. Which is why I have never wanted to be equal to a man. It's because I've always felt this fight for 'equality' is based on the assumption that men are superior. Sorry, but I don't agree. If men enjoy certain privileges, so do women. We've both had to fight our own set of battles to get to where we want to.

So, when a woman wants to be able to do everything a man does, she's not fighting for equality. Rather, she's inadvertently placing him on a pedestal and aiming to reach that pinnacle. Tell me, how many men aspire to be as loving, caring, emotionally invested as us?

I feel the barring of women from certain religious shrines on the basis of flimsy and not-so-flimsy excuses is the ultimate tribute to the power we wield over men. We've been told for centuries that it's women who come between a man and his greatness. Buddha had to leave his wife to start a new religion. The naughty Indra never tired of breaking tapasya of sages by sending apsaras to seduce them. Just our mere presence is so distracting that we have to be kept off religious premises at all costs to let our men focus on all things godly.

When women were finally allowed inside monastic orders in India, they were forced to follow more rules than men. They had not only to control their own desires, they also had to ensure they did not 'tempt' men. In temples that house women-shunning deities such as Shani and Ayyappan, celibacy is seen as the hallmark of religiosity and purity.

Let's not grudge [men] the few remaining bastions of male only sanctuaries where they can heal themselves from the constant onslaught from feminists.

If you look at the number of female deities, they easily outnumber their male counterparts. One gentleman from Bihar recently demonstrated how much we care for our Maatas by filing a petition against Lord Rama for the "cruelty showed" towards his wife, Sita.

We still think that we have to fight for equality?

Rather than storming into temples that uphold the customary exclusion of women, we should revel in the power we hold over men's senses. Let's not grudge them the few remaining bastions of male only sanctuaries where they can heal themselves from the constant onslaught from feminists.

Don't we all need an oasis where we can burp, yawn, scratch our unmentionables away from the judging eyes of the opposite sex?

And women please, can we get rid of this militant stance against men? By doing so, we are only proving them right when they try to brand feminists as an unhappy, vitriolic, power hungry, man-hating fiends. Also, not all traditional rituals are regressive, meant to hold back women. In fact, our forefathers were a lot cooler than us and made sure there was a scientific rationale behind most age-old rituals. Let's try and understand them first before agitating about stuff we have little or no knowledge of.

It's overzealousness that kills a well-intentioned movement like feminism and gives rise to many more women who'd rather hug a lizard than call themselves a feminist.

ALSO READ: Sabarimala And The Dark Absurdities Of Religion

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