Rewriting The Cultural Manual

3 min read

“ All the world’s a stage, 

And all the men and women merely players”

– Shakespeare

For centuries specific roles have been assigned to each gender. We blindly enact the pre-designed script of life and follow pre-conceived notions of what is acceptable and possible for each character.

I say it’s high time for these roles to be dissolved. Let’s rewrite the script and initiate new dialogues. This scene is ending, the curtains are closing and it’s time for the story to change.

In the 21st century, we have defined feminism, stood up to injustice, inequality and all

forms of discrimination and have fueled mass gender equality movements. Although many of us claim to encourage gender equality, we still follow certain social norms and gender roles. Subconsciously, we propagate gender inequality through our cultural festivals. We continue to live in patriarchal societies, where most ideas, practices and traditions are based on the domination of one gender. Although we need massive behaviour change from men, we must acknowledge that women, too, are patriarchy carriers. 

The most common refrain to searching questions on patriarchy is this – “That’s just the way it is, it’s our culture and tradition.”

It’s an easy way to hide the existence of blind faith. While science and technology are accelerating changes in the way we work and live, in contrast it feels as though our cultural norms haven’t evolved at all. If we do believe in gender equality, then let’s create a systematic shift and convert Karva Chauth to a norm-free celebration of love, companionship and good health by couples across all genders. On festivals such as Rakshabandhan, Bhai Dhoj and Bhai Tika, let’s tie a Rakhi to our sisters as well, to signify that they are warriors and protectors in their own unique ways. Let’s ensure that the LGBTQ+ community isn’t excluded from festivals and celebrations of love because of our cultural norms.

Supporting larger concepts of women’s rights such as equal pay and anti-discriminatory laws is meaningless if we don’t implement gender equality in our daily lives. Even if women head households or companies, they often continue to uphold and practice gender assigned roles. Therefore, influential women and women in decision-making positions (in the workplace or at home) should instigate cultural reforms. Otherwise, we will form a face-value matriarchal society which in turn promotes patriarchy!

Even so, there are many pre-existing societies and festivals that can inspire us. In the Khasi and Garo tribes in Meghalaya, the youngest daughter acquires property and after marriage, the husband moves to the wife’s home. If a daughter isn’t born into the family, they adopt a girl child. Another example is the festival Raja Parba in Odisha which celebrates womanhood and the menstrual cycle of Mother Earth, breaking the taboo regarding menstruation.

In my family, we tie a Rakhi for love, peace and harmony and for having each other’s back. Brothers and sisters both tie Rakhis on each other’s wrists as a sign of our faith and belief in equality and respect for all. This gives me hope that we can reframe and align our culture with 21st century values.

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