Karwa Chauth just went by. It’s the festival that some married Hindu women observe where they fast from sunrise to moonrise for the long life and wellbeing of their husbands. I’ve paid attention to the conversation that takes place every year with many women calling it backward and outdated and unnecessary. More than anything, I’ve noticed what a strong reaction the festival often elicits — the vehement opposition, the outrage, the disbelief at how this practice still exists.
And I get it.
Women are asking why they should stay hungry and thirsty and how that makes any difference to whether their partner is safe and healthy. Some couples fast together Many couples don’t do anything. It’s another day in the lead-up to Diwali and that’s it.
But there are also lots of women who enjoy it, embrace it. They dress up and post photos on Instagram and write long captions about why the holiday is important to them. They choose to stay away from food and water and will only eat once the moon is visible in the sky and it is their belief that doing this will help the men they’re married to live long and wonderful lives.
And I get that too.
If that’s how a woman chooses to express her love to her husband, who are we to tell her she’s wrong?
I just don’t know that there’s a right or wrong answer here.
What I think is problematic and where collective anger really needs to be directed is when there’s pressure on women, usually by other women, to observe the occasion whether they want to or not.
That’s never okay.
A friend who’s recently moved to a new part of the country couldn’t understand why so many women were asking her why she wasn’t keeping Karwa Chauth. As someone who grew up in a part of India where Karwa Chauth wasn’t very big and who doesn’t belong to a cultural tradition that this is part of, she couldn’t understand why she was being asked at all.
And I can understand that frustration. Because whether it’s keeping a fast for your partner or getting Botox or choosing to have a C-section or live with your in-laws (or not), women need the freedom to navigate these complex, deeply personal decisions on their own terms. To have the space to make these choices without judgement, least of all from other women. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all mould.
I wondered whether it was a certain type of woman who was celebrating Karwa Chauth and if there was another kind who was objecting to it. But I couldn’t see a pattern. Women from New Delhi to Los Angeles were celebrating the occasion — they were homemakers and career women, educated, well-travelled, intelligent people that I follow online because I think they’re interesting.
Keeping Karwa Chauth doesn’t seem like a symbol of emancipation or empowerment just as it doesn’t seem like a sign of oppression or suffering. Conservative, perhaps. Can it lead to an imbalance between the genders — yes. But can it also be a day for women to dress up, be colourful and happy out of choice? Yes.
I think Pragya Tiwari’s post really summed it up for me. Read the caption.
And Poorna Bell’s post about why she gets tattoos and how women’s bodies are viewed helped put it into perspective.
Personal opinions on tattoos aside, Poorna makes a powerful point about women’s agency of their own bodies.
Look how happy Harleen Singh is on Karwa Chauth.
Do we really have any business telling Harleen she isn’t allowed to be so happy doing Karwa Chauth or that she belongs to a previous era?
I know this is a contentious issue so I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In Women Wins this Week
I’ve got an unintentionally culinary heavy list of delicious women-founded news and businesses I wanted to highlight:
I wanted to send a gift to a friend in Chicago recently — something that said something about me but was also useful and cool and supported a young, independent business. A great gift for someone who likes spending time in the kitchen? Diaspora Co. ticked all the boxes. The delivery was a bit later than I would have liked because the shipment included pre-order items and as customer service explained, the pandemic has disrupted global supply chains. But I’d still use them again. They also have some gorgeous aprons on the website but I doubt I’d ever pay that much for one.
Digressing from food for a minute, Aanam Chashmawala has launched her own beauty brand — Wearified — and I’m now the proud owner of a Shabbo :) What I love most is the representation of beauty in its many forms on the website. Go check it out. Also take a minute to check out her page where she sells pre-loved fashion, with all the money going to charitable causes.
Theobroma, Mumbai’s much-loved bakery, finally comes to Bangalore, my home city — in three locations. I’m thrilled! It’s a proudly woman-led enterprise that does some of the best brownies for miles, no contest.
I came across this Bloomberg piece and I’m glad the topic is on people’s minds. I’ve been thinking a lot about how little it takes for women to feel threatened in a public space and how so much of public design doesn’t account for these challenges, whether that’s long lonely corridors in hotels, poorly lit streets or eerily empty basements for parking. I produced a podcast episode related to this which you can listen to here.
And finally, I’m always happy to see insular industries open up to women of colour that they have long been closed off to:
DIARY fashion beauty @DIARYdirectoryBoots Health & Beauty Magazine appoints associate digital editor https://t.co/LxGp8b8sey @BootsUK @Ayesha_Muttu https://t.co/xBxeKSkvAA
I don’t think women should ever feel pressure to observe something but I also don’t think women should be shamed if they do, if they want to. I remembered the other day that to be a “feminist” at the all-women’s college I attended, you often had to be loud, angry, aggressive and opinionated — in other words, borderline hate men — to prove that you cared about women’s rights. And I found it so off-putting and confusing.
Women get judged enough by the world. The last thing we need is to judge each other. There’s no one way to be a woman. There’s space for all of us.