Teej: A festival, or a symbol of women's dependence?
KATHMANDU, Sept 20: When Teej was just around the corner, I saw women having parties, celebrating and shopping for this so-called “festival” which started many centuries ago for women.
But the question today is whether it’s a festival for women, or just another symbol of women’s dependence on the whole system of patriarchy.
With due respect, I wouldn’t want to sound rude or discriminatory against any other person’s religion, faith or caste or customs.
My family never celebrates Teej. I come from a Newar family and the whole concept of Teej – women fasting fast to get good husbands or fast to prolong one’s husband’s life – sounds a bit too odd for me.
But I know that in Nepali culture, men are always considered the superior ones and we, women, have to do a lot to please them.
However, in the 21st century, fasting to get a good husband, among other wishes, is an idea or concept that sounds just too stupid for me. If a woman fasted to get a good husband, then I think everyone would have got one, and there would be no acts of violence against women.
And the whole idea of fasting for a good man, again, tells us that women need to work hard or remain pure to get a good mate. So we work hard, do all pujas and fasting in the hopes of getting good husbands for all of us.
But a man doesn’t have to do anything similar to get a good wife.
The other issue with Teej is that women need to wear red and adorn themselves with good clothes and expensive ornaments. This is just another symbol of how Nepali women are being perceived as objects or commodities.
Of course, we may say that we dress up and become fashionable to look good for ourselves. But honestly, if that was the case, then women would be looking good all the time – be it at home doing laundry or while cooking.
I’m not saying celebrating this festival is good or bad. All I am saying is that we need to see how we can refine or redefine the meanings of cultural celebrations. Do we stick to the age-old practice of how women are being dominated? Or do we create new practices, keeping the essences of our cultures intact?
What we follow on a daily basis and what society tells us what to do has a more deep-rooted meaning to it. We, as women, may not realize it but we’re being perceived as the weaker beings in all our cultural contexts.
And it’s not just limited to the Nepali society, either; it’s prevalent everywhere. It might not just be because of Teej but other various reasons and factors play a role to this being the case.
So what should we, the younger generations, do? Conform to the given culture which has trained us to see what they want us to see as, or create our own identity through various choices that we make?
My religion, I would say, is neither Hinduism nor Buddhism nor Christianity but it’s what my heart tells me is right, and it’s the choices I make that define me as a woman.