October 28, 2013

Guide to marital bliss - Find out what feminists fight against!!

If you've never really understood the evils of patriarchy (link), believing that feminists blow things out of proportion, may be you should open your eyes to this. Let me show you what's wrong. Below are the guidelines for women translated from a Telugu book on marital bliss which was being distributed at a wedding last week. We need to take this seriously - because our rituals are not evolving with our mindsets. The book advocates this code of conduct for today's women to restore values in today's society of Kalyug. We must not let anyone defend this sort of inhuman abuse under the name of Indian/Hindu culture/values. I'm giving scanned images of some of the guidelines along with the English translation of these guidelines. Adding my response to some of the guidelines in red.








1. Every task performed by a wife must be upon the husband's orderAre we talking about a wife or a slave here? Or worse, the book doesn't see any need to differentiate between the two, treating marriage as a legitimate access to slavery today, since slavery was abolished decades ago ?

2. Wife must eat after the husband's meal is finished. This is being advocated even through TV soaps, Bollywood films, advertisements and authors of some blogs (link). Should be questioned seriously as notions like this affect women's health (sometimes leading to serious illnesses and increase in female-malnutrition) and deprive them of dignity (link).
3. Wife must not sit when the husband is standing.
4. Wife must go to sleep upon the husband's order after he has gone to bed.
5. Wife must be well-adorned and clean when around the husband.
6. Wife must not dress up when the husband's not around. So that's how the concept of suhagan-abhagan and oppression of widows is being advocated.
7. Wife must never utter her husband's name even by mistake.
8. Any verbal abuse or other punishments which the husband chooses to give the wife when he is angry must be patiently and calmly borne by the wife. Tolerating abuse has been and is being conditioned into women's minds, making it difficult for them to gather the strength to fight back and sometimes even recognize abuse (link, link). Abusers know that they are immune to punishments through this support system which diligently aims at protecting patriarchy. The support system includes the authors of this book and its parent-books (link, link), self-proclaimed God-men (link), members of our legal system (link), members of teaching community (link, link), self-proclaimed social workers (link) and family counselors (link) to mention a few. For public awareness: Any emotional/verbal/physical abuse of wife/live-in partner by her partner and/or partner's family member(s) is a criminal offense as per Indian law under the domestic violence act (link, link).
9. Husband must be addressed to using plural pronouns. It is ideal to address him as "My lord!" This is a regular practice rule in many households, including those in the educated class today. And this indicates the level of societal interference in Indian marriage. How can any relationship (including marriage) become successful if the terms of the relationship are dictated to by other people?
10. Wife must immediately respond to the husband's call even if she is in the middle of any other work.
11. She must always be smiling pleasantly. She should never express emotions such as anger/frustration. Whereas a husband can express his anger through verbal/physical abuse (from point 8). Also, I think domestic violence through females might be beyond the imagination of whoever wrote this book. We need to understand that the same set of factors (perceptions around male privilege, superiority and entitlement to be obeyed) which force women to tolerate abuse make it impossible for men to report abuse.
12. A wife must not stay near the entrance of the house and look outside for more than a minute, based on necessity.
13. Wife must not go for pilgrimages, celebrations, marriages etc. unaccompanied by her husband. Under extremely necessitous circumstances, she can go upon the husband's order.
This is prevailing in an era where some (married) women are working as astronauts, military-professionals, entrepreneurs and politicians. Restricting/controlling women's movements and limiting their exposure has been essential for the survival of patriarchy. Defenders of patriarchy continue to threaten women through victim-blaming and advocating restrictions on women's movements/social interactions (link, link, link).
14. Among holy water (theertham), A wife must consume the holy water which was brushed the husband's feet (pada pooja). The wife who consumes this holy water daily will acquire the supreme bliss (punya) of the seven seas.
15. A virtuous wife will never reject the left-overs from her husband's meal and will consume them as the most sacred offerings.
A truly civilized society would consider advocating/enforcing of the above two points as brutal indignation.
16. A wife must respect gods, parents-in-law, guests, cows and beggar-saints. She must first serve food for all of them and then have her own food. She must also give food to servants.
17. Fasting, vratas and other rituals will not benefit the wife if not performed upon the husband's order. She'll go to hell if she performs them without the husband's order.
18. Wife must not interrupt the husband when he is in an important task. She must not interfere when he's relaxing/resting. Whereas the husband has the right to order his wife and be obeyed even when she's in the middle of work (from point 10).
19. Wife must not blame the husband even if he is impotent/weak/incompetent. She must not look down upon him or make fun of him. How else can patriarchy control women, if not by not allowing them to speak their mind or speak up against those oppressing them?
20. She must not show her face to the husband during the three days of menstruation. She can face him and slowly talk to him on the fourth day after shower. (In case of compulsion due to unavailability of help from other people, there is nothing wrong - I didn't understand this bit in braces).
21. A wife must wake up daily before sunrise, meditate upon her husband, see her husband's face, attend to the calls of nature and pray to the rising sun. She can show her face to others only after seeing her husband.
22. Wife must wear the auspicious symbols which aid in increasing the husband's life-span: Turmeric, Kumkum, Sindhoor (near forehead), Kajal, Taamboolam, Mangalsutra and other related jewelry (like black-beads), bangles, plaited hear, flowers in the hair, ear-rings. She must never be without any of these. I have too much to say on the subject - Will do another post soon. We need to question and fight some people's obsession to dictate what women should and should not wear.
23. She must not befriend any malicious woman, arrogant woman or any woman who fights with/hates her husband. A woman who speaks up for herself is arrogant ? We need to address the non-virtues of obedience and blind faith which are glorified in "our culture". Notice that controlling women's interactions outside family (who she interacts with) has also been a key component of patriarchy.
24. She must not bathe naked. Some people's obsession with women's bodies and properti-fication (viewing them as husband's/father's property) does not leave women alone without rules even in the bathroom!
25. She must not sit on any cooking related equipment like grinder, other machinery, utensils etc.
26. Must never praise herself or speak about her achievements. Of course - Lest patriarchy would run the risk of letting a woman speak up for herself or speak positively about herself, which might give her confidence to overcome the inferiority forced upon her.
27. She must like everything which her husband likes (except bad addictions). She must make his likes into her likes.
28. She must be happy when  her husband is happy and sad when her husband is sad.
29. She must keep a track of house-hold supplies and inform in advance if anything needs to be replenished. She should never irritate by saying "This is not available, that is not available etc." Why does one person have a right to become irritated and hand out punishments upon hearing facts whereas the other person is deprived of the right to even speak facts?
30. She must believe her husband is superior to the supreme trinity of Gods and serve him.
31. A wife who follows fasting, rituals, vratas etc. while neglecting the husband will never attain their benefits. She may go to hell.
Guess who'll find these rules convenient? Can you imagine anyone who is not an abuser/misogynist believing in any of these rules/guidelines?
32. A wife who disagrees with/opposed her/argues with/fights with her husband may be born as a lizard in the next re-incarnation and as a fox later on. The life of a lizard/a fox might be better than a woman's life if she's meant to be treated as inhumanly as mentioned in this book. A human life may not be worth-living for someone who is denied even basic human rights of freedom, equality and dignity.
33. A healthy wife must never be seated on anything which is higher than what her husband is seated on.
34. She must never make fun/speak loudly in front of teachers, elders, parents-in-law. She should not sit on anything which is higher than what they are seated on. Suppression of women has been and is being achieved by conditioning and controlling women's actions, including who to talk to, how they talk, sit, eat, walk, telling them what they ought to feel and making them feel guilty for not following all the rules.
35. What a woman may receive from her parents, brothers and sons is limited. But she may receive infinitely from her husband. Not sure what it is that she is receiving. I think the only thing which a woman can receive without any limits as per this book seems to be abuse and orders.
36. A wife who serves her husband and parents-in-law fulfills her life's purpose and her parents are worthy. Many women today are choosing to forgo this fulfillment for better-fulfilling purposes such as independence and self-reliance. If Indian parents stop judging their worthiness by the success of their daughters' marriage, we might be closer to overcoming the social evils of patriarchy and laying the foundations for a healthier society.
37. Women oil their hair and wash their hair once in a week. They choose a day of the week to do this as per their wish. Sri Gurucharitra Grantha clearly says that it is best to do this every Wednesday. It mentions clearly that it is inauspicious to do this on any other day of the week. Found this too troll-ish to comment !

Stopped reading here. Please do comment your response after reading the recommended code of conduct for women to achieve marital bliss. Defenders of this book might be interested to know that many women may not want to achieve this "marital bliss" today, if that is meant to be achieved by subjecting themselves to this sort of abuse and by forgoing basic human rights. Increasingly, more women want to choose self-respect, independence and self-reliance over "marital bliss" today. We need only to see the gross inequality and misogyny lying at the heart of our "institution of marriage" to understand why. And the defenders of this book might want to consider choosing another path to "restore values" other than oppressing close to fifty percent of the human population. May be reforming our institution of marriage by redefining the terms to allow for freedom, equality and personal space might help?

Updated to add: I request the readers to please post any negative experiences similar to the implementation of these rules in the comments section. I want the world to know that the threat posed is real; that some people do take rules like this seriously.

Related post(s):

In case you thought nobody takes this sort of rules seriously:
My mother in law suddenly commented “Men should not wash inner wear after Marriage according to Sampradayam (meaning Traditions)”. (link)

My guide to marital bliss!!:

13 comments:

  1. I have nothing to say here. Actually I have so much to say that I don't know where to begin. I just broke a small ceramic flower vase to vent my anger. Didn't help. Worse, now I have to pick up the shards so that I don't step on them. I want to go to every person who agrees to even one word of this shit and slap them rally really hard right across their pathetic faces. Oh, and two hard slaps if it is a woman who is ok with even one word of this filth. All I can say is, women who knowingly agree to be abused by their husbands because they think it is their duty and his right deserve every bit of that abuse, and then some more. As for the person(s) who found this worthy of being thought of, written, published, and distributed - I spit on their pitiful faces. And mind you, I'm being the politest I can, considering how angry I am (this is the first time in my 30 years of life that I have smashed something in anger).

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    1. But women are constantly brain-washed to tolerate abuse - in fact, they're not even allowed to realize that they're being abused. These rules might be a little far-fetched but how many households teach girls right from birth to not talk loudly, not express anger, not fight with in-laws/husband, refer to husband in plural pronouns, cook for the whole family and eat after everyone else is done and finally "please adjust with abuse? [It's just an occasional slap/ Atleast he's not beating you/ You shouldn't be so strong-headed. One needs to count blessings and compromise etc.]" How many in-laws monitor their DIL's phone calls and outdoor visits? And if a woman refuses to be abused and deserts her husband, she has to face social stigma. There're other financial implications too - inheritance laws are not being implemented correctly and many women find themselves without a place to go. The first step towards women empowerment is to make women understand that they have the right to be and deserve to be empowered. We can tackle with abuse if we can first make women recognize abuse and make them understand that not tolerating is the right thing to do (even when the entire world is screaming otherwise).

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    2. You are right. I was nettled and hence responded that way. Secondly, I do not identify with girls being taught this because I am not from such a family and have never heard anything of this sort from my parents. However, I agree to the DIL part (but more on that later). You are right, only the woman can help herself and if she doesn't want to or if she doesn't think she needs help then no one can help her.

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  2. Woah, i cannot believe people print and distribute this kind of stuff. I can see many people following a lot of this though

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    1. Exactly. As outrageous as they sound, we should be more worried about the fact that a lot of these are followed by many people.

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  3. Hi Freebird.. (I like the name)..
    One more for you to digest - Daughter in law can not sit on the same platform/bed/sofa as MIL. Disrespect. MIL sits on bed/sofa - DIL sits on the floor with head bowed.
    I couldn't digest any of the above listed.
    Too gross.

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  4. Hi Freebird.. (I like the name)..
    One more for you to digest - Daughter in law can not sit on the same platform/bed/sofa as MIL. Disrespect. MIL sits on bed/sofa - DIL sits on the floor with head bowed.
    I couldn't digest any of the above listed.

    (2nd try with captcha.. will give up if it doesn't work this time :| )
    Too gross.

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  5. The whole thing is trash worthy . Other than confronting people who are spreading such literature , we do not need to do anything. I am sure ,there are no buyers for these ideas least among them the educated girls.

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    1. Education does make certain amount of difference as it brings in more exposure. But I know many educated women who're made to use plural pronouns while referring to their husbands. Many educated women eat after the entire family's meal is finished. And many educated families try to raise their daughters as ideal daughters-in-law. May be we need to include gender-equality in our social studies curriculum?

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  6. bullshit..who is following it any way.even one sentence is worth slapping the person who wrote it..

    women should do completely things on her wish and can definitely have partners consult,same goes vice versa.. no one is any ones slave..

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