Yesterday when I was filling an official document, I was stuck on a column where I had to choose one among Mr/Mrs/Miss. As I recently got married, this was the first time I had to think twice before filling it. I filled Mrs hastily but it got hitched inside me. I failed to understand why the world wants to know only about the marital status of a woman? I always wonder why another honorific is not made for men who are married.

 

One or two decades ago, another term as Ms became popular which was originated in middle of 1900s. It is used for women who can be married or unmarried. Women who use the term seemed to be more identified as a “women’s libber” rather than as married or single.

 

But is this really a solution? May be yes, but you can’t see this option everywhere or on all the documents and Mrs still exist.

 

Marital status of a woman is still an important point of social fabric almost everywhere. If people look at a woman, they gaze at her head to toe to check if any of the signs of marital status is found on her body or not.

 

Our tradition teaches women to put vermilion on her forehead, wearmangalsutra, put bindi, wear bangles and toe rings after marriage to look married and stick some illogical reasons behind them like not wearing them may reduce your husband’s life. In 21st century how can people even relate someone’s age on another person’s attire or accessories? And why those people don’t even care about a wife’s age? They should also make some traditions for men to care about women’s long life. Women are often asked to wear a particular type of clothes after marriage which is not at all the case with men.

 

The biggest irony is women are asked to stop wearing all these if her husband dies.

 

I have heard more than hundred times in six months of my marriage that I should look married and wear all these marital symbols. And this is not only from the old-aged orthodox people but also from the ‘highly educated’ modern women. I observed that the ladies those who are mostly free and nothing to do whole day carries the responsibility to never let the traditions disappear and worries mostly about the welfare and long life of other’s husbands. They are most curious to know whether a woman is single, married, divorcee or widow.

 

Many of my friends give excuses of unproved scientific reasons and health benefits for wearing these marital symbols like applying sindoor controls blood pressure and activate sexual drive. So, should we assume that only Indian women and especially Hindu women need this sexual drive and the women who don’t apply sindoor doesn’t have sexual drive? I have also heard wearing bangles cause constant friction with the wrist which increases the blood circulation. Then, why our poor men are not privileged enough to improve their blood circulation? This doesn’t ends here, there are many more.

 

If women continue to give such illogical explanations, how would things change? There is still a long way to go for women to get equal status in Indian society. One of my friends told me she likes it and do it as her personal choice but, I strongly believe that her choices are derived from our patriarchal societal norms.

 

If for a moment let us assume that there are really some scientific reasons behind these traditions, then also I believe traditions should not be bigger than one’s personal choice. If not, we have no right to call ourselves living in an ‘Independent India’. 

 

It’s high time we women need to stop following this stereotype patriarchal norms blindly. We should together say No to be identified as someone’s someone. The least one can do is to stop pulling one another down and think about these before practicing and try to find the logic without saying, “our ancestors are following and so are we” or “what’s wrong in following the traditions?”.

 

I might sound offensive but trust me; it is for the good and equal rights of women all over the world. I don’t have any personal issues with women who follow these traditions as I truly believe everyone has her/his own perspective but, yes I too have my right to speak what I feel need to change and allow myself to choose what I feel is equitable for me.

This post was submitted in response to Courageous Conversations.

5Encouragement

Hello Natasha,

You have raised many important details and questions, and though you may face a range of responses ranging from reasons some disagree that these issues are important to examine, to those who will no doubt react in defence of what has always been done and try to ridicule you for your opinion, I in reading applaud your courage to speak out. 

Where I live in we did in the 1970's insist on the addition of Ms. to undo the focus on a woman's marital status, undoing the immediate assumptions and often outright discrimination depending on the attitude toward a woman single or married. We were accused of many things, including yes, being "women's libbers" a term to ridicule the movement. We stood firm that we see the necessity of working toward the liberation of women. That is even more clear now that we are all sharing details globally. Now the term is accepted as common, accepted through common use over many years. People still hold opinions about a woman who is not married, however.

I learned a lot from your description of the many ways that women are expected to make clear that they are married. I held my breath hoping that you would conclude that these practises need to be opened up to scrutiny and that a woman should be free to dress as she wants and be respected for whatever life choices she makes. It is not easy to introduce a new way of thinking. Your message is strong, and so very welcome.

In sisterhood,

Tam

I love watching Hindi Movies and I have always wondered about the many rituals women have to fulfill after marriage. Thank you for being courageous enough to not only question but to share your opinion. Traditions are great as long as they dignify everyone irrespective of gender. Unfortunately, women are always the ones at the receiving end of many of these degrading customs and traditions spearheaded ironically by women themselves against other women. Deep seated beliefs are hard to eradicate but questioning them and bringing them up for debates is a start point. More grease to your efforts.

Love,

Arrey

Natasha, I totally agree with you, it should be of universal concern in these days of "equality" that a "Master" automatically becomes a"Mr" when he is 18, but a "Miss" only becomes a"Mrs" when she marries!

And you're right that "Ms" came from that part of feminism that even my mother finds embarrassing now - when "Women's Libbers" hi-jacked it in the 1970s.

I use "Miss" but sometimes wear a ring on my 3rd finger to confuse people.

Allie x

The Future Is Female.

Yes women carry the baby and they get fathers surname. A movement is needed to allow people not to use surname, in case they don't want. Don't understand this compulsory usage of surname. Powerful article Natasha. Hope to hear more from you soon. 

Usri