The festival of Karwa Chauth has been accused of being a ‘sexist tradition’ over the years. It’s the favourite bugbear of Indian feminists – particularly on Twitter – and as we speak, edits are already being uploaded to mock the women who follow this tradition.
For the uninitiated, Karwa Chauth is a practice where women fast from dawn till dusk for the safety and longevity of their husbands. It’s particularly popular in North India and was immortalised by Aditya Chopra in DDLJ and Karan Johar in K3G.
While it’s hard to argue that Karwa Chauth isn’t sexist, terming it as an instrument of social control that oppresses women is going too far. Many women actually take pride participating in the ritual. Not only do they believe it increases their bond with their husbands, it also is a common ground of shared sisterhood amongst other women in the community.
When we criticise such practices, we often do it without considering the ground reality. The term regressive ‘itself’ is culturally relativist.
Liberals, often as they want to do, imagine a world in isolation. Not everyone has that privilege that they take for granted. Nor does everyone want to live the life they choose for themselves.
It has also become the norm for husbands to fast for their wives as well, again thanks to Monsieur Johar, Karwa Chauth has become a shared tradition.
The funny thing is, at times, our illiberal liberals start behaving like conservatives, advocating their way as the only way to live properly.
Speak to village women, and they will tell you they look forward to this day. For a day, women can spend their day with the other women in their community, eschewing household work.
If we are truly feminist, we’d never argue against individual choice. We have absolutely no right to mock the choice of those who feel joy in participating in this tradition.
The idea comes down to having a choice that isn’t predetermined by another person or institution. It is not about feminism or urbanism, but a woman’s freedom to choose if she intends to observe it or not.
Karwa Chauth in that essence boils down to individual choice. Who are we to shove our crude epithets upon their shelves and call it misogynist? Let’s stop being experts and let the women decide for themselves. It’s 2019 after all.