I recently learnt that ‘inauspicious’ women walk among us, mostly due to the fragility of life and some due to free will and choice. These aren’t the women we complain have been ‘westernised’; these aren’t the women who reject and oppose the systematic oppression of their culture; these aren’t even women who have been convicted of crimes – these women can be redeemed, they can be reinstated into society if they live by its terms.
But the inauspicious woman is the woman who cannot be redeemed, a creature so reprehensible that she brings bad luck to everyone. They are women that have forever lost their chance of redemption as they are without men – widowed and divorced women. The former you should pity and shun and the latter you should shame and shun.
My mother is an inauspicious woman by choice because she chose to get divorced. I knew my mother was a divorced woman and probably a ‘bad’ woman to the world by that virtue, but learning she was inauspicious was a hilarious discovery, although still a severely problematic one. My mother is a high-school teacher, so is her best friend, who is an inauspicious woman not due to choice – she is a widow, so she is less reprehensible than my mother.
A woman without a man isn’t incomplete; a woman without a man isn’t and can’t be inauspicious.
Their principal asked someone to make sure that neither of them are made the class teachers of Grade 10, in spite of being the HOD’s of their respective departments. Her reasoning was that they were inauspicious as they didn’t have husbands and this could affect the grades of the children they teach and ruin their lives forever. Of course, two inauspicious women could ruin the children’s board exams, thus destroying their prospects at a decent life just by the mere presence of their unlucky beings.
This might seem like something so daft to think about or we could say that it sounds hilarious. However, beyond the layers or hilarity lies deeply entrenched sexism, systematic oppression and the patriarchal need to control women and punish them when they deviate from rules ancient men have set in stone for them.
How is that even today a woman’s marital status defines her entire being? A woman without a man isn’t incomplete; a woman without a man isn’t and can’t be inauspicious. In our culture, we often overlook the fact that women are individuals, individuals with abilities, passions and capabilities. Women don’t need men to survive, to live, or to even live well.
Marriage isn’t a rite of passage that allows you to be a good, virtuous woman from just an ordinary woman. Being a wife isn’t an identity, just like being a husband isn’t one. Women, married, unmarried, widowed, or divorced are more than their marital status, they are individuals. They can’t and shouldn’t be expected to only grow and thrive in the shadows of their spouses.
An educational institution should be the torch-bearer in the effort to eliminate sexism and the oppression of women. It should teach us to rid ourselves of our decades-long conditioning, prejudices, biases, stereotypical ideas and discriminatory behaviour.
Yet, here we are, promoting the ideas a school is supposed to fight. Bigoted principals and teachers cannot be expected to provide an education that will evolve children into aware, educated and sensitive individuals who will contribute to the solution and not aggravate the problem.
Being a wife isn’t an identity, just like being a husband isn’t one.
We often forget, when we reduce women to the identity of only a wife, we take away from everything else she is – every other identity she holds and every other accomplishment she worked hard to achieve.
My mother’s principal is a woman, a well-educated one as well. If women like her continue to be the oppressors of other women in the name of furthering cultural beliefs, we will never succeed in empowering women. This might seem like a minor incident, but it stems from the same place where major issues that women face come from: patriarchy, systematic oppression and ingrained cultural sexism.
These are two teachers whose abilities I can personally vouch for. My judgment of their abilities isn’t clouded by my biases because I hold none in spite of my association with both. They both have taught me at some point and I know they give it their all. Calling them inauspicious because they don’t have husbands sure is demeaning, but the fact that we continue to hold ideas like that in 2018 and that even women promote these ideas is problematic to the feminist cause as a whole.
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