On Logic, Faith and Women’s Bodies

There’s something extremely funny in seeing a person defend what is probably a faith-based action as something with a “scientific basis” to it. Obviously enough, it’s not the previous generation that does it. My grandmother will insist on having a kolam because she likes it that way. Nothing else to it. But someone of my generation will probably insist that it was a “scientific thing” to do as it kept the ants of the house or helped feed the ants or something.

There’s an interesting topic on in the blogworld right now. Some posts on the issue. To sum it up, there’s obviously a lot of annoyance expressed when women are expected to isolate themselves or not touch half the objects in the world become they have their period. Coming from a relatively liberal family, I wasn’t brought up with these traditions. (And yes, I am delighted that I wasn’t.) But that still doesn’t mean you don’t have to come terms with it. In temples, in the houses of friends, random strangers will ask you if you are having your period, and how it makes a ten feet radius around you impure, and hence ask you to vanish. All the posts I linked to make a lot of sense, but some of the comments on the posts really annoyed me.

Those that want to practice something in the confines of their homes are welcome to. I do think that heaping such a tradition on a child is abusive. If a grown woman feels like being in a bubble, so be it. But let me come to my fundamental annoyance. It’s when people offer ridiculously absurd pieces of wisdom like “It was devised to help women get a little rest”, or “It had a scientific purpose – women didn’t have access to sanitary products and it was very unhygienic” and that their current practice of said tradition has a scientific reason for it.

I am sure ancient wisdom had contemporary interests in mind, but when you do have reasonably strong antibacterial soaps out in the market, that bit about hygiene feels like an eyewash. In sum, I understand that there might have been some logic to doing something a certain way 500 years back. But circumstances change. So the “same logic” doesn’t make sense.

So if you want to do it the old-fashioned way, don’t attempt to use that “logic”. Say it is your faith or your religion that compels you to do it that way. And be done with it. You have a right to practice whatever you want to – however arcane and pointless. But for the sheer sake of a good argument, don’t mix faith and logic. Make no mistake, religion and logic needn’t be dichotomous. It’s possible to immerse oneself in both. But to use one as an excuse for the other makes for some very muddled reasoning.

As a parting shot – logic is sometimes used to hide more dark objectives. Like wanting to control women. Like ensuring they never really get to join the workforce. (Especially in certain castes or classes – where the men have more to lose than gain if women go to work.). So just because something sounds all clever and kind, let’s not forget that it’s probably patronizing too.

76 Comments

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76 Responses to On Logic, Faith and Women’s Bodies

  1. Ankur

    Raj
    One last parting reply to you. What you call being controlled by women is something that I perceive in an entirely different light. It is a voluntary and very happy acceptance of their presence and their role in my life. This is not to idolize all women as angels, for all men are also not regressive fools like you. Cocconed in the smugness of your self-limiting, debilitating notions of what women and men ought to be, people like you are incapable of deriving joy out of relationships, more so with women, but also with men. What would you know of intelllectual camarederie that can only arise from interacting with a woman on the basis of what lies between her ears, rather than her very status as one of the opposite sex? In fact, what do you actually know of your wife, except that she becomes ‘impure’ during some part of the month? And do you ACTUALLY like pregnant women because they are ‘pure’ for nine months, and not because they will give life to what is equally of the man and the woman? You despicable little creep, it is because of people like you that women internalise patriarchal structures and propogate them, because of which most women and a few men suffer. You blot on the face of humanity, take your insular, insignificant, impotent views and be gone from this blog! Out, blot, out!

  2. ammani

    How come I haven’t heard the word ‘dhooram’ yet? Please keep it coming, makkal!

  3. Ana D-P

    Hey neha…i am an avid reader of blogs & read many blogs regularly incl yrs. However recently i find that i couldnot access broom’s blog…how can i in touch with her to request for permission to view it? i really enjoy reading how her life with The Girl unfolds….
    thx

  4. here’s the one Raj left at my place. to add to your compiliation!

    Raj: you are harming your children by not following wisdom of elders. you do not realize this now, but later on in life when your daughter will break all rules, you will wish you had told her more about respect and discipline. girls need to develop patience so that they can handle children, and only way to do this is to make sure they are meditating during periods. that is why god gave them. you go to the west and live there if you want to raise a bad child. so only good children remain in India.

  5. WA

    For those of you who are suggesting that Raj takes his views elsewhere, please don’t ask the man to go away, he is entitled to his views just as much as we are entitled to our entertainment. Pls let him be

  6. raj

    pointless to argue with cultureless fools like you. women are equal to impure beings. they were made for caring for children and obeying men. think of sita maiyya.. she is famous because she followed ramji.. because she always kept her purity. without purity a woman is nothing. you women are the reason india is becoming a degrading country. all the men who are arguing here basicaly weak men. their mothers were impure and that is why they have become so weak. all your sons will also be weak like them. they will only try to impress other impure girls. WHY DON’T YOU LISTEN TO ME??? just follow pure rituals. EVERYTHING WILL BE OK THEN.

  7. raj: Go run your travel agency. Annoying little idiot.

  8. samaritan

    hey raj

    trhats news…that sita maiya was pure…..so are you trying to say she didnt have problems like other women….if then how did she give birth to lav and kush especially if her female reproducitve system was not working properly!!! and get ur knowledge of scriptures right!!! she never followed ramji…..didnt ramji follow her all the way to lanka…what rubbish!!! god man if i only could get my hands on u …u mentally screwed up ‘@@###$$&&££***’ if women are so impure why the f**k did u marry in the first place and touch a impure thing!!!! if anybody can block this guy from blogging please do so…he is such a disgrace

  9. maheesha

    Hi,

    I think Raj is simply trying to get some cheap thrill by writing all this nonsense,his intention is to simply provoke and laugh at others reaction.Jus ignore,he will shut the crap out of him.

  10. Neha:

    I have to disagree with your assumption that this practice was related to tradition or science/ sanitation/ pseudo-science.

    It had more to do with the dynamics of joint families. A well-earned, 5-day holiday every month from all housework (remember, no kitchen entry) and duties of doing pooja-paath was par for the course because other women in the household picked up the slack. They, in their turn, got their 5-day holiday too. Why not? Together they kept the households ticking, the children fed, the men dressed in clean clothes and well-fed, the animals looked after and the elders cared for.

    This was no different from the practice of keeping a mother and a neonate in isolation for 3 fortnights or so. Not only would this enable the bonding process, but also give the new mother a well-deserved rest and respite from the chores around her. Once again made possible by joint families.

    This was not subjugation; this was a Nash equilibrium in households where women did everything and men were general freeloaders. Now women also work outside the house but men are largely still free-loaders [the nice, humane ones are already married or are gay in a paraphrasing of that purveyor of modern values, Robbie Williams]. Ergo the same practices cannot be carried on, although I want to meet one woman who would not love such a respite on a monthly basis…

    I also have to confess I am unable to follow the logical leap from the Have a Happy Period ad campaign to subjugation… If anything, most western women will kill to have 5 days off like that every month!

    And of course, I imagine you are familiar with the jokes about why women have periods and men do not. One of the reasons cited is that they would nee to lie down for 5 days instead of coming in to work. :-)

  11. Neha:

    You also deserve an award for your great patience in allowing democracy to run riot. :-)

    Who is this Raj chap? His wife obeys him because she knows he is right? Does he have her permission to say so? Ha ha!

    He does not allow women to make travel bookings but does he check if his women customers are having periods before they go to Amarnath or wherever? I think just associating with such a single-digit IQ man would probably be a sin big enough requiring us all to go to Amarnath soon. ;-)

  12. hey how did I miss this one?

  13. Shefaly,
    You must marry Raj.

  14. wandered here from desi pundit.
    well written.
    .

  15. kbpm

    oooh raj, this was too good to resist. I ran the mumbai half marathon when I had my period. Imagine! all the sweat in addition to other impure bodily fluids. Its a wonder the entire 8000-strong group of runners did not die of strange diseases or something. Right?

  16. As a blogger on the wrong side of 50, I can say things like been there, done that etc. This business of “sitting in isolation in solitary confinement/splendour” each month , happened in my grandmother’s time. She was strict , but never forced this custom on me. She probably didnt agree with my logic either. But it was like me met each other half way. I didnt go anywhere near her some days, and she didnt bat an eyelid when i went for our team swimmiing practice in those days.

    All these raj-attitudes. Thats not how the man on the street behaves. My last few years before menopause were bleedingly traumatic. I have wordlessly wiped rickshaw seats after some sudden episodes of untimely uncontrollable floods in red. Several times. And the uneducated,hardworking, simple rickshawalla , helped, without a word, taking great pains to ensure that the embarassment didnt kill me.

    Maybe sometmes too much education and too little common sense make for a r(aj)oyal combination…..

  17. Vi

    *tilts head* This place is really something else.

    How many Raj-characters are out there, I wonder.

  18. Well, Raj’s plan worked, didn’t it? There is so much more discussion about him rather than the issue at hand. Ignore him but not what he has raised.

    Well said Suranga, but I wouldn’t think that Rajness is that uncommon. I come from a reasonably orthodox family where this practice was followed. Thankfully, 20-30 odd years ago. My sisters scuttled this (god bless them). I could easily have been a “little-raj” when I was very young. It took me so many years to un-learn and re-learn stuff. Yes, Education helped.

  19. Raj, I think you’re probably for real and you’re really speaking your mind out, I appreciate your outspokenness, your well-versed (atleast in your opinion) knowledge of Hindu scriptures and your Hindutva spirit.

    Some bad news for us men may be that its not just women but men as well who have periods. That makes us impure as the women whom society would like to ‘control’

    it’s really unfortunate that man got away with everything for centuries while society ignored women. Half the population of this planet was neglected, humiliated and treated as doormats. Even the Bible story tells you that the woman is made out of the rib of man. What preposterous nonsense! You see, women’s intelligence is lost for this culture. Not only here, it’s the same everywhere.

    ~ UG

  20. @Raj – I think you’re probably for real and you’re really speaking your mind out. While I appreciate your outspokenness, your well-versed (atleast in your opinion) knowledge of Hindu scriptures and your good Indian Hindutva spirit, I may have some bad news.

    One thing that Im not sure what its covered in the scriptures, but is a fact that can be observed by any nan himself based on his own experience, is that its not just women but men as well who have periods. That makes us impure as the women whom society would like to ‘control’

    Anyway, the incident finished sex for me. But that did not finish the sex urge per se, because just as in women there is a natural rhythm in men. I could notice that there was a peak sometimes, and for months and months you didn’t even know about it.

    it’s really unfortunate that man got away with everything for centuries while society ignored women. Half the population of this planet was neglected, humiliated and treated as doormats. Even the Bible story tells you that the woman is made out of the rib of man. What preposterous nonsense! You see, women’s intelligence is lost for this culture. Not only here, it’s the same everywhere.

    ~ UG

    Please have a look at the above links (you need to click on the underlined words)

    To be able to observe this, you need to develop certain amount of sensitivity. And for that you need to be able to not be out of control yourself blindly reacting to your carnal desires every time it occurs in your impure mind (otherwise an average man might say that every day it is at a peak ;) ).

    Half knowledge of scriptures and even a bad pickles jar can be used in any way to prove anything using some or the other fallacy (hope you checked the expiry date as someone had wisely advised :) ) – but at the end of the day its only one’s own personal experience that really matters.

  21. Neha, excellent post, I found it incredible that such notions existed. Pls delete my first comment thats incomplete and retain only the second one, thanks!

  22. SATC parthiya, ellaya?

  23. Sorry, I had to come out of the closet and comment on this. I’ve been a silent reader of your blog for sometime now. I followed these practices at home (at school, sports etc, we could do what we wanted) too thanks to my granny. My mom and sisters (not married as yet) still follow it. We fight every single time, and some things have changed for us over the years. Though not all of it. I’d love to see it go totally. But nowadays, we do not fight or say anything coz of love for my granny. But yes, staying in isolation is bull shit.

    Raj, I dedicate this comment to you. I wrote this because of you. Dude, I’d really like to meet you and discuss Hindu scriptures with you ;) Should be fun. We could even catch a trip to Amarnath or wherever Gods are more kind. Whaddya say? Bugger off, man!

  24. Aparna

    The beauty of being a women is that she menstruates and has the wonderful gift of being able to reproduce. Yet, that is held against when it comes to GOD! Even more ominous is what most rituals follow — menstruation is a bad word, a bodily shame that must be isolated and contained, that women are not allowed to worship God during menstruation.

  25. Unabashed Conservative

    Oh God

    I too am from a conservative family and my family observes all the “period” days. “Thooram”, “Theetu”, “Aathu la illai” et al. But the ill-punctuated, ungrammatical vehemence with which Raj has argued makes me cry “Voila”. Here is an unashamed unabashed conservative, North Indian though he may be (whom I detest).

    Lage Raho Raj!! Lage Raho

    LONG LIVE CONSERVATISM!! BEAT BACK THE INFIDELS!!!!