Here’s a humble plea…let’s co-create a better, equal, world.
At an engagement ceremony in the family on Sunday, I witnessed, helplessly, as gender inequality played out. The mother of the groom, a single parent, was discouraged openly by the priest, from leading the ceremony from her family’s side. Her friend and the friend’s husband were “allowed” by the priest to lead the ceremony though. The implied message was that a male member and his spouse alone could lead this “auspicious” event. Single mothers (separated or widowed) may not, I inferred, lead. Interestingly, neither the groom nor his mother protested.
I didn’t volunteer to offer my perspective to the groom or his family because I am not very close to them to have known if they would be open to my “interference”. From the way everyone was so “comfortable” with the conduct of the ceremony, I am quiet sure they may have resented my “intrusion into their space”.
Even so, I am sharing my thoughts here to highlight the responsibility each of us has to throw out archaic practices which, in the name of religion or tradition, disrespect a woman, take away her dignity and treat her with a contemptuous bias. I don’t understand how an unrelated male leading an engagement ceremony is more appropriate, relevant or acceptable than a single mother – for heaven’s sake, the boy’s own biological mother! – leading it? I seriously don’t get it. This incident only reiterates in me the belief that a lot, lot more has to be done in the area of gender equality – and a lot of it begins in our homes. I wish the groom, a strapping young man, had stood up for his mom – who has given her all for raising him and his sister – and invited her to preside over the ceremony. It would have ushered in a progressive, refreshing, new egalitarian era.
I am not suggesting here that we turn activists at all family dos and social events. Activism is not necessarily required in all contexts; we also don’t have to be belligerent and aggressive. We can and must learn to put our foot down firmly on such practices that are clearly outdated, distasteful and stupid. I am sure if someone from the groom’s family had told the priest that the groom’s mother would lead the ceremony, he would not have had a serious problem. And if he had had a problem, he could have been reasoned with – either by talking him out of his regressive logic or by reiteration that he must conform to his client’s brief and expectations. Surely, the priest could be made to accept that choosing to accord dignity to a single mother is not blasphemous; because without her, there would be no son, no groom!!
Lest I sound preachy and hypocritical, I must disclose and reiterate here that I do have a dysfunctional relationship with my mother. I talk about this openly. Yet, I have not disrespected her at any time; I may not value what she has achieved or agree with what she has done or does, but I do respect her for always going out and doing what she believes in doing. I am also very grateful to her for having brought me into this world and for having raised me and for teaching me the alphabet. We have different outlooks to Life, our values are not in sync and so our chemistry has never worked. My way of according her respect is to let her be who she likes being without intruding into her space with either my presence or opinions.
Sunday’s incident leaves me very baffled. I am not sure how we can garner support towards changing attitudes and mindsets. So, I make a humble plea. I wish, as a people, we have more conversations on this subject. I wish people stand up for gender equality instead of being button-holed by shallow reasoning in the name of God, religion, tradition, culture and society. I just wish we all co-create a better, equal, world…