A recent video by Instagrammer Sushmita Sinha has come under the attack of trolls for her dissent on Teej festival. In the video, Sinha has criticised the Hindu ritual of Teej celebrated in North India in which women observe fast throughout the day for the long-life of their husbands. She read out a Hindu scripture that talks about the necessity of Teej and exposed how the ritual and the beliefs about it are misogynists. The scripture, as she reads, mentions that if a woman does not observe this fast, her rebirth will be in poverty, destitute and childlessness. Moreover, if a woman who is observing the difficult fast consumes fruit, curd or anything she will reborn into a pig, insects and whatnot. Towards the end, she says that since she doesn’t believe in such derogatory scriptures, she will use it as tissue paper or toilet paper.  And the trolls have been targeting Sinha specifically for this part of her video blaming her for ‘disrespecting Hindu sentiments’ and demanding her immediate arrest. She also revealed in another video that she has been receiving rape threats, acid attack threats and threats to burn down her house.

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Sinha’s argument against Teej according to me isn’t so much about religion as it is anti feminist. Teej is a ritual that undermines the individuality of a woman and restricts it within her submissiveness and fidelity towards her husband. A woman is expected to prioritise the welfare of the husband by assuming the sacrificial role and observing rituals that are so harsh on her body. And it is not surprising either that the scripture she reads out projects women in a bad light. These scriptures, traditions and rituals were created at the time when women had no agency over their lives and were dominated by men who were the sole bread earners. But today when we are thriving to achieve gender equality, why should such scriptures be a part of our lives? Why should it be more important to preserve the sanctity of these scriptures rather than respecting women?

Sushmita Sinha video on Instagram: While other women show their dissent by redefining Teej, women like Sinha oppose it radically by discarding the scripture or using it as toilet paper. Point is women have the freedom to choose, flout patriarchal norms and yet not be shamed by rape threats or arrest.

Sinha’s argument exposes the hypocrisy of the society that on one hand encourages women empowerment while on the other hand denigrates it by upholding belief systems in the name of Sanskriti that are outright patriarchal and misogynist. She is being questioned for her feminist stance and how it goes overboard by hurting the Hindu sentiments. But again women empowerment is not limited to the point where it becomes inconvenient for the patriarchy and a threat to the traditions that it has created.

Moreover, the video should not be seen as disrespectful towards women who believe in such rituals. Rather it should be seen as a confrontation of whether women are fully aware of what they believe in and help them make an informed choice. No woman should be forced to believe in the misogynistic statements of the scripture and if they do, confrontations like these are important to help them make a better choice.

The importance of a woman’s choice plays a vital role in the debate about celebrating or criticising Teej. If a woman wants to celebrate Teej while being aware of the misogyny that it propagates, we cannot question her choice. Belonging to a family in Bihar where Teej is widely celebrated, I know of women who celebrate Teej just for love and bonding with their husbands. They know what the scripture says and firmly deny to be oppressed by those orthodox ideas and celebrate Teej in their own way to prioritise their choice and happiness. Many women who celebrate Teej go out to work, eat or drink water once a day without any guilt. Moreover, Teej, Karwa Chauth and other such rituals encourage women solidarity and sisterhood.

Women today are already defying the oppression and misogyny of the festival then why should Sinha be shamed for doing the same but radically? While other women show their dissent by redefining Teej, women like Sinha oppose it radically by discarding the scripture or using it as toilet paper. Point is women have the freedom to choose, flout patriarchal norms and yet not be shamed by rape threats or arrest.

Views are the author’s own. Feel strongly about an issue? Write to us stories@shethepeople.tv

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