I may forget to have breakfast, but I never forget my morning ritual of going through my Instagram feed. It was on of these morning scrolls that I came across a post by Lily Singh aka iiSuperwomanii. The post was about what she did this year on Raksha Bandhan, and it absolutely made my day.
The word ‘Raksha’ translates to ‘protection’ while ‘Bandhan’ translates to ‘relationship’ or ‘bond.’
Historically, Raksha Bandhan is an annual tradition celebrated by Hindus where a sister ties a bracelet, usually made with red and gold strings, around her brother’s wrist. The bracelet is supposed to protect the wearer since it is usually blessed with holy verses. In return, the brother vows to protect his sister as well. But the protection the brother offers is not spiritual, but societal and physical.
Today is a very special day for me. My entire life I, like many other girls of Indian descent, celebrated Rakhri (also known as Raksha Bandan) which is essentially a tradition that entails tying a decorative string on your brother. The general idea is to ward off evil eye from your brother and the brother is supposed to promise to protect his sister. For years I did this without questioning why or even critically thinking. Having traveled the world and met so many people, abroad and right next door, who are negatively impacted by sexism in really severe ways, I now do critically think about these matters. I think about why a girl I’ve met in a village in India thinks it’s okay for her brother, uncle or cousin to abuse her. I think about why girls feel they can’t speak up. I also think about why parents in so many places view daughters as a burden. One of the reasons is that so many traditions we practice in many cultures around the world have sexism embedded into them and if we don’t change that, they will always seem the norm. Girls shouldn’t be raised to believe that brothers should protect and sisters require protection. Rather, they should be taught that they are equal and should both make a promise to each other. Sisters, daughters and mothers should be celebrated in all the same ways brothers, sons and fathers are and if a tradition suggests otherwise, then it’s time to change that tradition. Just because something has happened for a long time, it doesn’t make it right. To all my sisters and brothers, it’s time to make it right. Today I got my first ever Rakhri tied on me by my baby bro and I’m overjoyed ??❤️ #GirlLove @spreadgirllove
Lily’s post was incredibly meaningful. She wrote about how this year she changed things up by having her brother tie a rakhi on her wrist as well because she wanted both siblings to protect one another in all realms; spiritually, physically, and in society.
Lily also pointed out how abuse from male relatives usually goes unnoticed since girls do not feel brave enough to speak up. This tradition further cements the belief that the male members of a family are the protectors of the women in the family. They are to be respected and celebrated. Since the notion is that the male family members are protectors of the women, how could a female accuse them of abuse? This tradition reinforces women to keep quiet about any kind of physical, emotional, sexual, or verbal abuse they may be victim to at the hands of the men in their family.
The reason why Lily did things differently this year instead of following traditions, as she previously had done, was that she thought long and hard about the significance of this tradition this year. She came to the conclusion that a brother vowing to protect his sister contributed to the underlying belief that daughters are a burden since they constantly need to be protected by the male members of their family, as well as the fact that this ritual kept women quiet.
Lily’s post struck a chord with me because there are countless traditions we blindly follow just for the sake of ceremony. However, these ceremonies have a deep impact on our culture and how we view gender roles.
Traditions are protected by people because they are viewed as sacred and therefore cannot be changed. But what happens when these traditions are the reason men and women are confined to certain gender roles, which they cannot stray from? Traditions like these need to change and be more open and accommodating.
Kudos to Lily Singh for truly being a super woman and brave enough to point out how traditions we participate in blindly might be harming us. Questioning or changing traditions is never easy, especially if you’re taking the first step. Her courage is much appreciated.
Others should follow suit and critically examine all traditions they take a part in to discover whether these traditions benefit, or hurt us. It is time to examine our own cultures indepth.