Equality Between Sikh Men & Women

With what eyes do you men view us women? Do you see us as something to compulsively conquer, to possess our hearts our minds, our souls? Or do you see us as radiant avenues to God? Do you avenge injuries no woman has ever dealt you by exploiting, deceiving and betraying us or do you act as defenders of our honour, guardians of our vulnerability? the fundamental difference is that we are yours for the taking but in return you are ours only for the asking.

Guru Nanak elevated women to their proper position of equals before man, a right which he stated is God-given but never recognised as so by men. In fact any admission to equality is like a granted favour. It is interesting to note how few men think about why women are made physically weaker in strength yet given the role of creator and mother who nurtures and gives birth to new life.

Surely it is a true test of intelligence, a true test of conscience, a true test of spiritual development for men to recognise our worth insofar as nature dictates. All religions before Sikhi found some way or another to blame the fall of man onto women. This is a projection of man's inability to deal with their failings, their libido and their desire to control women and be independent of them. Men's need of woman is often denied and confessed as a mere want. Frequently, men find that their self-love is much stronger than the affection with which women inspire them.

Down the ages, women are punished for arousing men's lower passions or for highlighting their failings and their need of us. We see it as men's weakness, not ours, that men are at once attracted and repelled by our virtues. By virtues of our virtues, we bear the brunt of your caveman like sledgehammers with which you periodically strike us with. Our Guru's defined all pervious attitudes to the question of equality by turning women's so called weaknesses into strengths that they have always been. It was Guru Gobind Singh's wife who added sugar to baptismal water - this event in Sikh history shows that men are meant to receive women's contribution to holy war in order to temper the fight for justice with mercy, with compassion and forgiveness - the qualities of God that we women represent.

We are not meant to be dependent on men or vice versa. We are meant to be interdependent-complements. We are meant to respect each others qualities and work towards the same goal ~ that of salvation. We are meant to respect the qualities unique to manhood and womanhood and also respect each others qualities as individuals searching for acceptance, for love and understanding and security, in order that we may grow spiritually. 1 use this word inter-dependence in the hope that the imagery of 'one soul' can be neutralised in such a way as to convey its proper meaning.

If we women are right in assuming that we seem to mother and smother men and thereby alienate men against the very closeness that we seek, the perhaps it is time to strip away the assumptions of neat truisms such as 'fusion into one soul' and 'love will conquer all'.

1 do not believe that this imagery ever meant to suggest that we give up our individuality or our autonomy. However, in today's Kalyug we do seem to have a battle of the sexes where neither men or women have won but have simply fought a constant battle to assert themselves. The so called sexual revolution of the west for women's liberation has served not to free women from bondage to men's desires and controls but trapped them even more. Today, men can exploit women without having to fear the repercussions of their words and deeds. In the old days, society tried to protect women's honour and respectability and quickly labelled anyone who challenged this as a person of few morals. Today, women seem to consent to such exploitation because the sexual revolution has conned us into thinking this is how men prefer us, this is how they see us as equals - to behave like them, to enter into the man's world. Sadly this is where we have been wrong, for we women ourselves encourage the double standards that men have expected us to accept as a fact of nature - that they are naturally polygamous and we are naturally monogamous. How can this contradiction be the truth? For truth never contradicts itself, it is always in harmony with itself. 1 think that in their hearts of hearts men want us to be strong women not weak versions of men.

We women complain how men freely womanise and yet expect to marry virginal women who put their own needs second. Not only do men have this double standard they expect women to read their minds and understand them and claim that women fail to do so. Firstly, we women as mothers encourage or excuse men to learn the ways of the world, then we bend over backwards to change ourselves to suit their needs because we feel we can only receive men's affection by giving up our autonomy. Men conic to marriage expecting to be understood and feet failed for we women have been busy cultivating wifely qualities and changing the very core that defines us as an individual. We put the development of our true selves firmly upon the shoulders of men who in turn fail us. Many an argument begins with a women asking "what have you done for me lately or ever" - and a man responding "I married you didn't 1, what more do you want?".

The swift pursuit of children never allows us to adjust to marriage let alone pursue the theme of self-development or interdependence which could potentially lead to our greatest fulfilment and happiness and indeed our salvation. It is a sorry state that this is a goal both men and women have but the means that we use to get there serve only to inject emotional pain and mental anguish and sometimes even physical abuse. At this point in our karmic cycle Gurbani comes to our rescue "dukh dharoo sukh rogh bhaia" - that pain is the motivator for change and an opportunity to grow by questioning life. Gurbani invokes us not to give birth to a generation that repeats our mistakes, but to put into motion, to translate into reality, a spiritual life where we are not just despondent survivors of the most unspeakable crimes against each other but instead draw strength from our wounds. To live Sikhi with our whole being not just as a vague thought in the head.

Today, it is Sikh women that must take the lead as we have been entrusted as the conscience of men. We have to act to break down men's denial and projection mechanisms. We face a power struggle because the proper norms of conduct have been eclipsed by lack of mutual trust and faith, and by men's sheer determination to put restrictions and boundaries upon relationships.

No relationship between a man and a woman can ever be sustained without a balance of power; arriving at this balance depends entirely upon the extent to which men and women are committed mutually to each others growth, their conduct governed by the laws of Gurbani both in letter and in sprit. We have been given the ideal of grihsti to follow - the life of a householder. through which to partake of eternity in the here and now. We women want to fulfil our highest spiritual potential but we can only do this from a position of strength and we CANNOT be strong Sikh women until Sikh men stop going through the motions of equality, stop sucking our hearts out of our chests and instead - meet us halfway, instead receive our affection in the spirit in which it is given. The very moment that men do so, we Sikh men and women, can together, beckon the return of the days of striving Saint - Soldiers and herald the salvage of a forgotten spirituality where we women can once again be the bow to your arrow, the single jewel in your saffron crown, fulfilling the promise of our scripture: to become rasia Sikhs, totally unrestricted by the boundaries of gender.

Paramjit Kaur.




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