Today is the last day of Navratri, an important holiday in my family. Last year I summarized the holiday and wrote about Navratri as a celebration of collective decision for action. This year, I’ve been thinking about the holiday from a different perspective, and some complicated questions have arisen for me.
In the story of Navratri as my family tells it, all the Gods got banished from heaven, and combined their powers to create the Mother Goddess. I asked my mom this year about more details of one particular question: did both Gods and Goddesses combine their powers to manifest a divine being? According to my mom only the Devas (male Gods) combined their powers to create Ambaji.
My first instinct is to retell the story. Both Gods and Goddesses powers should have been equally needed in the fight for change, they should have been standing, working and fighting side by side. What does it mean that a bunch of men got together and created a woman (even though she was more powerful than all of them combined)? My current-day thinking on sexism and male domination confuses me too much to be able to critically analyze this part of the story right now.
But let’s take the story as is for a second. What if the story can be read as a group of men who got together to completely back a woman? That after she was created, she had complete freedom of her own mind to lead an enormous charge to create radical change in the world, and the male Gods backed her without question or hesitation, 100%, all the way to the end? What would it look like today, for us men to completely back every single woman in our lives? To completely trust their thinking, follow their leadership, and not stray behind? This has been a challenge for me, to completely, fully, even in seemingly small ways, back every woman in my life–in my personal life, at work, through my work as an artist, through my activism work. EVERY woman in my life. If I’m completely honest with myself, I tend to pick and choose which women in my life I back, I do it on my own terms, and I feel like a hero. It feels embarrassing to say that, but I trust I’m not the only man who does that, and I’m not alone in feeling bad about it. Right now the idea of completely backing every woman in my life feels overwhelming and almost impossible. But if I want to fight for a world without sexism and male domination, if I want end this oppression in every part of my life, in every part of the world that I touch, how could I not try to take this on? How could I not consider the idea of committing to fully support every woman I have any sort of relationship with? Maybe the story of Navratri can remind me that I can’t do this alone: it was a group of Devas that combine their powers to support a woman, not just one. And maybe I could look to the story of Navratri as a model of what completely backing a woman can look like, and what’s possible: everlasting, radical change for everyone on the planet.