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General An Exploration Of Femininity And Sikh Women

Ishna

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I would like to explore this sangat's views, opinions, experiences and conceptions when it comes to femininity and Sikh women.

I often hear other Sikh women struggling with reconciling their femininity with what can be seen by some as a hyper-masculine religion (Sikhism).

How do Sikh women here embrace their femininity? What is your conception of femininity? What does femininity look like to you? What is the value of femininity?

It is easier to see how Sikhism complements masculinity (hairy, weilding weapons, covering your hair with a dastaar, courage, battle, etc), but what are the expressions of femininity in Sikhism?

Of course there are internal qualities of femininity, like being caring, but how do you (if you're a woman) express your femininity?

I hear some of my fellow Sikh sisters-in-faith (and myself occasionally) say that Islam is sometimes a tempting religion because of how beautiful the hijab is, they can wear make-up and be "feminine", and sometimes my sisters feel they are expected to be like men instead.

Does this de-value women?

Please join me in exploring these ideas without judgement and without the aim of proving right or wrong.

I would also request if admins could please keep this thread on track as it is NOT designed to argue the validity of facial or body hair in Sikhi. If you want to discuss that, please go here: http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-sikhi-sikhism/33532-what-do-un-natural-growth-hair.html

Discussion of body hair in exploration of the topic of femininity and Sikh women is fine but should not be argued by members in this thread, please.

cheerleader kudihug :sippingcoffee: welcomekaur

Many thanks in advance
Ishna
 

Ishna

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Dear Spnadmin ji, I appreciate the hard work the admins put in to keeping all threads on track.

I'm not asking to keep kesh and Sikh identity separate but cautioning against arguing about it (which happens on and on and on and hijacks threads) which I tried to make clear with these two sentances and highlighting the 'arguing' part:

I would also request if admins could please keep this thread on track as it is NOT designed to argue the validity of facial or body hair in Sikhi. If you want to discuss that, please go here: http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/sikh-s...owth-hair.html

Discussion of body hair in exploration of the topic of femininity and Sikh women is fine but should not be argued by members in this thread, please.

I apologise for any misunderstanding however I was only trying to safeguard a topic which I believe is important to be explored but could easily descend into a back-and-forth argument over hairy chins and legs. I hope the thread (if it works) can explore these topics without bickering about the validity of kesh in Sikhi. If someone says they only feel feminine with/without their kesh, I wouldn't want to see another member shooting them down for it here.
 

kds1980

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I hear some of my fellow Sikh sisters-in-faith (and myself occasionally) say that Islam is sometimes a tempting religion because of how beautiful the hijab is, they can wear make-up and be "feminine", and sometimes my sisters feel they are expected to be like men instead.

Does this de-value women?
Are you talking about Amritdhari women?Large majority of Sikh women just cover their head with colorful chunni's .I don't know How can anyone say Hijab is beautiful than chunni?As far make up is concerned again non amritdhari women do wear make up,the only problem is accessive facial hair Which I think is more in western born women because in my family I have seen so many women who never removed hair from face yet their faces are just like any other beauty parlour going women
 

spnadmin

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Are you talking about Amritdhari women?Large majority of Sikh women just cover their head with colorful chunni's .I don't know How can anyone say Hijab is beautiful than chunni?As far make up is concerned again non amritdhari women do wear make up,the only problem is accessive facial hair Which I think is more in western born women because in my family I have seen so many women who never removed hair from face yet their faces are just like any other beauty parlour going women
So much is opinion I don't know where to start.

Yes to above. I am not getting the hijab myself. It is baggy, which I see unattractive. There is even a difference when shopping for salwar suits. The Pakistani suit, made for Muslim women, is baggy and shapeless. The Punjabi suit, for Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is carefully measured and tailored to the body, and more attractive "in my humble opinion." Fabrics are glorious and flatter every type of woman. My vote is for Punjabi dress... there are so many styles of kameez and salwar, and so many different embroideries and stunning fabrics.

European women are genetically pre-disposed to have more facial hair - though differences depend on region of family origin in Europe. Many Indian women do not have much facial hair as you say, even after they get older. The question of tweezing or threading eye-brows is probably what the young women mean. They don't want bushy eyebrows.
 

Mai Harinder Kaur

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I'm probably not the right person to ask because I have never been a girly-girl. I was never interested in frilly clothes, make-up, giggling and all that. As for high-heeled shoes, well, forget it! I admit they look nice and I am just toooooo short, but I have too much respect for my back to mess with those. Please bear in mind that I am just one woman and one kind of woman, thankfully unencumbered by the baggage of the Punjabi patriarchy.

I have never really cared much what I look like. As long as I am neat and clean and decently covered and comfortable, I'm happy. All of this sort of stuff is external femininity and it isn't important to me. I am a woman. I am a strong woman. I am a strong Sikh woman and I like it. I think feminine strength can be different than masculine. I could never lift as much as my husband; I wouldn't even try to match his physical strength. However, I could easily best him in agility and endurance.

Also, the rules for Khalsa woman are more strict than for non-Khalsa. There is, however, nothing in the SRM that prohibits Khalsa women from wearing make-up, if they choose. Personally, I would rather they didn't, but that is my preference.

From earliest childhood, I was taught to defend myself. (I had 7 older brothers; that in itself is a great teacher!) Mai Bhago was held up as my role model. But I am not all fighting warrior. The greatest joy in my life was being the wife of a hyper-masculine, alpha male (the real thing, not a macho fool prancing around putting on a show). My second greatest joy was being a mother. Really. I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed being a mom. I do not want to go into that right now, just to say it was wonderful.

I don't think femininity is any one thing. It is mostly how I think of myself. I have always strongly identified with my womanhood and loved it. It does not make me weak or dependent. I think we have a lot of overcoming to do because of the patriarchal Punjabi system we are stuck in. That's another topic though.

To me, being a woman, being feminine doesn't mean being weak or simpering. I am as feminine in my own way as the most dedicate hot house blossom. I think Sikh women are called upon to be stronger than most non-Sikh women. If we didn't have it in us, Guru wqouldn't ask it of us.

Indulge me a bit, please and let me reproduce one of my favourite statements on being a woman. Dear Sojourner Truth, 1851.

"]Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain't I A Woman?
Delivered 1851
Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
With an attitude like that, old Sojourner would have made a great Sikh, I think.

YouTube - Alfre Woodard reads Sojourner Truth
 

Ambarsaria

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One wonderful Qawalli I wish most will understand but I will try to translate a gist later,

Live At The BBC - Yusuf Azad Qawwal & Rashida Khatoon - Aise Besharam Aashiq

YouTube - Live At The BBC - Yusuf Azad Qawwal & Rashida Khatoon - Aise Besharam Aashiq

I believe femininity should be considered more in the context of a complementary masculine partner if one is married. There are varieties and levels of perceived femininity and masculinity. On itself these can become aberrant while in a couple these can match like a hand in glove.

Just another thought whether femininity by itself is a conceptual definable element.

For example one of the lines in the video they talk about duality of man and woman.

Paraphrase,

Even the men have various levels of femininity embedded in them and as such some are more feminine versus others in addition to their masculinity elements. The lady sings, "what happened god made some as a man and they act as though a woman (sorry highly controversial as to what a woman is supposed to act like, but just stating as sung)"

Definitely some thoughts for dialog in the qawalli.
Is a more appropriate question what men like in women or what their concept of beauty of a woman is and how much being feminine makes part of it? Also it could be compared with woman's idea of the same.

Just some thoughts for dialog.

Sat Sri Akal.
 

mariposazul

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Thank you Ishna for posting this...

Kesh in all its forms is not the prob for me, I've never enjoyed shaving, tweezing, waxing or whatever other painful invention a lot of women may go through to look smooth, in the past I have experienced all and paid for it dearly, don't recommend it.

However, I did grow up in a Latin country, very patriarchal and the 'outward appearance' of a woman is very clear...girlish, sensual,sexy, in a nutshell you wear your sensuality and sexuality on your sleeve...this has been established way before Hollywood ever discovered or promoted this look.

As a young girl and even now in my 30's, and more so that I have taken Sikhi and considering Amrit, I am constantly told to 'market' myself or my pickin for a husband will be slim to none, yes in those words >:/... I never could fully commit to this way of thinking, whether because of an allergic reaction to even the most 'organic' 'skin friendly' makeup or the annoyance in having to look sexier than the next woman every day, just ended up being a stupid neurotic self made competition which led to more insecurity in the long run.

So when I came upon Sikhi and learned about the role of women in Sikhi as the Gurus planted it, especially after the founding of the Khalsa, it was an entirely different, new world for me and at hands reach for me. But, I've heard so many interpretations specifically on how a Kaur should be and act and dress and not do or do I've gotten to a stump on the road...I know my inner strength, I know I look like a girl even if you put overalls on me and combat boots, but to be equal to a man, does it mean losing your outward femininity as well? And mind you, I'm not into makeup, but when I would go to Gurdwara (I don't have one available now) I would see the pretty chunis, and the pretty sewar kameez, even the most simply ornate one to the most elaborate was feminine just the same...no offense to the men on the forum, but I am fine with being a Singh's equal but I don't want to be confused with one.

I can understand if I was literally out in the battle field there were and are certain ways of dress that aid in battle, but for me, the battles I've encountered have been spiritual - crossing the earthbound and divine realm at the same time, fortunately I haven't had to wack someone over the head with a frying pan, (because I have no clue on how to use any type of weapon), but if need be I wouldn't hesitate if I knew how and
had to.:angryyoungkaur:


PS-Thank you Mai Harinder ji your input is very valuable and helpful for me.
 

Ishna

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Thank you all for participating!

KDS1980 ji: I'm talking about Sikh women who are Amritdhari or are aiming to one day become Amritdhari. When contemplating amrit sanchar and being Amritdhari, one ponders how this will change one's life and how to integrate the requirements into one's life. Someone who is happy being a Sikh and not a Khalsa might not encounter any contradiction to their femininity.

Chunnis are beautiful, but damn they slide around! I've given up - if I'm going to Gurdwara for a day of cooking and seva I just wear a bandana now and leave the chunni for Sunday morning. That's where the hijab is different I think, a bit more practical.

SPNadmin ji: You make a good point about Punjabi dress, but also your comment about not finding baggy salwar kameez attractive proves one crucial element of femininity -- it is largely in the eye of the beholder. I love baggy salwar kameez, they're the only ones I wear. I find modesty ENHANCES femininity. Maybe that's why I like the hijab.

Mai ji: I've always been a tom-boy, myself. I have difficulty expressing my femininity because it is counter to my Aussie culture's standard. The standard here is to show skin (more is better), colour and style your hair, wear make-up, high-heels, be giggly and interested in magazines and fashion and shopping. I am most comfortable like you, modestly dressed, flat shoes, utilitarian hair-do (that means tied back so it doesn't get in my eyes and doesn't get messy and knot up). And I LOVE this part of the quote you provided: "Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him."

Ambarsaria ji makes a good point: is masculinity and femininity a form of duality? However, isn't it a biological duality? How is it possible to escape that? One might say the aim should be to remove the sense of masculine/feminine and focus more on HUMAN. But from my perspective that seems to mean that men remain men and women adjust to the way the men are to bridge the duality gap.

People point to Mai Bhago as a great role model for women, however she was honoured by Guru Gobind Singh Ji by being provide with a male uniform to wear. No doubt Mai Bhago has great lessons to teach us about how to connect with our masculinity, and more, but can anyone suggest for me what a "feminine" Sikh role model could be?

When you consider Sikh women from history, what speaks to you (if anything) of their femininity? What is the difference between a Sikh man and a Sikh woman?

Is dressing up, making yourself attractive to the men in your culture, a biological program within women to ensure survival of the species? Is it right to disregard such a drive if it is indeed innate?
 
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Mai Harinder Kaur

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Is dressing up, making yourself attractive to the men in your culture, a biological program within women to ensure survival of the species? Is it right to disregard such a drive if it is indeed innate?
Ishna ji, I think this is purely cultural, an artifact of a patriarchal system. In matriarchal systems, it is in fact, the men who preen and make themselves attractive, in general. I was never more the archetypal feminine than when I was defending my family, dressed in a blue chola and turbanned, kirpan bloody and swinging, stabbing, slicing. I doubt, however, that any girly-girl would find me attractive thus attired and covered with blood. (On the other hand, I have no desire to attract a girly-girl.) Lest I be misunderstood, I like girly-girls just fine; I admit, though, I don't understand them.

The fact is that men find a woman comfortable with her femininity attractive whether she is in salwar kameez (I'm with you, I prefer the baggy ones for comfort), hijabbed, abayaed or even stark naked. Confidence is attractive to the opposite sex, whichever that happens to be. Except of course to prissy(not the word I really have in mind, but it'll do) wusses who are cowards at heart.

A much bigger question comes into play when you ask about disregarding innate drives. Civilisation is built on disregarding or at least controlling our innate drives. When I am angry, my innate drive says KILL! When I want something my innate drive says TAKE IT! I could go on, but I think that makes the point. I think these drives need to be acknowledged, but as humans the choice is ours whether to act on them or not.
 
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mariposazul

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Mai ji will you ever consider speaking at a Kaur camp or event any time in the near future? You have so much wisdom and practical approach you can help all of us Kaurs. I enjoy reading your posts very much, especially since right now I only have a virtual Sangat.

cheerleader
 

Mai Harinder Kaur

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Mai ji will you ever consider speaking at a Kaur camp or event any time in the near future? You have so much wisdom and practical approach you can help all of us Kaurs. I enjoy reading your posts very much, especially since right now I only have a virtual Sangat.

cheerleader
And right now, at least, I must remain a virtual person.

For reasons both of health and aesthetics, I do not make public appearances. These days, I can barely walk and that only with great pain, so I rarely get out. In fact, SPN has become my usual Sangat.

However, I will tell my husband what you said. He thinks I'm a little strange and impractical. (He's a man, you know!)

You are very welcome to quote or reprint anything I write.
 
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spnadmin

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ishna ji

You are right about beauty in the eye of the beholder. Now in connection to your observation
I love baggy salwar kameez,
To me baggy is unkempt and careless looking, and fitted is pulled together and neat. It is a matter of personal taste, and not always a matter of pleasing men. It is also a matter of generation. I would not be caught dead in jeans and a tee shirt, never wear tee shirts ever not even in the house, and never wear sweat shirts, nor sneakers anywhere, nor running suits. I don't even own these. So we have to factor in culture of time and place and experiences when we think of your question.

I would like to add one thing, perhaps not the last either. A woman can dress to promote herself with men, but many a woman lost her appeal the minute she "opened her mouth" (figurative expression which I know some do not like). And many a man will admit that he is hooked on first impressions of sexuality and sensuality, only to find attraction to fade within minutes. Let's take a look at some of the other ways besides dress that femininity is expressed.
 

mariposazul

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Oh I see, well that's understandable, but if you ever get inspired and post a vid or have a virtual conference through Skype or any other social forum would love to know.

Andrea cheerleader
 

kds1980

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KDS1980 ji: I'm talking about Sikh women who are Amritdhari or are aiming to one day become Amritdhari. When contemplating amrit sanchar and being Amritdhari, one ponders how this will change one's life and how to integrate the requirements into one's life. Someone who is happy being a Sikh and not a Khalsa might not encounter any contradiction to their femininity.

Chunnis are beautiful, but damn they slide around! I've given up - if I'm going to Gurdwara for a day of cooking and seva I just wear a bandana now and leave the chunni for Sunday morning. That's where the hijab is different I think, a bit more practical.
Ishna ji

If you ever visit Historical Gurdwara's in India you will find women sewadarni's employed who cover their head with chunni's .They do sewa as long as their working hours demand and many of them are Amritdhari.I don't think they look masculine or different from other female sikh population

People point to Mai Bhago as a great role model for women, however she was honoured by Guru Gobind Singh Ji by being provide with a male uniform to wear. No doubt Mai Bhago has great lessons to teach us about how to connect with our masculinity, and more, but can anyone suggest for me what a "feminine" Sikh role model could be?


When you consider Sikh women from history, what speaks to you (if anything) of their femininity? What is the difference between a Sikh man and a Sikh woman?
There are many feminine Sikh role models ,Mata khivi whose name is mentioned in Guru granth sahib About her contribuition in langar.Mata Gujri ,mother of Guru gobind Singh ,Mata sundri ,wife of Guru gobind singh ji Who later guided The khalsa but never picked up the sword so there are plenty of Feminine sikh role models.It is the today's Sikh women who only see Mai Bhago as their role model O/W Sikh history has plenty of women Sikh role models.
 

Mai Harinder Kaur

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How a Singhni dresses will largely depend on what she is doing. A woman who is employed as a bodyguard or a soldier or a construction worker will most likely dress in a way considered less feminine by many than a homemaker or a teacher or even a physician. motherlylove

I like the chunni. I see it as a beautiful, graceful garment and I love the feel of the soft material against my face. I usually have either a chunni or some sort of scarf over my hair. (I am unable to tie a turban with only one working hand.) However, if I am cooking, I favour a bandanna, as I have no desire to burn either myself of my home. Likewise, if defence becomes necessary, the chunni flies off so I can fight effectively. :swordfight-kudiyan:

I think this is all common sense. Even the soldier/bodyguard/construction worker can be as conventionally feminine as she likes when off duty.

As I write, I think of myself as a young mother on our little farm, me wearing overalls, a t-shirt and a bandanna, taking time out from my chores to nurse our child (nursing is not a chore). There was certainly nothing feminine in my clothing and, yet I was performing the most feminine of actions and feeling completely womanly. As I said before, I see femininity as primarily something inside, not something I put on or take off with my clothing.:sippingcoffee:

Now, shall we all sing a chorus of "I Enjoy Being A Girl"?
"I'm strictly a female female..."?
:tablakudi: :japposatnamwaheguru: :tablakudi:
 

Ambarsaria

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Why can't she be feminine when she is on duty? Do clothes alone make you feminine? What is "feminine?"
I love this thread. I wish some hombre would start a thread about masculanity.

However, am avoiding contributing anything as words can be taken wrong.

For example, some men find uniforms "très chic" even though that is not all about being feminine.

World is a wonderful place.

YouTube - Masculine Women! Feminine Men! (1926)

Sat Sri Akal.
 

mariposazul

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Mar 10, 2011
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kds1980 ji,

with your mention of other female Sikh role models in Sikh history, it just came to mind the book "Twenty Nobel and Brave Sikh Women" by Retired Principal Sawan Singh. I have the 2005 hard cover edition, there is a more recent 2011 digital edition. It is a good reference and short stories on these women starting from Bebe Nanaki ji.

In the hard cover edition there are very beautiful paintings rendering different high points in each Kaur's bio.

The sole purpose of this book, the author notes, was to bring awareness of all these Kaur role models...have to dig it up again and re-read it.-thanks!
 

Mai Harinder Kaur

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Why can't she be feminine when she is on duty? Do clothes alone make you feminine? What is "feminine?"
That is why I said "conventionally" feminine. My point exactly! Being feminine in fact is not merely the conventional, stereotyped version. A woman can be as feminine as another no matter how she is dressed. Being "feminine" is an attitude, not a clothing style.

"What is feminine?" is harder to answer. I would say that it is my attitude toward myself, my self-image as a woman and, perhaps, how I project myself as a woman. Please reread Sojourner Truth. I think there is a lot to think about there. I'm sure others can come up with a much better definition.
 

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