Disclaimer: Views shared are purely personal, but definitely not fiction. All parts where “mothers” are mentioned are not generalising everyone but speaks about a majority, “often seen” scenario.
Today if I have a good-paying job, a place of my own, a car and the ability to fulfil most of my personal and family needs, I would be called a successful or a well-established person in society. This is socially correct and good. Correctness lies in the eyes of the beholder, as in the case with beauty.
But this is the assumption, or what I can call a benchmark or image of success decided by the society over time, and people start running behind this image to be socially correct and to mix into society to fit in the frame. This is social conditioning. And this socially conditioned air that we are breathing every day is really bad for our health. It’s even more dangerous than breathing Delhi’s air.
The important thing we should know is that we cannot develop socially or morally until we break the social conditioning which has been embedded and programmed into our brains. And whatever we engage into, be it our work, our opinions or our development, this conditioning, this ideology — the majoritarian ideology of social correctness, which has already been programmed, will take effect.
When it comes to women in this socially polluted environment, the situation is horrifying. Discrimination, injustice and violence against women find a comfortable breeding ground in such a conditioned environment.
When a guest comes, why is it that most often, it’s the lady of the house who gets up to make tea? Maybe the husband makes better tea; why not him then? Why is it the wife who needs to wear a sign that she’s married? Why is it expected of the wife to be the maker or breaker of a marriage?
Why is it shocking for some if the wife says she doesn’t know how to cook, but it’s pretty normal if the husband says so? Why in most invitations it’s written “Mr Husband and family” and not Mrs Wife?
We need to question this. Why do we often witness or hear or experience such instances? Why are these practices not questioned? Why are women or society unable to figure it out and not able to see discrimination and injustice? It’s because of the conditioning of our minds. And this is terrifying because this conditioning, though bad for society as a whole, is especially unhealthy and ugly for women.
Now, where do we break this conditioning? In the parliament, making and passing acts to become laws, or in the judiciary, or schools and colleges? Actually everywhere. We need to break it at every possible opportunity.
But the place where this conditioning is needed to be broken the most is — inside the four walls of our home.
“Annapurna”, “Grihalaxmi”, “Sarvagun Samppan”, etc., these stupid terms are used to praise women in our society. But there underlies subtle exploitation in these. It’s unknown, or people don’t dig in much to see that there’s discrimination disguised in these praises.
But at the same time, it’s not fair to blame those who use these terms; it’s unknown to them too. By using these false praises against women, you are making them stay inside the kitchen, inside the four walls of the house, making her take all the household chores on her shoulders.
For example, my mom tries to avoid serving restaurant food to guests at home because “what will they think if she orders food”. Then she won’t fall in the above-mentioned categories, which she can’t afford to lose. My mom doesn’t allow my father to do the household chores when my grandmother or some other “special” family member is around. Again, she will not fall in the good wife, good mother category.
It’s also the women who many times positively accepts these titles. But why is she doing it? Somewhere deep inside, she wants these praises. It’s simply because she feels her hardwork has been credited.
Just think of her; she doesn’t have a job or a business; she’s a homemaker, and a lot of women are just homemakers in India. The house is where she spends all her time. So it becomes very important for her to be the best homemaker possible. And these praises are delusive apprehensions of a “good housewife”, which is all a lot of married women in our society want.
So it’s pretty understandable why women often crave these praises and try to be the lady these titles portray.
The famous French author and philosopher Simone De Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex is considered the trigger for the second wave of French feminism.
In the book, Beauvoir talks about mothers. She talks about how most mothers, being victims of patriarchy inside the house and society outside, unknowingly pass on the victimhood to their daughter/s, how the mother, in the quest of fitting her daughter in the social framework, goes on teaching and following the same customs and practices that were once made to be followed by her.
Most mothers do not understand that the image of a “good girl” society has created is based on and deep-rooted in various forms of discrimination, inequality and violence. And knowingly or unknowingly, that mother who herself is a victim of all those now becomes a perpetrator.
For example, the mother is the person most responsible for the still existing taboo around a girl’s periods. Why to this day is menstruation still a “not to be said or talked about” thing in our country? The mother may be passing on the same information, which she got from her mother without putting logic into it, to the daughter.
Again, it is the mother on the phone who asks her daughter to tolerate and bear all the mental and physical trouble she’s facing with her in-laws because she’s a girl. “A girl should learn to tolerate and lend a blind eye to everything wrong happening to her”, and “getting a divorce is not an option for her” is all some mothers would advise their daughters — unknowingly passing on the victimhood.
It’s saddening, heart-wrenching to see women accept their fate. They accept they are inferior, belong in the kitchen and accept they have to serve the family.
In the 2015 film Piku, writer Juhi Chaturvedi wrote a very beautiful dialogue which, if I am not mistaken, very accurately defines the condition of a section of married women. The dialogue goes something like this: “Husband expects the wife to serve food in the day and sex at night.”
It’s disheartening that women are actually submitting to this, not many, but some are. Some accept it as their duty; some silently believe it’s their fate.
“Bringing change and social development in society is primarily in the hands of one person.” – Mother.
Last year a short film, Natkhat, directed by Shaan Vyas, premiered on YouTube as part of the We Are One Film Festival. The film very interestingly portrayed how a mother could make a difference in society by making a difference in how she raises her kids, what ideas and beliefs she allows to sneak in her kids and what she filters out.
If the mother logically and scientifically explains to her daughter about menstruation and doesn’t introduce her to the various superstitions or irrational customs around it, then for the daughter or at least between the daughter and the mother, menstruation won’t be taboo anymore.
If the mother, since his early years, teaches her son how to respect women, or tell him stories about women who have changed the world, or make him understand that women and men are equal, then that boy will surely develop a healthy ideology and mindset over the years.
I am a stern believer that art has the power to change society. Good books and films are the most powerful weapons to take on the illogical and vicious thoughts, ideas, rituals and customs that persist in our society. Basically to break the social conditioning.
Hence, I would like to recommend one movie and one book to all the readers. The movie is pretty recent, the 2021 Malayalam film The Great Indian Kitchen directed by Jeo Baby. This movie will surely move everyone inside out. The recipe of The Great Indian Kitchen is hard to digest.
The book is an old one, but surprisingly it is still relevant, Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. It’s a 1949 book written before the start of the second-wave feminist movement in France. And it’s sad that even after 72 years, it feels relevant. Simone De Beauvoir once said, “One is not born, but rather, becomes a woman.”
So we need to stop the irrational and heinous social elements from making a socially or morally correct and appropriate model of “men” or a “women” out of a human.