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How My Mother’s Patriarchal Attitude Motivated Me To Be A Feminist

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I was disheartened when I realised that my mother does not treat my brother and me the same way. It wasn’t just about freedom, liberty, movement or education, it came from the mere fact that there was a difference between how she spoke to my brother and me. It was not the same. Feminist mothers is a thing but patriarchy is so deep-rooted in many women in India that they may never been able to stand up for their daughters or change the way they raise them.

My brother often got away with talking to my mother in a harsh or high tone, maybe because it was deeply ingrained in my mother that that is how men are expected to talk to women. On a stranger note, often I didn’t even get away with a basic argument. I was often made to feel like women are not supposed to argue or talk to their mothers in a high tone. However, somehow, my brother was made to believe that he could do almost anything and get away with it in the house. 

I do not see my mother as being a woman who supports the feminism movement. And this troubles me. Often, I think it would help me if my mother tried to uplift me in more than my career. It would surely help if she did not constantly remind me “We have given you so much freedom, more than what other women have”. Mothers need to tell their daughters more often that they need to be given more freedom, that they deserve much more than what they get. Freedom is not a privilege, it has just been made to look like a privilege because of poor societal norms. Freedom is our birthright. But alas, my mother is not a feminist. 

Being a woman of today, I do not feel comfortable telling my own mother that I drink or smoke. My mother’s harsh words are likely to affect me much more than any societal norm. I’m not even “allowed” to date.

Somehow the assumption is already silently made in our house that women do not have private lives. I was never allowed to have a password on my phone, or have private chats which I did not share with my mother. In Grade 10, I remember my mother forcing me to read all my chats on the phone. I shrugged and I said no. But she thought it was okay to read them anyway. Alas, my mother is not a feminist. 

My brother and I share a room. There are jokes made on him dating girls. He has never been forced to share chats with our parents. Somehow, what goes on in his private life is no one else’s business. This deeply hurts me and makes me feel that I am not important enough. For the longest time, I felt like my identity was not one that I could own, it was something which had to be created by my family. My reputation, properly under control, so that society could not question me or my family. My mother is not a feminist. 

“It is just easier for women in the future, if they save their reputation”, my mother said. I never really understood what saving my family’s reputation really meant. I did not even understand why I was made a soldier in the family, in a tender age, when I did not know much about the world, to protect something I did not fully understand – “reputation”. My mother is not a feminist. 

Now I live like a martyr, only there’s no real pleasure that I derive from being one. I am a martyr because I am a woman who dared to dream. But one, whose identity and individuality were killed in an attempt to save her family’s reputation. Whenever I look women in the eye these days, I often find martyrs lurking behind them. Often, they were the victim of women’s ideologies around them.

Where are feminist mothers? Women who couldn’t stand up for themselves and failed to even stand up for their daughters. My mother is not a feminist. 

I have tried to see my mother as a victim of the ideologies that have tainted her. The ones which have pinned her down and have taken away her right to dream. But I read this somewhere and I cannot forget it, “We cannot be abusive just because we were abused.” She owes it to the world to raise me as a feminist and to raise her son as a feminist. I don’t see her doing either of these tasks successfully. My mother is not a feminist. 

My mother does not even see herself as a product of patriarchal norms and upbringing. She thinks that it is perfectly normal for a woman to be told what to wear, how to dress, whom to talk to and what to do with her life. She is okay with not being the one in control of her own life. I think she sees me growing up now into a feminist movement, and has even developed a resentment towards me for being the woman that I am. I think somewhere at the back of her head, she wishes that she had the opportunities that I do in life, the privilege of choices. My mother is not a feminist.

I feel disheartened when I realise that this is not just the story of my mother, it’s the story of countless other women in this world.

There are many mothers who treat their sons differently from their daughters. To them, giving their daughter’s any freedom is something they control, which they can snatch away when they please. My mother is not a feminist, but I will be one.