“I hate my mom!” I often scream in isolation and break down into helpless tears. I am an educated and empowered woman but it hurts to be contradicted by my mother. She forced me to assume silence when I was harassed by men in the house, multiple times. “Mard aise hi hote hai”, she would say each time I opened up about harassment and gender inequality. This is despite the fact that my mother had faced gender violence too. She was also harassed as a young girl and beaten up as a married woman. She was also expected to marry early in life and settle in the kitchen rather than becoming the teacher that she always wanted to be. Although, she did encourage me to pursue education and a job but then asked me to compromise when it came to marriage, gender violence and inequality. Whenever I say, “I love you for encouraging me to study. But then why do you want me to compromise ma?”, she replies “I want the best for you, you are my daughter.” But, dear ma, how can sacrificing, keeping quiet on harassment and compromising give the best life to me?
I hate my mom. Mothers have to get rid of their patriarchal conditioning and raise their daughters as equal and free beings. But do they?
What happens with me is something very common between mothers and daughters in today’s world. Disagreements, fights and resentment between mothers and daughters are now increasingly affecting the relationship between the duo. “I hate my mom” or “my mother hates me”, every second woman can be heard saying this as her resentment towards mother becomes stronger everyday. The reason behind this is the generation gap between mothers and daughters of today. Mothers belong to the generation when women weren’t allowed the freedom to choose, speak and make decisions for their lives. But then, dear ma, is it justified to impose the same restrictions on me in the era when women have the say? I belong to the time when women empowerment and gender equality is gaining momentum. Is it right for you to not unlearn your patriarchal conditioning and embrace the change that women empowerment is bringing?
Yes, it could be difficult for you to allow me to break conventions and own my life. Because there is no denying that the life of an ambitious woman in a patriarchal society still isn’t easy or even safe. They will have to face challenges plotted by patriarchy in every stage, in education, job or even in walking on the roads alone. But dear ma, how is it right to restrict me just because society cannot stand independent women? Do you stop your son from not learning to ride a bike, falling of it and then going on rides all alone? Aren’t you ultimately giving in to society’s stereotype that women are indeed less capable or subordinate to men? If this is so, then we will never see the dawn of women empowerment in its full shine. Many mothers will continue to impose patriarchal restrictions on their daughters in the name of safety and security. And daughters will bottle up their resentment, mix it with helplessness and internalised gender inequality that will not only harm the daughters themselves but the women of the coming generation too.
An example is Anjali’s life. Anjali turned 18 last year and is being married next month. Her mother, a domestic violence survivor, doesn’t want her daughter to stay near her abusive father. So marriage is the best way out for her. Anjali couldn’t complete her education and is left worrying about how she will manage her marriage. But she loves her mom more than anyone else. “She cares about me” Anjali says whenever she is asked about her mother. But what about early marriage? “Maybe that’s best for me” she replies.
So what is the way out of this vicious circle of passing on patriarchy through generations?
Mothers have to get rid of their patriarchal conditioning and raise their daughters as equal and free beings. They should stop imposing restrictions just because they faced them too. Changes are inevitable and the wise thing to do is to adapt ourselves to them. A wrong upbringing can only be corrected by not passing it on to the next generation. Mothers should invest in educating and empowering their daughters so that they don’t have to be dependent on anyone. Impart values of resilience and outspokenness in the daughters so that they raise voice against the wrong rather than being suppressed by it.
Anajali’s story is similar yet different from mine. Anjali has internalised the restrictions that is being imposed on her while I am trying my best to question them. If Anjali’s mother would have invested time and money in educating her, wouldn’t her life be better? Wouldn’t she capable enough to raise voice against any wrong that happens to her and simultaneously save herself by living on her own? And if my mother supports me rather than shunning my outspokenness as “rude and unfeminine”, we both can challenge the gender inequalities around us together.
So dear ma, don’t stop me from growing and challenging the norms. You are only hurting me by expecting me to conform to the conventions of society. I feel so bad that you had to give up your education, dream job and incur wounds of gender violence. I have seen the blood oozing out of your wound and I want to challenge and break that tradition in our family before it hurts me. Am I asking for too much? Or am I doing something wrong? There is no use being stuck in the sludge forever, you either drown or take a leap out of it. Which one is best for your daughter?