Am I not a woman if I don’t want to be a mother?
by Akankshya Narayan
(New Delhi, India)
Nirupama sat on the couch with her in-laws in their big flamboyant living room, the sound of their haughty laughter echoing through the room. Nirupama started to feel anxious among these overbearing adults, so much so that their conversation (which they playfully named - ‘chai pe charcha’) made her nauseous.
She decided not to test her patience any further, and got up to leave the room, until the room became a labyrinth for her when she heard the most horrific words from her mother-in-law’s mouth, “It is the dream of every woman to be a mother someday”
Those words made her feet feel heavier, and her mind dizzy. How conveniently could she impose her opinions on the four thousand women of this planet?
It's obvious Nirupama was able to decipher the meaning of the statement, and she knew that it was directed towards her as a warning just curtained like a thought.
For a feminist woman like Nirupama, it was unbearable to agree to this, and while she stood shunned with absolutely no expression on her stoic visage, her mind flooded with a plethora of arguments and thoughts…..
“Am I overreacting? I don’t know, but honestly, this is not the first time I’m hearing such a thing. This statement is one of the most overheard opinions in a typical ‘Sanskaari’ Indian household.
But, I do not and I guess will never agree to this notion. I have my own set of opinions, which I’d very much like to share, but before that, I’d like to draw all our attention to that one thing that has always been lurking around in my mind.
We all somehow blame religion for being the reason for an orthodox and misogynist world, but I remember feeling betrayed when science too supported bigotry and made me question the free will and agency a woman possesses (and does not possess and does not possess at the same time). Remember how we used to mug up Darwin's theories in our biology classes? I remember reading one of the theories about women, it said ‘the role of the mother is to the nurturance of the children, in the womb and the world. Her role is defined by the creation of human beings
Note, that the term mother is not exclusive to women, these two terms are highly interchangeable, and while we delve into perplexity to use which term, Darwin has already imposed his judgment over the entire race of women.
I guess this explains why Victor Frankenstein’s creation was so ‘blasphemous’! I’m sure, we all must have grown up reading Shelly’s Frankenstein (don’t tell me you haven’t…tsk…tsk..), and while we all tried to sympathize with the monster, one thing that always followed was the loath towards his creator- Victor.
According to some critics, Victor was a punishable character, because Victor, by creating the monster, took away the ‘right’ (Adhikaar), the ‘privilege’ (swabhagya) of a woman, the superpower of giving birth to a living creature! How dare he compete with a woman! a mother! by creating a creature. He has challenged the position of women and disrupted the entire idea of a woman’s individualism, which was based on the notion of her being able
to become a mother. (slow clapping……)
Really? Is the significance and status of a woman so fragile, is it only dangling by the thread of her womb, of her ability to give birth?
And if she can’t or does not choose to become a mother, then is she transgressing her limitations and defying the laws of nature? Too bad, right? Because then that would make her a Prometheus! (Prometheus, is the God of fire in Greek mythology, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans: he opposed the rules made by the Olympians)
Just because a woman is biologically capable of being a mother does not mean she has to be compelled to be one!
And, I can’t help but notice how insecure men are! They’re diffident of the fact that women can push a child out of her womb, so insecure that as soon as the baby enters this world, fathers are the first to stamp their surnames on that pale-wailing baby!
Even the media, and especially our very “beloved” Bollywood, has left no stones unturned to glorify (ostentatiously, I must add) the womb of a woman. There are at least a dozen of movies with stale rotten dialogues like-
“Aurat ka niraadar mat kar, yaad rakh tu bhi kisi maa ke kok se hi janma hai” (translated: don’t disrespect a woman, because even you came into this world from a mother’s womb)
And what about her who has never brought any soul into this world?
While the Bollywood representation has given me enough second-hand embarrassment, I was left deeply shocked and disturbed with 2022 Prega News, ironically released on Woman’s day with a catchphrase- ‘the end will inspire you', and a hashtag- #she cancarryboth. The ad voices that when a woman is in the turmoil of confusion of whether to choose a career or child, she should never think about abortion instead always choose pregnancy even if that means her struggling to manage both her child and her career because #shecancarryboth.
What utter nonsense!
How dare they promote such toxic ideas! How dare they stress women with such opinions? I’m sure this opinion is not coming from an aware woman, but rather from a conservative mind.
I think, becoming a mother is a ‘choice’ of the woman, whether nearing your child, surrogating another’s child, or even adopting a child it’s all a matter of choice and not a duty.
It’s time we stop using phrases like ‘nothing’s better for a woman than experiencing motherhood’, and celebrities (I’m specifically talking about Anushka Sharma) shouldn’t extend their outdated ideologies on pregnancy with captions like- ‘Nothing is more real & humbling than experiencing creation of life in you’, what does that even mean?
The only acceptable phrase will be “Motherhood is precious if you enjoy it, and you’re becoming a mother by choice.” ‘’
“Are you okay?” asked Nirupama’s husband with a twisted sort of face, who was calling her for the past few minutes. She didn’t realize she was standing dumbfounded and drenched in her thoughts.
Finally, she opened her mouth, words stammering off her lips… “Mummyjii..aap…aap…You’re wrong…”
Everyone stared at her queerly, while a grin spread across her lips.*****