How Many Of Us Realise Our Mothers Are ‘Women’ Too, When Speaking Of ‘Women’s Issues’?

This book reminded me that before being a ‘mother’, my mother is a woman who is subjected to subtle patriarchal oppression of family, which no one talks about because it’s ‘invisible’ to us, or maybe because we have ‘chosen’ to unsee it.

During my semester break, I decided to read non-fiction feminist books again and happened to pick up Nilanjana Bhowmick’s Lies Our Mothers Told Us: the Indian Woman’s Burden. 

The book begins with the quote, “to all the women who are doing it all, and doing it alone: I hear you; I see you” and it successfully grabbed my full attention. This book magnificently talks about the much-ignored struggles of one of the most suppressed strata of Indian society; middle-class women, especially homemakers.

For me, the best part about this book was the presentation of complicated issues and data in a simple and easily understandable language.

How many of think of our mothers as women having issues?

Being a hardcore feminist, I was aware of the fact that though we talk about women’s emancipation, the need to respect their choices and encourage them to speak up in the public sphere, we often forget to include our mothers in talking about ‘women’s issues’. This book reminded me that before being a ‘mother’, my mother is a woman who is subjected to subtle patriarchal oppression of family, which no one talks about because it’s ‘invisible’ to us, or maybe because we have ‘chosen’ to unsee it.

Bhowmick’s book made me aware of the nuances and intricacies of being a middle-class homemaker who always has the pressure to ‘do it all’, even though no one in the family said it explicitly, the feeling of guilt and regret when not being able to manage it all, is internalized by every woman.

I am an individual, who like most feminists does not hold a very optimistic view of marriage and regard it as a patriarchal institution. The experiences documented in the book reaffirmed the statement, “two people can be feminists in marriage, but a marriage can never be feminist” for me.

Reading the experiences of the homemakers as well as those married women who were earning, I realized that those experiences might become a reality for me too someday (if I get married, which I don’t want to). And this realization every time gives me goosebumps, nightmares, and a headache.

How the internet, blogging, and vlogging opened up their horizons

Apart from the unspoken challenges and trauma of a middle-class Indian homemaker, Nilanjana Bhowmick also addresses a few essential patriarchal issues of the society, pervasive in the public realm, such as the continuance of the system of ‘pradhan-pati’ and why are women absent from public spaces.

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For me, one of the most interesting chapters of the book was the one titled ‘documenting the housewife experience’, which talked about how vlogging (and also blogging) their daily life has helped homemakers create a safe space for themselves and enabled other homemakers viewing their vlogs, experiencing similar patriarchal problems to connect with them, thus affirming them that they are ‘not alone’.

This chapter was of particular interest to me because I have come across a few such Youtube videos where a homemaker is documenting and talking about her day, but before reading that chapter, I never looked at those videos from that lens. After reading that chapter, everything done and said in the vlogs including a few comments, made better sense to me. These vlogs are a window to subtle ‘patriarchies’ pervasive in almost every home.

I cannot possibly be more grateful to Nilanjana Bhowmick for writing such a thoughtful book that helped me to view in a more nuanced way the struggles of a homemaker and a middle-class woman.

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Image source: a still from short film Everything is Fine

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About the Author

Ishita Varma

Hello! My name is Ishita Varma and I am in the final year of Political Science honors. I am always up for any feminist discussion and do not believe in only talking about gender equality read more...

17 Posts | 12,408 Views

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