Keeping mum

The hypocrisy of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. Yet another largely Western concept conveniently commercialized and cleverly hijacked into the calendar. And funnily enough, this is not something even the most rabid right-winger is going to object to. Because, after all, we are the epitome of the worship of mothers and motherhood. Right?

Sadly, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Speaking in the Indian context, “worshipping” mothers is just another handy excuse society has thought up to keep women in their “place”, a place defined and restricted by men, it must be added. It’s an easy way to brush under the carpet the many ways and means to keep women marginalized. It is an interesting dichotomy indeed: you “worship” a woman so long as she limits herself to the role you decide she may have. You make a song and dance about dedicating a day to her, yet gloss over whether she has the freedom to live her life by her choices and be respected for that.

This hypocritical stand is enough to make one inarticulate — less with rage than with a complete frustration at those who cannot see how two-faced the reasoning is. Thus, I borrow the words of Urvashi Butalia, director of Zubaan [shameless self-promotion: my publishers] and co-founder of Kali for Women, India’s first feminist press:

It’s not enough to worship mothers, they need attention and consideration in real life too. But worship becomes a convenient excuse – for then you can say, ‘look, how much we look up to mothers in our society’ and actually continue to do the opposite. People may remember the case of Gudiya, the young girl whose husband disappeared during the Kargil war, and then reappeared four years later when she had remarried and was about to become a mother. No one listened to her pleas to be allowed to stay with her current husband, the father-to-be of her child, and she was forced to go back to a man she barely knew and with whom she had no relationship at all. So much for our respect for mothers.

She goes on to say:

It’s worth remembering that celebrating or marking one day does not change the hard reality on the ground. Every day as we look around us, we see increasing violence towards women, whether in our villages, or towns, or cities. The statistics on rape in India are staggering, and among the highest in the world, and as we know only too well, motherhood is no guarantee against rape.
So if we’re really to make this day meaningful, rather than just a gimmick and an opportunity for advertising to find another peg, let’s take a good hard look at the reality around us. Let’s ask ourselves how we treat our women, how we relate to our mothers, what rights they have, what are their needs, and really, what our attitude to them should be. Let’s start to make motherhood respected and meaningful, rather than just an empty sham.

The full story: Don’t Worship Them, Just Learn to Respect Women


8 Replies to “Keeping mum”

  1. Niklas never celebrated mother’s day much…or father’s day or valentine. I donno if it has anything to do with repect but it feels awkward to told to express love or something just because it is some specifc day.

    Niklas’s name’s day is 6th December (a Sunday this year). It has not been comercialized and he isn’t a woman so you are all free to worship him instead. In fact, you should worship him just to spare all the mothers.

  2. “It is an interesting dichotomy indeed: you “worship” a woman so long as she limits herself to the role you decide she may have.”


    It does seem an awkward, contrived thing to express love on command for these kinds of holidays. It trivializes the entire thing. Now, if there was a day where violence toward women would stop and our rights were supported that would be another thing. But, I don’t think you can sell very much that way, and that is whole point.

  3. Yeah, to sell. That’s the whole point of it. It doesn’t mean anything apart from that. I agree with both of you that it’s contrived to express an emotion on a certain day earmarked for it. That’s a bit like, “Love your mother on mother’s day but treat her like rubbish the rest of the year, for mother’s day will be back next year!”

  4. It’s all about commercialisation, that’s all there is to it. The papers were full of expensive gifts you could buy your mom, or five-star hotels you could take for a special meal … seriously, what about loving and respecting her the remaining 364 days? We’ve always had the totally hypocritical goddess worship – and have you noticed how even our goddesses conform to patriarchal visions of womanhood? – and now this Mother’s Day just adds to the shindig.

    Btw, where have you disappeared to? Been a while since we talked.

  5. There are way too many double standards about this. The way it’s marketed also makes it a class thing!

    Haven’t disappeared exactly. Just staying offline because I’ve got a lot of work (which a few months from now should earn me some peanuts, which in turn makes me a monkey, I guess!).

  6. When was mother’s day? Now i feel good about not even knowing!!

  7. *gasp* It’s you!

  8. Well, you should update more often 🙂

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