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.