Last year I went to see the gynacologist. I was 35, an age I’d heard was when precautionary tests would need to start being taken. I asked her what were all the things I needed to know from now on. She talked about breast examination, about cervical cancer vaccinations, about calcium supplements, about hormone fluctuations. She pointed out that I was now closer to menopause than I was to the start of my first period. And then she asked me what I thought about freezing my eggs.
I’ve had a lot of complicated thoughts on parenthood since then. I still don’t have a real decision. But writing helps me pull out difficult emotions and examine them. So here it is.
I decided I would not bear children, quite early in my life. I had seen a lot of ways in which parenthood served as a cover-up for monsterliness. I did not have the confidence that I would not succumb to the same monstering. Violence, manipulation, disrespect, deliberate humiliation, bullying, abuse — yes, these are things that parents routinely do to children. In this country, parents, especially mothers are deified to a point where there is no question of holding them accountable for the very important job they do. In addition, the wards (the prisoners? the victims?) are too young to know their rights and are uniquely trapped at the sole mercy of their guardians’ actions. I did not want to even risk being a part of this scenario, in the position of power that I might abuse just like so many other ‘normal’ people I know.
Through the years, the several unhappy and quasi-abusive relationships I’ve been in, have suppressed my right to an opinion on this matter. Social pressures already condemn me for being unmarried at my age. Imagine how horrific they’ll get if I also say I’m voluntarily bowing out of parenthood? So I kept my thoughts to myself. One idea that I have spoken about, to my partner when we were in a close relationship, was adoption. I had an entirely foolproof explanation for this:
- We are a dangerously overpopulated planet. This impacts each of us INDIVIDUALLY. We’re fighting for the same jobs, the same food, the same money, the same space, the same right to power. To add one more is just sheer irresponsibility.
- Many, many thousands of children over the world go hungry, homeless and/or lack education or even a basic safe environment to grow up in. If even one of those lives could be given a better chance, I would feel like I was giving back for the privilege that I’ve received.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also managed to turn the ticking biological clock into a supporting argument. Why risk a health hazard to me and to the child because of my age, when plenty of readymade human being without homes were available to adopt?
I’ve managed to keep this decision at bay too. I have been single for the better part of my life. I know single parents and their children who have turned out wonderfully. But if possible, I think a child deserves at least a chance at two parents. Parenthood is too great a responsibility and the consequences of going wrong, too grave to bear. I do not want to take this on, without a partner.
Today, I’m in a quandry of sorts. I am coming to realise the full impact of being an Indian woman. In all these years, I have not known ONE single man that I can count on to stay responsible after a length of time. I know plenty of earnest, intelligent men who want to think of themselves as feminists, activists and thought leaders. They probably are. For men, that is. But we live in a culture that meticulously, systematically discourages men from taking responsibility for their actions. They are coddled all their lives, disappointment is kept as far away as possible, their shortcomings are blamed on others (women) or even celebrated. I hesitate to call them overgrown children because children do not have the physical strength and the social influence that adult Indian men do. And more often than not, this strength and influence is used against women, either unconsciously because the man picks his own agenda or deliberately, to please people (his mother or his friends). In sum, I do not trust an Indian man to be an equal, reliable partner for an important undertaking. Parenting? Ha!
How about the egg-freezing then? I’ve grown increasingly independent over the years and it is possible that in some time, I will feel self-reliant enough to not need a partner. This is a logical possibility, not one that I can actually imagine. But hypothetically if that were to happen, it would be good to have the option, wouldn’t it?
This is what I realised. A lot of the times I’ve managed to get my way out of default. I managed to not stay in an abusive relationship because he got bored and ended the engagement. I had no choice or power to voice my dissent. I managed to not be packaged off and sold to the lowest bidder in the marriage market because there weren’t eligible prospects for my particular geography/education/age/ethnic background at that time. These did not happen because I was able to fight all odds and establish my stand.
Given this, I fear that a time will come when other people will decide that they want a baby popping out of me that I will be expected to care for. If the option to have that baby still exists, my opinion will not stand, will be overruled, cajoled, forced and hammered away. I think it’s easier that I just let the eggs die out of their own accord, isn’t it?
And finally, what if I do get pregnant in between now and before my body stops being capable of it? I will have either a boy or a girl or a trans baby.
A trans-baby? I stand for equal rights for every human being. But the world doesn’t. The only human being to be treated worse than a woman is a trans person in this country. Children live danger-fraught, complex lives anyway. I do not want to think about what it must be like for a child born with a body that popular science is unable to categorize.
A girl? You already know the answer to that. I hate being a woman in this country, I hated being a girl. I live my life like I imagine prisoners of war do. With resentment, with fragile strands of hope that is constantly being dashed and with growing despair.
A boy. No. Indian men are mama’s boys. This is that bizarre description that’s cutesy and demented both at once. Mama’s boys are big, burly men who watch quietly as their families ill-treat their wives, then yawn and change the TV channel. Mama’s boys are important executives who cheat, lie and break engagements and marriages at will because their mothers said it was okay. Mama’s boys are monsters and their mothers are the monster-makers. This is probably because most Indian mothers are so deprived of actual respect and true affection that they manipulate the one human being they have control over, to turn him into a perpetual source of their own power. And I am an Indian woman. No. I don’t know how strong I will be once a baby spurts out of me. I will not take the risk of becoming another monster-maker.
So, by a combination of consistently bad experiences, social pressures and depressing observations I come to the default conclusion that I do not want to even consider being a mother.
It’s official. Mumbai, masquerading as the exception in a country that boasts of daughter-in-law burning, honor killing, female infanticide and as of December, gang-rapes in metros, has been outed.
Yesterday, a young female photo-journalist was raped by five men while her colleague was tied up and forced to watch. This happened in the dilapidated, Shakti Mills compound where the two had gone to cover an assignment. Like most places in Mumbai, this one isn’t very far from a bustling area. And note, this happened around 6pm, that nightmarish hour when an already overcrowded city explodes into rush hour. It would have been broad daylight too, considering yesterday was a sunny day.
What, what am I to say? The Delhi gangrape last year left us outraging and screaming. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I tucked it away and went about my life. My family got difficult to deal with in the weeks following that, constantly curbing my going out. I was working at that time, at a job that demanded long hours and traveling for about two hours either way. I told them about the safety precautions I take – using trains rather than lonesome autorickshaws & cabs, getting into ladies compartments only if there was at least one other woman in there. And beyond that, I shrugged it off as, ‘That’s Delhi after all, the rape capital of the country.’
Earlier this year, Kolkata’s Park Street rape case made national headlines. I shrugged again. After my only visit to Kolkata in 2011, I stopped buying into the notion of it being a city that respected women, anyway. I got unabashedly stared at, motorcyclists leered at me when I passed and in general I received the kind of unwelcome attention that makes me turn my nose up at the capital. I was a Mumbai woman after all. We didn’t do things that way in my city.
I’m shamed, shamed from my proud stance into submission now. The strength and independence I took such pride in, stemmed from believing that I lived in the only place in this country where a woman had a chance of living a full life with a career of her own. No more. Mumbai, my beloved homecity, you let me down.
This is not a generic rant aimed at an amorphous idea of a place. My city is its people. It’s the police force, charged with protecting me and keeping my city free of crime and attack. It’s the civic authorities, holding responsibility for public spaces being clean, safe and accessible. It’s companies and offices, the nuts-and-bolts of India’s cash cow, bearing the onus of a safe, respectful world for their employees to be able to function beyond being warm bodies in office cabins. It’s other dwellers in this city, carrying the responsibility for being and nurturing morally sound human beings. It’s my friends and neighbors and family, treating me like I deserve basic human rights such as safety and independence and ensuring I get them. You’ve all let me down. You’ve let every one of this city’s women down.
I want to know about the five families that produced these men who perpetrated this act. I want to know who they are and how they feel about destroying the one ideal this entire country had. Yes, I hold them responsible. Bad people are created by the societies that breed and nurture them. I already know that we live in a country that shackles, abuses, gags and violates women. I also know that this same country encourages men to be self-obsessed, controlling without being responsible for, and simultaneously being dependent on and hurting women. Its festivals are a glorification of this subjugation of women. Its leaders get away with excusing human rights crimes on chowmein and victim blame. This is a country where men get away with pretty much anything and blame passes onto women. I really want to know what the parents, siblings, neighbors and friends of these five men are like.
I want to know this because this is what my fellow countrymen (and women) are like. I’d better start learning to accept their ways of life before they decide to punish me. This country doesn’t like a woman, especially one that believes she has the right to life and dignity.
I didn’t post an XXFactored update in February because the month was so busy that I barely had the time to scout for links. Other people however, did share links and I really wanted to showcase them. While on this, allow me a brief crib about the new Facebook page format. It shows the page admin’s links on the main page but other members links in a tiny box. Not cool, I say. It totally kills the spirit of community that link-sharing used to do.
Now on to the links.
- Someone’s idea of what happens to people of either gender when they fail their exams. It sparked off a heated debate. (via Lakshmi Jagad)
- HOWL-a-rious! ‘- 14 Realities of Romantic Relationships in chart form‘ (via Cracked)
- In memory of a remarkable woman and a talented musician laid to waste – ‘I’m Every Woman‘
- I’m sure a whole lot of us will be silently thanking the makers for this handy tool! – ‘5 Signs You’ve Been Stalking Your Ex Online Too Much‘ (via How About We)
- Harsh, hard-hitting….dare I say…true? The undeniably justified cause of gay rights, seems to have become no more than a free ride of attention and entertainment for those so privileged. ‘The Queer Movement is dead; Long Live the Queer Movement!‘ (via DNA Newspaper, link courtesy Dhamini Ratnam)
- A hilarious set of charts – check out the ones mapping people who use Twitter daily versus others. – ‘10 Charts about Sex‘ (via OkCupid)
- ‘Why Indian Men are still boys‘ (via Tehelka, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
- ‘No, Catcalling is not a compliment and here’s why’ (via Hello Giggles, link courtesy Ashwini Mishra)
- If this 60s show has sparked off your fancy, here’s a look at some of the female stereotypes of the time by how Don Draper sees them. ‘4 Types Of Women Don Draper has Dated.‘ (via YourTango)
- ‘What Your Favorite Mad Men Lady Says About You‘ (via TheGloss)
- This is totally off the edge – ‘Marketing Xenosexuality: Women & the Sex Robot taboo?‘ (via Future of Sex, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
- “Lighten up” can be the most passive-aggressive chauvinistic phrase ever! ‘The Million Little Barbs of Lighten Up!‘ (via BuzzFeed)
- ‘Where Have All The Young Men Gone?‘ (via HR Blogs, links courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
- This is true of any movement – rabidity only works against you in the long run. ‘How Pro-Lifers made me a Pro-Choice Activist.‘ (via TheGloss)
- ‘5 Warnings to go with 5 Types of Men who make great husbands‘ (via From Outside The Mall, link courtesy Gautam Ghosh)
You can catch the links as they come in and even post your own to The XX Factor Facebook Page.
The biggest propagators of male chauvinism are women. Yes, read that again. Why do a lot of men behave like they’re God’s gift to the world? Why do they live their lives in self-absorbed, unbelievably deluded over-confidence completely unrestrained by conscience or empathy for the opposite sex? Why indeed? Because they’ve grown up believing that they were crown princes destined to inherit the world.
Darling beta will forever remain the apple of his doting mama’s eyes, shielded from discipline by her, encouraged and ego-boosted to unbelievable proportions all his life. Bolstering a child’s ego is great but where do mamas get off, giving their boys a wholly unrealistic sense of self-worth?
Okay, hold on to that thought. Now here’s something I found…and it’s appaling. Motherhood has fallen off its sacred pedestal and lies in shattered fragments around our feet.
Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb
Mother do you think they’ll like this song
Mother do you think they’ll try to break my balls
Oo-ah, Mother should I build a wall
Mother should I run for president
Mother should I trust the government
Mother will they put me in the firing line
Oo-ah, is it just a waste of time
Hush now baby, baby don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna make all of your nightmares come true
Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you
Mama’s gonna keep you right here under her wing
She won’t let you fly but she might let you sing
Mama’s gonna keep baby cozy and warm
Oo, babe, oo babe, oo babe
Of course mama’s gonna help build the wall
Mother do you think she’s good enough for me
Mother do you think she’s dangerous to me
Mother will she tear your little boy apart
Oo-ah, Mother will she break my heart
Hush now baby, baby don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna check out all your girlfriends for you
Mama won’t let anyone dirty get through
Mama’s gonna wait up till you get in
Mama will always find out where you’ve been
Mama’s gonna keep baby healthy and clean
Oo, babe, oo babe oo babe
You’ll always be a baby to me
Mother, did it need to be so high