Sunday, October 13, 2013

An hourglass filled with ovaries

I went to a South Asian supermarket here in Austin and saw this poster. I found it ridiculous and showed it to my mum pointing out how the submissive daughter-in-law shindig (responsible for household cooking) is so outdated especially here in America, to which she responded – this is still the way in that culture.

It isn’t that my mum doesn’t believe in women’s rights or equal rights. She is the one that instilled in me my feminist values. But for her, equal rights comes after you fulfill your societal duties. And that is marriage and children. This would be fine if it were the same for men. Men are never made to feel incomplete because they don’t have a wife or because they don’t have kids. They are never asked the question “don’t you want to have kids?” Never. I have two brothers, I know.

I think often many people (particularly males) might think that we are being paranoid that the world is out to get us. But it is hard not to think that when in society we still don’t have full control over our bodies, we don’t have control over the way we are perceived as a woman in the workplace, we don’t have control over the way we are judged for being assaulted as a way to explain the assault. This is not just a South Asian thing. I have many girlfriends in the legal community who told me that when they went for their first job after law school, employers tried to sell their firms by telling them about their great parental leave plans. The then 23 year olds were shocked it was assumed that in 5 years time they would inevitably be ‘taking a break from their careers’ and the lovely employers would be very understanding about that. No one every questions whether a man gets somewhere purely on merit. It is assumed that if it is a man, it must have been on merit. I want that for myself.

I face implicit and explicit comments everyday about what I can do to be more marriageable. It is always if only you were a bit fairer, a bit taller, a bit slimmer. My mum sometimes say, ‘pretend to not be so opinionated’, ‘men don’t like women who think so much about stuff’. Incidentally my mother is one of the most opinionated women I know. My conversations with my Pākehā friends tells me that they face the same pressures, it's just in a different form. Perhaps slightly more subtle. Well, perhaps not so subtle because if you look at adverts on western tv, it is predominantly and sometimes exclusively women who are selling cleaning products, food, diapers (anything related to babies)! It is not just the South Asian way. 

I can’t help having opinions and I can’t help it if they happen to be feminist. I can’t help it if I don’t believe that a woman’s only place is in the kitchen. I am a person. I am not breeding machine. I have dreams about travelling and working and learning another language among a whole bucket list of stuff that has nothing to do with marriage and children. I don’t have dreams about running a household but there are many days that I wish I did. I really truly wish that I believed in knights in shining armors, and babies, and everlasting love with a man. I don’t. People fall out of love, people cheat, children are expensive, and they don’t grow up the way you want to. Maybe someone will one day change my mind on that but until then I can’t be a person that is always trying to outrun the mythical biological clock in the form of an hourglass filled with ovaries.

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