Akanksha Pandey for YuvaAdda
I see dreams. Almost every night. I enjoy the anticipation of dreaming, of hazily remembering some of the details and mostly making up most of them in my re-collection of dreams. So it’s safe to say that I re-imagine my dreams- mostly so it soothes the fractures some of the haziness may have left.
Let me paint the picture of my dream which I often zee, a room- the walls were a light shade of turquoise mixed with a hint of grey. In this room were babies. Many, several, tiny rotund babies. Some were playing, some were crying. Not quite clear how many- but enough for the room to be filled with a quintessential baby scent. Yes, I imagine scents too. Amidst all of that was me. Smiling, annoyed, tired, happy, confused- all convoluted emotions. And that’s it. I woke up. Oddly, with my hand on my stomach.
It’s always amusing to want to understand one’s dreams. I do it often. I remember always wanting to be a mother. I imagine being a very good one. However, lately, I’ve been grappling with questions of constructed gender roles, ideas of naturalization of motherhood for women- all of the questions that one is bound to be confronted with when trying to understand gender, as a woman.
Even after having read performativity, sex role theory- all of it- the idea of being a mother comes to me in the gentlest of ways. Maybe I saw a dream of it because I don’t want to be so “uncritical” of motherhood, maybe my education makes me feel guilty for wanting to be a mother, for romanticizing motherhood. The opinions of people around us, shape us. Similarly, our education shapes us. In being part of discussions with my peers, with texts that became animated entities for me to talk to on issues about the constructedness of gender and gender roles, of debates surrounding the essentiality of biology in understanding gender, I found myself always feeling a certain degree of vacuum- within me and within the discussions.
In discussions with my peers around reproduction, I found that most of them did not wy6ant to be mothers because of a word that comes up very often in our casual dining room discussions, the “violent” nature of reproduction. I never felt comfortable with the sweeping generalization and value assigned to the process of reproduction. I am well aware of the heavy costs birth giving has on the bodies and minds of some women- I’ve heard of them, seen their experiences. However, I have also seen and heard of women who had a positive experience. I always bring that up in our talks but it’s dismissed as a matter of “constructed positivity” attached to motherhood. This is the vacuum I’m left with.
What I have difficulty is with the naturalizing of constructedness. The binaries that we seek to escape within the feminist movement, are being reformulated within these discussions, among feminists. Feminism’s project was a political one- to reconstruct and transform gender relations- not to make women apathetic to their bodies or to separate emotion from reason. Motherhood is dangerously constructed as an instinct of affect, or irrationality. This is extremely deterrent to the project of feminism, in my opinion. To hierarchize the behaviors and attitudes that were associated with masculinity as aspirational is worrying. Affect, emotion, sentiments, desires- all of these can be central to political struggle and the project of gender transformations. What should be discussed is the change in how motherhood is performed and forced, rather than the very act of reproduction as inherently being one of weakness.
I, as an urban, upper caste, educated- in sum- privileged woman have extremely different struggles from the woman who lives in Vidharba. Her experiences, struggles, material conditions are distinctly different from mine. Can I then say that both of us experience being a woman in the same way? I don’t think so. My hurdles are different from hers. My imaginations are different from hers.
My hurdles are internal- since my privilege allows for a safe, comfortable external living. My hurdles are often those that are being constructed by people who hierarchize a certain kind of womanhood over another. My hurdles are the acceptance of a certain kind of desire that I reap within me, of several such desires. Reflexivity is central to evolving. I seek to always hone reflexivity of the things that I desire and the implications of those desires on my life and all the lives directly and indirectly associated with mine. However, the vacuum that I experience within the circles of which I am part- is that of non-reflexive critical reasoning. One that unknowingly happens to equate ‘rationality’ with freedom.
I find peace in my dreams. I saw no man in my dream with the room full of babies. I saw me, with all my convoluted emotions. This is me today. I might evolve and find several flaws in how I approach questions as life teaches me more; however, I want to be able to open up a space for the assertion of affect in struggle. As important as it is to be critical of social constructedness, it is equally important to be aware of one’s location that allows for that critical discourse. There are multiple cultures, multiple women and multiple ways of asserting one’s political agency.
We are more than a product of our social conditioning. We are thinking, experiencing, evolving. To enable dreams to come true, there is a critical need to broaden our understanding of what it means to be an “aware” woman. Our hurdles can be leaped over if we incorporate the multiplicity that is innate to the category of ‘woman’. It goes beyond being oppressed- it means to empower dialogue and interaction of multiple realities and desires, and not crush it under the guise of politics.
I dream of a reality in which emotion is not opposed to reason,
Where my hurdles are leaped over without guilt.
(Akanksha Pandey is a student of Department of Sociology in Delhi School of Economics.)