What We Want: Some Inconclusive Thoughts
What does it mean to be a feminist mother in twenty-first-century urban India, a moment when it is increasingly undesirable to be a feminist? It is already clear that being feminists is not going to be as obvious a choice for our daughters as it was for many of us. As women embedded in a postglobalisation socio-cultural context we navigate the demands to engage in aesthetic labour to produce smooth, hairless, odourless, slim, fair bodies. In our body-beauty regimes and our mothering practices we sometimes find ourselves veering precariously towards post-feminist understandings of choice and agency (Gill 2011; McRobbie 2004). Our awareness of the contradictions we literally embody unsettles us, even as we strive to think through ways to do justice both to our politics and to our commitment to facilitate ‘happiness’, that most elusive of conditions, for our daughters.
Even as this chapter elucidates some narratives from our individual and collective struggles to be good feminists’ and ‘good mothers’, what it does not capture is that despite the dilemmas and the fear that one’s best is not going to be good enough, there is the sheer joy of trying. As feminists and mothers, we think (and plot) a great deal about how we might achieve a better world for all our daughters. Motherhood is not something that happens to us, we take on the challenge of feminist mothering. My interviews were full of laughter, wry, sarcastic, and sometimes full throated and really amused. These interviews were not the first time the feminist mothers I spoke to had discussed their practices of mothering. I would like to reiterate the use of the collective pronoun ‘we’—for many, being mothers is feminist work to raise strong, resilient, questioning women (and concomitantly thoughtful feminist men), not as an individual exercise, but as part of a larger women’s movement. Despite our awareness of the ambiguities as we attempt to live the political in the often fraught and very intimate space of mothering, not a single one of us would choose to not be a feminist. This endeavour poses unquestionable challenges but also brings deep satisfaction and comradeship.
Acknowledgements I would like to thank the thoughtful and analytical women I interviewed for our continuing conversations and solidarity. I would also like to thank Rosalind Gill, Christina Scharff, Ana Sofia Lemos De Carvalho Elias and the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful and generous comments on an earlier draft of this chapter.