“The personal is political”

Four words that symbolise feminism to me. (Who said them? It doesn’t matter. Not right now, anyway.)  But the thought itself has always fascinated me. Ever since the first time I realised that one didn’t behave in public the way one behaved at home.

When I was taught not to refer to my father in the singular when speaking to ‘outsiders’. So I could say ‘nuvvu’ to him, but had to say ‘vaaru’ when I was talking about him.

Odd, isn’t it, that there’s gender in that – one of my very first memories? Or isn’t it?

But that was not what I began to write about. The personal is political. And then I realised that the political was personal, too. Obvious? It wasn’t to me: realising it was a sort of epiphany, almost. And ever since, I see it everywhere.

Like here. Annie wites about the economics of motherhood. And it’s something that’s so overwhelmingly personal. It’s about me. I’m not Khairi. I’m not a mother, or even pregnant. I’m not married, or going to be. But what I am, is in the process of making decisions. Decisions about where my life is going to go in the forseeable future.

There are other people making similar decisions parallelly. I speak to them everyday. We crib about the work that has to go into it, we talk about the hows, whys, wheres. We help each other over some difficult bits.

But one thing I have to factor into my decisions, and none of the others seems to, is motherhood. The biological clock is ticking, I’m told – am I sure I want to make a professional commitment of that duration? Three years, maybe five. For which I have to live my work, I’m told. Not just live with it, live it.

It’s going to become tougher to find a suitable boy, you know. Not because you’d be overqualified, after all, who thinks like that nowadays; but it will be expected that you have children within a reasonable time after your marriage. And if you say you’re going to live your work, who will live your life? Women always have to balance the two, you know.

I’m told I should make the decision – it is the next logical step in my career. But I shouldn’t forget that I will need to balance the economics of it with the need for motherhood, and maybe someone else’s fatherhood, and definitely, some people’s grandparenthood.

What does this have to do with Khairi’s story? If we agreed that children were not just the mother’s responsibility, but that children, and mothers, were society’s responsibility, what would it mean for me?

It would mean that the fact that I could get married or pregnant would make no difference to my chances of getting into the programme of my choice, to get funded. I wouldn’t have to ‘deal with it’ in my personal statement.

It would mean that I would be entitled to more time to complete the programme than people who didn’t get pregnant during it. I wouldn’t have to justify it, to factor it into a dissertation proposal.

It would mean that insurance policies would cover ‘pregnancy and related disorders’, and I wouldn’t have to pay higher insurance premia because I was liable to that <ahem> disorder.

The personal is political, which is why society can’t ignore the economics of motherhood. And I can’t ignore them because the political is personal.


4 Responses

  1. Interestingly, you’ll increase your lifetime earnings by around 10% if you delay having your first child by a year. Or something like that.

    I wish I could find the article I read this in…

  2. Are you talking about people in general, or men, or me in particular? I wish you would. And read

  3. Women.

    In general.

    To the extent that the women in question are pursuing a career. Of sorts.

    Not to say that being a mother isn’t a legitimate career choice.

    And now I’m being defensive.

    Yes, referring to women.

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