How My Mother Has Influenced Me As A Feminist

When my mother first immigrated to the United States in 2000, she came on a fiancé visa. My father, who was already a naturalized citizen, picked her up from O’Hare in dress pants and a fancy shirt. They had already met in India when their marriage was arranged, but he still wanted to make a good impression. After their marriage, my mother remained an Indian citizen as they moved out of my father’s parents’ house and into the small apartment on Devon St that I would grow up in. Her logic was that she was an Indian, no matter where she went or settled, and she wanted it to stay that way. Later down the line, after I was born, she changed her mind for reasons I still don’t completely know. Despite conceding her Indian citizenship and settling in a western country, my mother has maintained the same traditional, Indian perspective she was raised with. When her first born child was a girl, she decided that she would instill in her daughter the same values while raising her to be independent, confident, and empowered. However, some of those values directly contradict what it means for a woman to be confident and empowered in today’s age. This contradiction forced me to make choices that aligned with who my mother wants me to be, but also choices that go against so much of what she’s tried to teach me.

Growing up in India shaped my mother in ways I still don’t understand. The values she grew up around were meant to be passed down to me. It was expected by all the women in my family, both in the U.S and in India, that I would grow up to be educated and talented, as well as be the perfect wife and mother the moment I turned 23. My mother, however, rebelled against this idea. She’s always been the first person to encourage me towards aiming higher, and she’s always told me that I could be whoever and whatever I wanted to be. From the moment I began my freshman year here at LUC, my mom has always supported my dreams. This was my mother’s way of rebelling against the traditionalism and expectations from our family and society as she brought me up into who I am now. I don’t always agree with her, but I know I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without her guidance and support.

Despite being progressive in comparison to how she was raised,  my mother didn’t let go of all of the values she was taught. She still tried to teach me to cook the moment I turned twelve, and didn’t do the same when my brother was at the same age. She’s always told me to laugh softly because I have a loud laugh and “girls should behave modestly.” She’s continually emphasized how I should behave “demurely” in public, and has steered me away from “boy sports” like wrestling, football, etc. ​ Protester holds Photo by Lindsey LaMont from Unsplash

 

To my mother, the ideals she has tried to teach me will prepare me for modern society. In her eyes, teaching me to “behave modestly” will shape me to society’s idea of what women should be, and will thereby keep me safe. To me, my mother has supported me in ways that go against everything she was taught, but has also tried to mold me to some ideals that were set by the patriarchy. In the same way that my mom was progressive in her stance against the traditionalism in our family, I have learnt from her experience and ideals, and have taken my feminism one step further. 

My mother is one of the strongest women I know, and the happiness she brings to the people around her inspires me every day. She’s one of the best people I know, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. I don’t agree with some of the traditional values she holds, but being exposed to them has shaped my feminism in that I now make choices based on my own set of ideals that aren’t rooted in sexism.