Shunning Motherhood By Choice: Are We Asking the Right Questions? 

Growing up, the idea of motherhood terrified me. It might have been the ominous aura surrounding the subject every time somebody brought it up at home, or how the responsibility was pushed towards the women while men basked in the better end of the parenthood spectrum.

Despite my stubborn stand, I was always told that time would change my opinion. It was expected that when I hit the magical number, 20, I would have become a changed, domestic woman. When that did not happen, I was told marriage would change it. I am sure people are waiting for my opinions to alter, and somehow I am also sure that is a far-off fantasy my relatives choose to live in.

I found myself on Amazon Prime during the pandemic, browsing through the Malayalam film options, when I came across a new OTT release, Sara’s, narrating the story of a young, aspiring filmmaker who has zero maternal instincts. In Sara, I found myself. In her story, I found my spirit. And in her ambition, I placed mine.

I took to social media to write a review for the film I had loved so much and here, everything started to fall apart. The comment section was filled with people who wanted to let me know their opinion about women like Sara (and like me).

Of course, there were supportive comments and empathetic replies that left me in tears as I watched women come together to support other women. However, there were two classes of comments that took me by surprise.

One, the comments that addressed the idea of abortion. For these people, the film portrayed a negative parent-child relationship. How could a mother be so selfish and give up her child for her dream? How could she ignore the happiness of the rest of the family and sacrifice it for her career? Why couldn’t she take up the challenge of being a working mother and manage both simultaneously? How could I, a responsible citizen, support such a film and write a positive review about it? The comments smothered me, questioning my morality and decision-making skills as people accused me of supporting an immoral institution.

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As I addressed these, one by one, I only had one thought. How could I coexist in a society that put women down like this? We all love a driven, strong, quirky, independent, manic-pixie dream girl – we identify with her and worship her. In theory, she is perfect, but the moment we break the illusion of fiction, women like Sara, they are a threat to our patriarchal institutions. They undermine everything our society stands for, they are brave enough to be more than just parents or reformers or women putting on a performance. They become authentic and real, and obviously, we are not ready for the Saras of the world.

Second, I had people asking me about the significance of privilege. While the film does portray a much-needed narrative, indulgent in its effort to break stereotypes about successful women, it cannot be ignored that Sara comes from privilege.

Why did I write about her privilege? Is privilege such a bad thing? Can’t privileged women be successful? Aren’t their stories important?

Yes. Anybody who rises to esteem, breaks boundaries and becomes a vehicle for change is important and their voices are important. As somebody who also comes from privilege, I have come to realise how much my privilege caters to me, how it gives me opportunities that many do not have. Sara has it too, the privilege of supportive parents and in-laws, a husband who wants her to succeed and wealth as a fall-back plan in case her dreams do not take flight.

This is why it is necessary to address privilege. Not everybody has it, not everybody can abandon themselves and their relationships in the pursuit of their dreams. Stories like Sara’s are awe-inspiring and fills you with joy and motivation. But for every Sara we hear about, there are other people, struggling and pushing to make themselves known. We always need to be aware of our privilege, aware of the institutions that hold us up and break us down.

Jude Anthany Joseph’s Sara’s asks all the right questions. It has rightfully created a storm amongst the audience, leading to controversial opinions. Above all, it started a much-needed conversation. But as a generation and society, are we asking the right questions yet?

Christina Joshy is a post-graduate student of English Literature by day, an avid reader and a freelance writer at all other times.

Featured image: Amazon Prime Video