The Feminist Times
Family in the Name of Blood Right
Family, a term that brings a lot of feelings, emotions and memories. One may use phrases such as “family away from family” for non-biological connections, but the amount of influence that biological connections exert is unmeasurable. For some, these influences may be happy ones, and for others, it may be disheartening. It is our first contact in the world and has the heaviest influence on one’s life. The feeling of cohesiveness and belongingness of a family allows its members to count on each other. However, in the process of looking at the strengths of a family, one fails to look at the power that it exerts. The type of familial environments that one gets brought up in determines not only their beliefs and values but also their decisions about themselves.
Some postmodern thinkers view family to be responsible for the surveillance of one’s body. This surveillance may get expressed not in just telling the child what to wear, but also telling them where to be, how to be and when to be. The moment certain types of clothing get bought for a particular sex of a child; the assertion of power begins. The moment a teenager is denied wearing shorts in public; the autonomy over one’s body is taken away. Familial power gets expressed not just through them asking their children to not wear certain clothes at certain occasions but also by physically restricting their movements in society. Usage of curfew timings is one such example. By establishing certain norms, families determine the significant gender differences that exist in gestures, postures and movement. Piercings and tattoos get eyed upon. Such members get the title of "abnormal" and "deviant". In worst-case scenarios, bitter interpersonal relationships at home may result in making the environment distressing. Attempts are also made at monitoring facial expressions by frowning upon putting on extra make-up or not smiling in a social setting.
This surveillance extends towards sexual expressions as well. Physical intimacy between unmarried couples gets eyed upon. And then in the name of humor, demeaning of one’s partner becomes a common practice. Failure to acknowledge that sexual and intimacy needs are as normal as other physiological needs of sleep and hunger, only leads to frustration and anger. Marriage gets seen as a licence of procreation and the pressure by certain families fails to give the couple the option of planning their careers. The autonomy over one’s body for something so personal as procreating or aborting is also not given.
The most saddening thing about the “influence” of one’s family is that as time passes, one internalizes the surveillance they were put under for so long. “What will my parents think?” and “What will society think?”, are the two most prominent questions that continue to be considered by people making decisions for themselves. The skills to analyse, the power to question and the right to take charge, gets withdrawn from the individual. They are likely to continue to function the way they were raised, the restrictions they were made to adhere to and the decisions they were instructed towards.
To sum up, the family as an institution keeps its members as prisoners in the name of blood rights. What must be one’s own decision, what must be their own autonomy on their body, gets shifted to family. Families may make decisions under the umbrella of “welfare” and “safety”, failing to recognise the importance of disputing such norms that was required. Protesting against such familial norms is important not just to form one’s own identity separate from family members, but also to be able to live an independent life without being scrutinized under the surveillance of family.
- Aayushi Mittal