Stigma and Everyday Resistance Practices
Childless Women in South India
-This reading looks at married women in South India whom are examined on the fact that they are childless.
The author uses interviews and fieldwork to analyse married women's experiences of stigma when they are childless and their everyday resistance practices. Also the author looks at how they challenge stigma.
The stigma theory predicts, childless women deviate from the "ordinary and natural" life course and are deeply discredited, but contrary to Goffman's theory, South Indian women cannot "pass" or selectively disclose the "invisible" attribute, and they make serious attempts to destigmatise themselves.
Voluntary childnessless is rare in India, most Indian women want to give birth and studies have stated that if infertility does occur than the women will be upset and think there is something more sinister wrong with them, they will feel like failures to their gender. (Jindal and Gupta 1989)
-The norm for an Indian women is to marry then conceive, it's a sacred duty to become a mother, this is often followed in the name of religion.
-Infertile couples may seek treatment but are looked down on if it fails.
-The stigma of infertility takes its toll on both partners, but much more so on the women. As the author studied she found that In India, a woman is seen as unfulfilled unless she marries and is a bears children to be a good wife as well as mother. Infertile mothers are treated as social outcasts, there is also a belief that infertility is contagious. The Husbands family will frown on infertile women.
-South Indian women are only subjected to this stigma, the males infertility is never questioned and a male will be expected to re-marry someone who has already given birth to prove fertility.
-Indian women depend on their children when they are old, they seek support financially especially from sons.
-If a family is wealthy then Indian women are expected to reproduce to transfer the wealth or inheritance to the children in later life.
-In India women who chose to stay unmarried or live in same-sex unions are not supported by society.
The author carried out research to find out how women retained valued identities and sustained families when they were not mothers. An experiment consisting of interviewing 31 south Indian women whom were not mothers. Amongst the participants there was a mixture of involuntary and volutary mothers. The aim of this experiment was to explore their experiences of stigma and situated resistance practices.
The research was on 31 women participants whom were all married and aged 22-57.
On completion of the research the author discovered that voicing a womens view on fertility was a new practice which highlighted that are insights for area and social development studies as well.
Stigma -Erving Goffman.
Goffman believed that factors caused by stigma affected ones bodily signs. He believed these signs are reflected when one is reduced in the eyes of others for being infertile or for example, having epilepsy. The subject will alter there behaviour to suit the stigma which will be especially done during interaction, where the subject is careful to not expose there downfall as they are conscience of it.
Social structure is an issue in stigma. Different resistance strategies are followed by different classes, a womens social class can affect how to resolve a stigma. Also age is an affecting issue as the value of motherhood varies with age.
Social class and age mediate stigma and resistance processes: Poor village women of childbearing age are devalued in ways affluent and professional women avoid; differently situated women challenge dominant definitions and ideologies of family in distinctive ways.
After research it was found that in some childless case's there were other factors influencing the problem. In some cases infertility wasn't the problem, high unemployment meant husbands migrated to find work so were rarely with their wives.
Goffmans findings contribute to rethinking Western assumptions in his theory. The findings also suggest new directions for research on power and everyday resistance.
Contexts of Stigma
Remaining unmarried challenges cultural beliefs about the 'ordinary and natural' life course for Indian women, and everyone whom were childless recalled times when they felt reduced in the eyes of another. Some of these comments were said to be annoying and in exteme cases they were threatening to the womens welfare.