Sophia is from Imphal West, Manipur and is currently pursuing a PhD at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her areas of interest are construction of womanhood, gendered folk objects, aestheticism, deconstructing socially constructed ideas of women’s beauty.
The everyday lives of women around me remain unchanged despite the pandemic. In this collection of photographs, I have captured some moments from their quotidian activities.
Imphal does not enjoy the public infrastructure of a metropolitan city even though it is the capital city of Manipur. Here, there’s a mix of traditional and modern urban settlements. The tradition of community living still exists in Imphal, unlike other big cities where nuclear families form a majority. In most Meitei families, the male siblings and their families usually live within one compound comprising of one or more houses.
The women in my family, who are pictured in this photo series, share the same living compound. Each day they perform all the household chores that are expected of a woman in a society governed by patriarchy. At times, many of them also perform duties which are culturally expected of men.
In my family, there are women from various walks of life, from vegetable sellers to legal officers, spinsters and those with seven children. There are women who question and demand their deserved rights and also women who silently follow all the biased norms imposed on them. No matter what, all these women are beautiful inside out and they deserve to find more joy in their lives.
Even though I am well aware of gender discrimination within households, there have been various instances where I haven’t been able to uphold my feminist ideals while co-existing with women who have normalised patriarchy. Nevertheless, I will not give up though it may not be an easy journey.
My approach will be to instil ideas of gender egalitarianism through compassion, patience and humility. I have an earnest desire and belief that my efforts will someday make the women in my family realise that they deserve to be loved, to be valued and can live as equals in a society regardless of their gender. My effort is to try and make them see a world beyond the one where they’ve normalised patriarchal beliefs.
This visual narration is dedicated to the future of women around me.