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We need to introspect as parents. What are we teaching our daughters? Do we teach them to be good, polite ladies, or sassy strong women?
Through her childhood to adulthood, a daughter is always groomed to become a lady instead of just a girl, when she grows up.
She is always told to behave in a particular way and to not break the rules and asked to follow the norms of the society, even though they are baseless.
She is asked to dress up in a particular way, to talk in a particular way, to walk in a particular way and to behave in a way which can easily be summarized as lady like.
She is often being told that when she gets married, she should compromise and to never raise her voice.
Even today, isn’t it still what we are teaching our daughters one way or the other? Isn’t this…(sarcasm alert) what our daughters supposed to do? To be shackled and caged in fulfilling needs of others, to be suffocated by baseless norms of the society? And to be expected only to function as baby making machine?
And No, please just let us not deny this by saying that the present time is changing or that we are living in 21st century and things are changing, and that women are getting empowered.
Women are already empowered. It’s just that we need a perspective to see that.
But let’s focus on the present question, which is trivial in understanding what are we teaching our daughters. And by teaching, let’s just not start a long-ass discussion about morals or sanskaars, which most of the parents and society carry on their sleeves. No offense to both of them, but, it’s high time that we need to get away from what society has to say or what elders have to say and to focus on what we want to teach our daughters or what our daughters want to do when it comes to their own life.
From a young age, girls have been often told to learn household work, as a part of the marriage requirements. In fact, in villages it is so prevelant, that girls are often being told by their parents, to quit school. They are usually, in most of the cases, cut off from school and instead they are forced to focus on household chores. It is said that the parents’ lack of education leads to them thinking this way, but how can that be any kind of excuse?
What about educated people? What about parents who hold a good degree, a good job? Or let me ask this in a better way, how many times have we, as elders or as parents told our daughters that learning household chores is necessary in order to get married?
How many times have we told our daughters to compromise and apologize whenever they have a fight with their brothers, instead of telling them that a healthy argument includes apologies from both the sides?
How many times, have we told our daughters, that they should adjust according to their husbands and in laws, instead of telling them that first they should be comfortable around them?
How many times have we generalized the notion of cooking as part of a woman’s job, instead of telling them that yes cooking is necessary for survival, but it’s not necessarily a job?
How many times have we generalized doing household chores, like doing laundry, dusting and cleaning , gardening as part of daughters duty?
How many times have we told our daughters not to raise their voice, even in their own house, whenever something wrong is happening to them instead of telling them to fight?
How many times have we set a particular time limit for their arrival at home, just because we are too scared and afraid of the monsters lurking in the dark, instead of teaching them how to fight those assholes physically and not to back off?
How many times have we criticized their career options in the name of safety for girls, instead of encouraging them to go towards their goal and achieve it?
How many times have we told as elders or as parents, to our daughters, that they shouldn’t interfere when adults are making decisions, despite knowing that they are part of the family, instead of including them in discussions which can broaden their horizon?
Or how many times have we treated them really as daughters, instead of making them an already packed product called Lady or Women?
These are only a few How Manys, but you will be truly shocked to find the answers of only these few how manys and how they affects the mental stature of a daughter.
We think that parents provide everything to their daughters. Agreed. We do, as parents or as elders provide everything for our daughters, but we can’t even imagine the pressure we put on our daughters in the name of society. A daughter from a very young age is pressured to be something and someone, she has no idea about.
She doesn’t know what she wants in her life and yet we force on her the 101 of how to become a Lady. Polite, sweet, one who does all the chores, one who cooks, one who takes care of the husband and one who produce lots of babies.
We fail to realize that when we often worry for her acceptance by the society, we forget that it’s more important that she needs to accept herself. She needs to understand about what she thinks about herself, the things which makes her comfortable and happy and the things that she needs in her life, instead of letting her worry for the comfort of others and happiness of others first.
She needs to understand that it’s okay if she is not interested in doing household chores, it’s okay if she doesn’t know cooking, it’s okay if she has chosen a career option which doesn’t come in the category of ‘safe’ career options, or that if society penalises her for being sassy, loud, opinionated, and argumentative, her parents have taught her to stand up for herself.
We should not pressurize her in any form or the other. We should not try to mould her into something she is not willing and ready to become. We need to establish trust and friendship with our daughters, so that whenever they are distressed, they will come to us. They will not stay silent over their sufferings and plights.
In most of the cases of harrassment and violence against women, both physically and mentally, be it domestic or public, it is often seen that a girl remains silent against the wrong happening to them. It is often seen that they suffer without saying a word. And in most of the cases, when asked about it, they often say, “Maa bap ki izzat mitti main mil jayegi, agar maine kuch bola toh” (My parents’ respect in society will be lost, if I ever open my mouth)!
So, what do we want now? Our daughters to suffer just because of the instilled norms of society? Or do we want our daughters to be independent, free and strong women, who will make us proud?
Do we want our daughters to be pushed down or do we want our daughters to soar high in the sky? What do we want to make of them? What do we want to teach them? The choice is ours.
It’s time that instead of making our daughters an already cooked and baked product called LADY, let’s make her a girl of free will.
Published here earlier.
Image source: a still from the movie Secret Superstar
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Astha is a journalist based in Bangalore, who writes about the developmental issues such as
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