Your daughter is a person in her own right, not paraya than or a liability. Treat her with respect and love.
Dear Father, please understand the following about your daughter, and keep aside all your patriarchal ideas. Now.
She is not a parasite who will empty your wealth stores. By bringing her up, you are not “watering the plant in someone else’s garden”. Neither are you a ‘loser’ because you begot her. Come off it; because the longer you think in this way, the more you are delaying women’s empowerment.
Look at it this way. Being the father of a daughter is an secret opportunity: it is through her that you will understand how a female’s life shapes up from scratch (birth); something that you never saw about your mother, never noticed about your sister, never bothered to know about your wife.
Your daughter is your flesh and blood, so you will see a reflection of yourself in her. Bringing her up well can be the biggest fulfillment of your life. From the word go, you can systematically plan her education, sports, extra-curricular development, personality-development, etc.
You can actively intervene when society teaches her gender stereotypes. You can teach her not to “wait for the knight in shining armor”, but rather to ‘ride the horse and handle the sword herself!’ You can train her, coach her, mentor her, and develop her thinking, attitude, outlook.
When you find her getting socio-culturally conditioned to patriarchy, you can ‘catch her young’ and prevent the denting of her normal personality as soon as possible. Your support to her growth is indispensable. Check around you. Most strong, educated, independent females have feminist fathers, overt or otherwise. Patriarchy cannot be smashed only by women fighting it; every socio-cultural / socio-economic / socio-political battle needs both sexes together on the same side.
Your daughter is your best asset to rescue you from patriarchy. Bringing her up will redeem you of all your patriarchal mistakes you did in the past, intentionally or intentionally. For example, perhaps you were OK with your sister/wife giving up her dreams after marriage, but you won’t be OK with your daughter doing so, will you? You will fight it out to level the playing field, right? If want your son to be super-successful in life, will you be happy seeing your daughter as merely a sperm-receptacle? Both are your progeny. You want to be equally proud of both, right?
So go for it! Tilt the scales. Start from scratch. Your daughter will be the catalyst.
Please stop thinking from Day 1 of her life that “she has to be given away”. N-O. No. Just No! Your job as a father is to simply make her independent, self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-sustaining; maximum by the time she is 22. The earlier, the better.
You have as much right on her all her life, as you have on your son. (Let’s reverse that : you have only as much right on your son as you have on your daughter. Both need to be let gone off when they are financially independent.)
Your daughter’s in-laws do not have more right on her than you. Please stop thinking “ab to meri beti kissi aur ki amaanat hai“. NO, she is NOT! She owns herself as an individual, with full fundamental rights. As a minor, she belonged to you and your wife; and as an adult, she belongs to herself. Therefore, her equation with you must remain independent of her marital status. Do not bring her up like a ‘separatist’, while your son as a ‘loyalist’. Both will remain loyal to you, while separating as much as a self-sufficient 21+ individual should.
She needs education as a priority, both for the family and for the society. (Educating the son at the cost of the daughter should become a criminal offence.)
She has wishes, she has dreams, she has goals, she has targets; and howsoever outlandish those sound to you, she has every right to fulfill them. Her talents deserve to be nurtured. Her positive pursuits need to be encouraged. Let her explore and find out what she wants in life and what brings her happiness.
Provide a platform for her self-confidence to develop. Be a support for her personality to bloom. (Bring up both your son and daughter as adults: made sure your daughter does not become a child-woman and your son does not remain domestically handicapped!)
Also, when you retire, remember that she has equal right as your son to your property. Inheritance is not a Y-chromosome-driven process. (Check Biology and Law: both will educate you).
When you discuss your finances (Gratuity / Provident Fund/ LIC maturity) with your children, make sure both males(s) and female(s) are present and involved. Do not trivialize her opinions, especially not before your son, who gets the wrong signal to assume that all women are money-illiterate.
Consciously break the stereotypes.
If your car needs a servicing, don’t give the keys to your son by default; ask your daughter to do to every other time. When you need a new LPG cylinder, don’t ask your son to get it every time; ask your daughter to do so every other time. When you have visitors at home, don’t ask your daughter to make tea/snacks every time; ask you son to do so every other time. Bring them up equally, with equal rights and responsibilities. Spend equally on their education and hobbies. Have equal expectations from either in your old age.
You cannot transfer her from Maaykaa-atom to Sasural-atom via electron-transfer (Kanyaa-daan).
(Check atomic physics: an electron is only about (1/2000)th of the mass of a proton, and thus, the electron gets bound by the proton’s gravitational pull and is forced to orbit around it, much like a planet orbits around a star.)
Your daughter has a gravity of her own, and is capable of full independent existence. Her life does not need to orbit around anyone else’s.
Once she is an adult, let go of her. She will find her way in the world and ensure her place under the sun, irrespective of her relationship status.
Trust her not to lose her way when alone in this world. She does not need a bodyguard (read vagina-guard) called husband. Don’t infantilize her after she is about 12. Teach her to think, question, scrutinize, decide, and take her call.
Impress upon her that no one has the right to boss her around. Teach her to trust her gut and instincts.
Do not solve her problems (unless she asks you). Make her capable of solving her own problems. Teach her to be responsible and sensible. Teach her survival skills by late-teenage: cooking, driving, banking, cleaning, pest-control, first-aid, basic plumbing and electrical-maintenance (including common gadgets like heater / toaster / microwave / AC / iron etc).
Give positive reinforcements to her academic and extra-curricular achievements (and please don’t hide them from her brother!). Teach her to be ambitious and develop her backbone. Teach her to market herself as a professional and bag lucrative jobs. Teach her to save and invest her money. Teach her morals and ideals.
Then leave her alone. Let her make harmless mistakes and learn. Respect her decisions and let her self-esteem consolidate. The way you bring up your daughter will set an example for your relatives and friends / colleagues to bring up their own daughters.
Teach her that “Jeena hai toh, jag mein jeeo, ban ke misaal sab le liye“(Courtesy : movie Kya Kehna (2000)).
You do NOT need to start collecting her sasural boarding/ lodging/ food/ electricity charges from the day she is born. She will pay for those herself in her own house. (Her ‘own house’ means the house whose legal papers are owned by her: not the ‘house’ in the dialogue “ab to shaadi ke baad yeh hi mera ghar hai“!)
Make her capable of earning her own Roti-Kapdaa-Makaan, and no suitor (nor his family) will have the aukaat to act pricey (bhaao khaao) before her. No one is doing a favor to you, or to her, by marrying her. In fact, no one is marrying her: she is marrying a someone.
Teach her to think in ‘active voice’ as opposed to ‘passive voice’. Make her the subject of the sentence, instead of the predicate, and see how the whole perspective of her (as a human) changes in your mind. Educate her to be the subject of as many of her life’s sentences as possible: you will have raised a powerful daughter!
Look after her nutrition. You and your wife should cook wholesome and balanced meals for her. Don’t give her diluted milk-water after giving the whole milk to your son (Yes! Mentally sick families do that!).
Don’t give her smaller helpings of dishes as compared to her brother. Don’t limit her food intake because of puke-worthy notions like “zyaada kaaogi, moti ho jaaogi, phir koi ladka pasand nahin karega”. This one sentence is a poisonous cocktail of patriarchy, appetite-shaming, body-shaming, gender-discrimination, treating-females-as-parasites, denying right-to-nutrition, misogyny, female-body-objectification, female-choiceless-ness, all rolled into one. Stop it right there!
Your daughter needs energy, minerals (esp. iron and calcium) and proteins for a healthy body. Teach her to have regular meal timings. Advise her not to go on fashionable diets because someone in high school body-shamed her!
She also needs activity and sleep in adequate amounts. Involve her in a sport from the time she is ~7. Get an inexpensive (yet safe) bicycle for her to pedal around. Rid yourself of the misconception that sports distorts girls into tomboys! No, it does not. Running is not unfeminine, nor are jumping, climbing, weight-training, kick-boxing.
Check that her school curriculum has regular sports activities. Fill in her holidays with swimming / dancing classes. Take her to self-defense classes as a priority. Make her physically agile and energetic. Learn how a female body matures upon puberty, and teach to her respect herself and not feel shy of her growing breasts.
Finally, your daughter needs good menstrual hygiene. Get involved in it, and don’t leave it your wife. A physically healthy and confident girl will becomes healthy and successful citizens of tomorrow, and will raise an even better generation in future.
7) She is not a copy of your wife/mother. Don’t teach her to compromise to patriarchy like your mother and your wife did. See my earlier posts on these, below.
Here are Part 1 (mother), Part 2 (sister), Part 3 (wife), and Part 4 (daughter in law) in this series.
First published here.
Image source: a still from the film Secret Superstar
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Professor at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.
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