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My parents have never explicitly yearned for a boy, but the preferential treatment sons receive makes me question how my life would have been as a beta.
Beta (son). A word that has had a significant impact on my life. As the years passed, an obsession around the word grew within me. The need to transform my role from a beti to a beta took its place.
I wanted to become their beta; I recall, I always wanted to be their son. This comes with the baggage of how daughters are perceived by the society, family and your parents. To this day, the truth is that I wish to fight and find my place as their son.
When families talk about their children taking up the responsibility of the house, most of the time, they usually refer to the son as the ideal person who represents the family in society and takes ahead the family name. In such situations, daughters automatically take the backseat and are only brought into the spotlight as potential marriage material.
At weddings, I remember being asked when I would be getting married next, whereas my male cousins would be asked about their future plans with regard to education and work.
I think I lucked out in a way, that my family is really supportive of my education and career. Marriage isn’t a priority within our home. Still, when it comes to leaving the business to us, we, the daughters, aren’t their first choice.
I remember my mother and I have a conversation leading to the topic of money and the family business. She told me, “I told your dad, to give this advice to your brother” which took me aback. I asked her, “Why was your immediate reaction that we have to give business advice only to my cousin brother and not the daughters of the family?”
The commonly held idea is that sons take care of the parents and perform their last rites. Daughters, on the other hand, are known as paraya dhan, the ones to be given away during marriage and are associated with the family anymore.
My grandmother has asked my parents, on many occasions, to have another child, in hopes of it being a boy. Her thought process is, “Who will take care of you after the girls leave?” My parents have come under societal pressure many times. For them and myself, the need to prove that I, their daughter, can take care of them just increased drastically.
“You can’t take a cab this late in the night.”
“You can’t wear that and go, who are you going with first of all?”
“Where are you going, come back before it’s too dark.”
“Don’t drive so late.”
Comments like these are addressed mainly to daughters. The concept of freedom for one’s children is often based on their gender and is reasoned as being for their safety or out of concern. Such comments tend to curb women’s freedom in order to “protect the honour of the house and keep its reputation”.
As a girl, I need to be aware of the time and place. All these concerns were put in front of me by my parents. A list of rules was put in front of me, rules about how to dress, sit, act and the list goes on and on. In comparison to this, the boys were given the liberty to do as they please in any which way.
Daughters are burdened with thinking about the family in terms of reputation and name in society. Sons, on the other hand, don’t need to think about freedom, safety and family reputation via clothes or appearance. Keep in mind, this tends to happen with a lot of patriarchal families, though not every family.
The role in a home setting varies between the sons and daughters, the patriarchy at home provides an advantage to one gender while making the other feel oppressed. Mothers ask their daughters to help cook, help around the house in any way, while the son is never told to do anything around the house.
Being a girl, I’m often questioned about my cooking skills and I reply with a plot twist, “I can’t and do not cook.” The sons are considered the breadwinners of the family, and it is anticipated that they wouldn’t have to do such work in the future. To gain this advantage I have often wondered if my mother would ask me to do these, if I was a boy.
I believe that both genders should be taught to clean, and help around the house and cook as it’s a sign of independence and not to conform to gender roles set by society.
My parents have never explicitly said that they preferred a boy, but the very upbringing and things often said made me wonder what life would be like if I was their son. These differences have become evident through the commonly held ideas of society. As an individual, I myself started to conform to these roles by wanting to be a son. At the end of the day, I know that I would have an advantage as a male.
Even as a society that is trying to move ahead, we tend to still make daughters feel insignificant, and as a mere property that upholds the honour of the people she lives with. I want to be their daughter and take care of them, be given the responsibility of the family, the right to perform last rites, have the freedom, the ability to feel safe and not have a tag of honour to uphold.
I want to be the son they never had, with all the advantages that are given to sons due to their gender.
Image credits Harshvardhan Roy/Getty Images, via Canva Pro
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