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While Raising Empowered Girls, Do We Forget To Raise Emotionally Expressive Boys?

While teaching our daughters to 'be strong' in a patriarchal society, did we teach our sons to understand the concept of women's autonomy and choice?

While teaching our daughters to ‘be strong’ in a patriarchal society, did we teach our sons to understand the concept of women’s autonomy and choice? 

Somewhere during the 80s and 90s, there was a family where the husband is a civil engineer, the wife is a history lecturer, and they have two kids, Nikhil and Tamanna.

Being well-educated parents, the parents provided a family environment where kids can have good education and family value system. They made sure that Tamnna, the girl child, should have same level of exposure as Nikhil, the boy.

Tamanna is loved, pampered at times, and has a supportive family where she can build her own identity, assert her opinions, and when she completes her education, she becomes financially independent. Nikhil is also raised with a similar value system.

Default gender roles

When Nikhil and Tamanna are in their teens, there are instances when relatives, friends visit their house. The mother asks Tamanna to get water for the guests while Nikhil sits with them.

During their school vacations, both kids take up some hobby classes, visit cousins, and play with friends. While Nikhil plays football with his friends in the afternoons, Tamanna told to avoid being outside too much in the sun, so that she does not become dark.

Tamanna spends a lot of time helping her mother in the kitchen, and is often told to set the dining table by the time Nikhil and/or her father returns home, and then they all eat together. There are times when the house help is on leave. At such times Tamanna is asked to help her mother in household chores, while Nikhil does his brotherly job of teasing her.

Career choices

Tamanna is often fondly told to become whatever she aspires to be by her father, while Nikhil, emotionally and socially, is systematically raised to choose a career which elevates their social and financial status. Nikhil secretly aspired to be the football coach. (Childhood fantasies!)

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While parents feel proud to have a daughter who becomes an investment banker, they don’t approve of Nikhil’s childhood dream of becoming ta sports coach. Instead, he was diverted (of course, in the name of parental love) to become a doctor.

A pattern of benevolent sexism?

Let’s take a moment and crunch the pattern here.

A fairly ‘open-minded’ family believes in providing equal opportunities to their son and the daughter, but that equality is limited to academic education only!

A son is not given equal opportunity when it comes to helping in household chores, choosing a career with ‘not lucrative enough’ economic and social benefits. Isn’t this something boys have been doing for centuries?

A daughter is also not treated equally as a son, with the expectations that she takes over household chores, even though she may be given a good education.

Question yourself

It ultimately boils down to some unanswered questions.

  • While preparing our daughters to be independent, did we raise our sons to be equally hands-on in household chores?
  • While empowering our daughters, did we change our expectations from our sons?
  • While teaching our daughters to ‘be strong’ in a patriarchal society, did we teach our sons to understand the concept of women’s autonomy and choice?
  • While giving equal opportunities to our daughters, did we give our sons the opportunity to express his emotions?
  • When we discuss how women should be treated equally, do we acknowledge that men are solely (and unequally) obliged to fulfill financial responsibilities, however skewed it is, for their families?

Ask yourself.

Image source: a still from the Hindi film Dil Dhadakne Do.

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