I remember watching this particular scene in the 2017 film Bareilly Ki Barfi. The film’s protagonist Bitti has been rejected by yet another boy and she is being consoled by her father. Bitti is a rebel, who smokes, isn’t a virgin, earns her own money and she wants to marry someone who accepts her as she is. But instead of acceptance, Bitti comes across rejection and social hypocrisy, where it is okay for a man to do the things that she does, but if a woman does it, it isn’t acceptable. But this is how our society is, Bitti’s dad tells her. While Bitti’s dad has no issues with her lifestyle, that is the limit of his feminism. He cannot change society’s viewpoint, and he has accepted that. And the then is Piku’s father, in the film by the same name, who has no qualms telling a man inclined to court her daughter that she isn’t a virgin, who is proud of his smart and independent daughter. These two onscreen dads emulate the two kinds of feminist dads you see in India.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • It is not easy being a feminist father in our society even today.
  • Many dads want to send their girls to other cities for higher education, have no issues with what they wear or when they marry.
  • But they do have to deal with the social pressure to keep their daughters “in control”.
  • It is heartwarming how many dads fight patriarchy in their own way, and let their daughters be what they want to.

Why do you let her wear what she wants? Your daughter is dating someone, and you are okay with it? What’s wrong with you? Feminist dads have to field the misogyny that comes their daughter’s way.

One of my colleagues told me yesterday, how her father faced resistance from his educated and progressive friends, when he decided to buy her a scooty. “You are spoiling your girl. We have daughters too and this will put us in a spot,” he was told. He brought her a scooty anyways. My own father had to endure years of unsolicited advice to “try” for a son since he only had two daughters. A lot of his well-wishers discouraged him when he decided to send my sister to Pune for higher studies, as the same course was available at the nearby city. He didn’t cross his friends, but my dad did send my sister to a college of her choice.

Why do you have to send your daughter so far away? Why do you let her roam around so freely? Why do you let her wear what she wants? Your daughter is dating someone, and you are okay with it? What’s wrong with you? Feminist dads have to field the misogyny that comes their daughter’s way. Although how they deal with it may differ.

Also Read: Raising A Feminist Son Is Like Raising A Boy Who Believes In Humanity

There are two kinds of feminist fathers in India. Those who take social criticism head on and cheer for their daughters openly, and those who let their daughters do what they want, but also endure social criticism for it quietly. They have to live in this society, while can send their daughters away, and thus they cannot cross a certain line. Fathers who belong to both these categories have my sympathy and respect. Because in such a conservative society, it is simply not easy to raise a feminist daughter, whether you do it subtly or otherwise.

I do hope more and more dads discover feminism with fatherhood and take a stand for their daughter, or just find it in them to ignore social scrutiny and thus empower their daughters to live life on their own terms.

Perhaps urban fathers today, who are raising teen daughters are more vocal about their views, and refuse to take social criticism lying down. On the other hand, fathers who brought up daughters in the 80s and 90s, especially those who still live in towns like the one I come from, have no escape from the social pressure to parent in a certain way. I still come across so many dads, who have to deal with this conflict every day. They don’t want to pressure their daughters to get married, they want to send them away for higher education, they don’t bother what their girl wears until our conservative society comes into the picture.

Also Read: My Father Raised Two Daughters In A Conservative Society

But alas, there is no escaping patriarchal pressure to keep daughters “under control”. We are far from becoming a society yet, where raising daughters is not seen as safeguarding a property until it can be handed over to another family. Having said that, I do hope more and more dads discover feminism with fatherhood and take a stand for their daughter, or just find it in them to ignore social scrutiny and thus empower their daughters to live life on their own terms.

Image Credit: MSM motion pictures

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