Being a proud parent to a girl, I like many in my league, am trying to ensure that she gets a liberal upbringing. We encourage her to expand her understanding of gender and stereotypes, always trying to reinforce the belief that nothing is beyond her reach. That she can live her life on her own terms, do whatever she wants to and that there is more to being a woman than “cooking food”, “cleaning home” or “taking care of the baby”, as seen in most cartoons. This is a big struggle, as many parents may agree, but we are gradually weaning our own minds off the patriarchal conditioning to ensure that our girls can break free of the stereotypes and biases, which our society wants to bind them with. But having said that, I have also seen many liberal parents give into that very societal pressure and then ask their feminist daughters to adjust.
- Most parents raise their daughters to be feminists these days.
- We want them to live their lives on their own terms and not by patriarchal dictates.
- But it may lead to a social isolation, especially in a country where most people still do not believe in equality.
- Should parents give into pressure and ask their feminist daughters to adjust for the sake of social acceptance?
Indian parents are gradually weaning their own minds off the patriarchal conditioning to ensure that our girls can break free of the stereotypes and biases which our society wants to bind them with.
The cost of raising feminist daughter is that they find themselves in minority, when they step outside the cocoon of our progressive upbringing. We may tell our girls that they can have a job and earn money and buy their own home when they grow up, but then they will encounter many such others kids, girls and boys alike, who tell them that they can’t. Who’ll try to reinforce gendered beliefs like pink is for girls and blue is for boys, or that boys are brave princes who’ll come to rescue the princess. It only gets worse, when they grow up into independent broad-minded women, and realise that it is a struggle to find a partner who thinks of them as an equal. In such delicate times, most parents give in to the pressure and encourage their daughters to compromise.
I have seen parents who sent their daughters for higher education, encourage them to leave their job, if that is what the prospective groom demands. I have seen liberal parents advise their daughters to dress according to the taste of their in-laws, to single-handedly bear the burden of household chores, to not engage in romantic relationships, or to even voice their opinions too loudly or firmly amidst men. In the end, Indian parents end up failing their girls by telling them to compromise or adjust and forget all the virtues of equality that they had instilled in them since childhood. It suddenly becomes of paramount importance that their daughter’s life charts the course determined for her by the very patriarchal society, which we looked down upon as a deterrent to her prosperity. Get married to a boy from your own caste and religion, approved by your peers. Have children. Compromise with your career for the sake of a happy family life. We want feminist daughters, be more than that we don’t want any controversies. So in the end, our perpetual fear of log kya kahenge trumps all our progressive beliefs.
Indian parents end up failing their girls by telling them to compromise or adjust and forget all the virtues of equality that they had instilled in them since childhood.
When you raise a social misfit, you have only two choices, you either give in to the pressure and backtrack, or you encourage your child to look harder to find a community which identifies with virtues of equality, to engage with. Like us, there are many parents who are now raising their sons right. Who believe in ideas like equality and who condition their sons into believing that girls and boys can do anything and be anything they want to be. All you have to do is to resist the urge of settling down your daughter, to appease your immediate society by putting her on a course approved by them.
It is seriously not worth raising a feminist daughter if you are going to be the one to deter her from living by those virtues. I know it is much more difficult to encourage your child to live by values of equality, than merely imparting them. But then that is how a change begins. If everyone gave upon their rights and dreams from the fear of being social misfits, imagine where the world would be!
Picture Credit: idiva.com
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.