The patriarchal belief that a woman must be sanskaari and submissive but has to be taken care of has now translated into the higher and unrealistic expectations of desi moms from their daughters. Society admires a sanskaari daughter and reveres the son who is earning. To earn is important and easier than trying to conform to ideas of chastity and morality which are indefinite, restricting and limitless. And this different standard is the reason why desi moms’ expectations from daughters are often sexist. What if your definition of being sanskaari is different? Then is it right for your parents to expect you to behave, dress and talk in a certain way? Here are some problematic expectations that desi moms have from their daughters that you must question:
1. To be polite and nice to everyone
Every desi mom expects her daughter to be polite, altruistic and nice to everyone. This idea comes from the mythologies that have revered women who are polite and meek while villainised those who are rebellious and shrewd. To be polite and nice to everyone is translated as being submissive and conforming to every patriarchal norm of society. But we need to understand that being nice and likeable doesn’t mean that a woman won’t raise voice against the unjust. Even the polite women in mythologies were strong and wilful against the enemies and the wrongs they did. So it is good to be nice, the world needs kindness, but not to be submissive.
2. To wear clothes that the tradition or trend dictates
When it comes to clothing, different desi moms have different expectations. There is one group of mothers that expect their daughters to follow the latest trends. This might sound empowering but any singular idea of empowerment loses its value if it is imposed on a person against her choice. Similarly, if a woman is not comfortable in wearing western clothes, is it right for the desi moms to force them? While there is another group of moms who expect their daughters to wear traditional clothes only. Should clothes get to define how modern, traditional or sanskari a woman is? Clothes should embody a medium of free expression, a person can wear whatever he or she wants without making the clothes a statement of character.
3. To have less to no privacy
From checking their phones, personal diaries to restricting them from closing their doors for a me-time or a secret conversation with friends, desi moms often interfere in the private affairs of their daughters. While some families might provide a separate room within the house to their daughters, there are families that don’t even allow that. The idea of controlling a daughters’ private life comes from the stereotype that women are weak and vulnerable to negative forces and friendships. They don’t have the decision making power to choose what is right for them. So desi moms, being responsible for anything that happens at home, feel obliged to keep a check on whatever that is happening in their daughters’ lives. But dear moms if you really want to be a part of our private lives, why not consider being our good and trustworthy friends?
3. To be religious and sanskaari
It is fine if a son doesn’t sit down and arrange the aarti ki thali and decorate the idols. But a daughter must help her mom in preparing for the puja even if she is a non-believer. Desi moms expect their daughters to be devoted to God and observe fasts for the welfare of the family especially after getting married. For women, being religious becomes synonymous to being sanskaari. But then, shouldn’t moms encourage their daughters to be sanskaari without compromising with their own beliefs and identity? Should the idea of being religious be restricted in the puja rooms of the house? Religion is a way of life. And everyone has the freedom to define it.
4. To not raise voice against harassment
It is unfortunate that many desi moms ask their daughters to not to raise voice against harassment. The advice is to keep quiet, suffer in silence and compromise because men can never change. Sometimes the mothers themselves face harassment but choose to remain silent and this toxic silence is then passed on to the daughters too.
But dear moms, not raising voice against wrong is not just about putting a finger on the lips. It is a process of forgetting one’s own sense of identity, safety and self-respect. If you are raising a daughter without any self-respect and sense of pride over herself, do you realise the damage you are causing them? Are you raising your daughter for her better future or for society’s validation?
5. To not have boyfriends or sex life before marriage
Every daughter of a desi mom might have passed or is passing through a phase when she saves a boy’s number with a girl’s name. Or would have lied about going out for group studies when she wanted to meet her boyfriend. Why? Because for desi moms having supportive and loving boyfriends is blasphemous but to be harassed by one’s own uncle is normal. Having boyfriends and sex life indicates a woman’s agency which must be restricted but being harassed indicates a man’s control which can never be questioned. Dear desi moms, just open the blindfold of patriarchy and raise your daughters as loving yet defiant women.
6. To abide by the demands of the future in-laws
It is very common among desi moms to expect their daughters to be in-law pleasers. They want them to chart out the plans and dreams of their lives according to the approval of the future in-laws, whom they might not even know. The right choice of career, the texture of the skin, body size, behaviour and clothes of a daughter, is defined while keeping in mind the approval of the in-laws and how it will affect her marriage and motherhood. But dear moms, do you expect the same obedience to in-laws from your sons? If not, then isn’t the problematic idea that marriage for women is equal to servility playing at the back of your mind?
Would you be happy if your daughter isn’t? Dear desi mom, will it not be better if you raise your daughter as an independent woman who believes in her own decisions and doesn’t wait for anyone’s approval?
The views expressed are the author’s own