Moms, Please Stop Saying These 10 Sexist Things To Your Daughters
Mother-daughter relationships are among the sweetest, most pristine bonds to ever exist. Motherhood is that touchstone of unrequited love, that daughters are often hard-pressed to find even in romantic unions. Not just among humankind, but other animals too. But the one edge a horse or a monkey daughter has over human daughters is that their mothers do not throw sexist taunts at them, telling them not to hang with boys or not to wear short clothes. We are the only animals stuck with that reality.
As it turns out, given the generational gap, a mother-daughter duo can disagree on just about anything – ideologies, habits, looks, womanhood, you name it. And it’s not that either of them is wrong on their stance. They’re both free to believe what they please. But that shouldn’t interfere with the other’s life now, should it?
Mother-daughter relationships are beautiful, but often fraught with differences in opinion. So we asked ten daughters to each tell us one thing they disagree upon with their mothers and wished they’d stop having to hear:
1. That skirt you’re wearing is too short
It’s still quite hard for many moms to detach morality from attire, as it is for most of society. Daughters often find themselves being policed basis their clothes when stepping out of the house. Short skirts, despite having been recognised as a fashion category of their own, are still thought of as longer skirts gone rogue. Why does showing more leg deem a woman “sleazy”, even to her mother? Is skin an anomaly?
2. Why do you want to study more? Just get settled
“Settled.” To a daughter wanting a self-identity, this word may mean earning a PhD and landing a job. To her mother, it means shaadi. No matter how independent a woman may become in life or how satisfied she is alone, her mother doesn’t see her as having done anything of significance until she gets married. Are brides all that mothers are raising their daughters to be?
3. Stop always hanging out with boys
A vibrant, heterogeneous friend circle is still a blasphemous concept for many mothers in India who feel morally safest when their daughters surround themselves with a girls-only group. Hanging out with boys is a no-no, for it evokes in their minds all sorts of fears about their daughters’ sexual adventures. But won’t having friends of any and all genders around us be a healthy learning curve in life?
4. Come help me in the kitchen, your brother won’t be able to
This is a justification moms often give for luring their daughters in the kitchen. Women with brothers regularly have to hear the refrains “he won’t be able to do it” or “it’s not his job” being snapped at them by their mothers when they protest against doing household chores or cooking tasks. Why, in 2020, is the kitchen still a gendered space? Why must men’s incompetence be an occasion for women to always cover their share of work?
5. Trip with friends? No, go with your husband when you’re married
It’s as if mothers who say this aren’t perceptive enough of reality. They tell their daughters to go on trips or fulfil any other desires for that matter, with their future husbands without reflecting on their own lives. Did they themselves get to accomplish all they had hoped to after marriage? Was there enough time? Marriage comes with a mountain of responsibility and no one knows that better than our mothers. One cannot always expect to have the breathing space they had in singlehood. Why wait for a trip after marriage then?
6. Look at your cousin, she has such fair skin. Do something about yours
Being compared to a “better” or more “able” family member than you is perhaps the pet peeve of all children in India. But for women, there’s always that extra tragedy of how we fare in looks, beauty, and attraction as compared to a “fairer” or a “thinner” cousin the same age as us. A million debates on the redundancy of colourism. But who is to tell Indian mothers that ubtan and besan aren’t the answers to every problem in life?
7. Come home early
This one is a double-edged sword and often taken in by women through different lenses. If coming home early is a genuine safety concern, in unsafe spaces – say, Delhi – then it’s more or less seen as valid by many women. But tied to it is the flip side that renders this a morality issue, where women staying out late is associated with all sorts of wrongdoing – drugs, sex, alcohol – something “girls from good families” don’t do. How does one balance out this complex issue of coming home early? It’s for each woman to decide for herself.
8. Do what your in-laws ask of you. Don’t argue
Women nearing marriage, or who have already entered into it, are served this disclaimer by their mothers from time to time. The bride, as the paraaya dhan, is expected to move into her sasuraal with a pre-determined mindset of servility (almost) to her in-laws. However unreasonable their demands may be – “you can’t work after marriage” or “don’t visit your parents so much” – they must be fulfilled. Why? Does marriage divest a woman of agency?
9. Don’t enter the temple if you’re menstruating
Indian women are unfortunately tied in tight by religion and patriarchy both, and any attempt to transgress it invites an earful from a family elder. The mother takes charge when it’s a “girl” problem like menstruation. Tradition suggest that periods, a duration of impurity, prohibits a woman from entering sacred spaces – a misogynistic custom, ironically, often proffered by women. For a mother who has been through the same and deprived of the same rights, shouldn’t she motivate her daughter to embrace womanhood without the iron hand of patriarchy controlling her?
10. Feminism is just new-age nonsense. We never complained in our time
Mothers and daughters today often have polar outlooks towards what a woman’s capacity is in society. Mothers who grew up in the years when feminist discourse wasn’t that popular in the everyday mainstream view themselves differently – more often than not, as women bound by certain norms, whether in the workplace or at home. They didn’t complain because they didn’t adjust because they weren’t permitted to question much because the era was such. There’s really no end to the becauses.
But the world is different now. We’re slowly, but surely, progressing it would seem. The daughters of those mothers have now liberated themselves from all boundaries to reach for all that seemed unreachable to them at that time. Through questioning, through challenging the status quo, through dissenting – essentially, through feminism. And that only stands to benefit the respect all women – mothers, included – command in society.
We, as daughters, are fighting for ourselves, are fighting for all womankind. Including you, mothers. Encourage our nonsense.
Views expressed are the author’s own.