Dear Relatives, I Am Done With Your Sexist Advice. So Please Stop
One of the reasons why I’m thankful for the lockdown is no more massive family plans, that often involve no less than 15 people. Indian families are very popular for their sizes. With more relatives than one can keep track of, a family gathering often becomes a mental massacre for the younger generation usually between 14-20 years of age. Not just that, these gathering are also breeding grounds for unsolicited advice that is dumped on young girls, because why not? Probably every girl has been privy to some stereotypically sexist advice or comment in these gatherings. I am no exception.
So here is some sexist advice from my relatives that I had to deal with:
You won’t get a boyfriend/husband if you’re fat.
I’ve always been a chubby kid. While it was cute till about 10 years of age, post that I have often been told that I need to lose weight to look ‘pretty’. There were snide comments about how I won’t get a boyfriend or a husband if I wasn’t thin. These are relatives who often call this constructive criticism or even motivation. However, studies have shown that fat-shaming only causes mental health issues like eating disorders and low self-esteem.
It’s small acts or words like these that ultimately demean a woman’s existence.
I decided to lose weight finally in ninth grade, because it took a toll on my health. Turns out my health was nobody’s concern. The number of compliments I got for my weight loss was astounding. I did hope they’d ask me my opinions on actual things in life that mattered.
You’re growing up, don’t go to late-night parties and drink.
This is usually associated with the ‘you need to be careful of boys’ narrative. It’s with statements like these that misogyny is catered to us, under the guise of concern. If I’m with the people I trust and am careful about my safety then I don’t think there’s any reason for holding back. This advice would’ve been okay if my male cousins were made privy to it as well. But the fact that only women are told to take meassures for their own safety shows how the onus of anything that happens to women falls exclusively on them. As a matter of fact, it would’ve been better if our relatives told us about underage substance abuse.
But instead, I’ve been told that Delhi is an unsafe space for women and I need to hold back. I agree with the first half and not the latter of this stigma. The problem lies in the mentality. Instead of telling me to restrain myself, they should tell the boys of the family to not go out and harass women just because they can.
My family never encouraged such unruly behaviour and showed their disgust towards it. But at the same time, they never told the men to not engage in such activities.
You’ll change your mind about marriage eventually
I was always determined to not marrying and having kids. I still am.
My extended relatives always say “it’s a phase and everyone gets married eventually.” I want to ask them, why? I feel privileged because my mum once told me that if I’m financially independent and happy in life, I can do whatever I want including staying single without children. She focused always on being independent.
I often heard that I need to lose weight to look ‘pretty’.
This may have come from her own experiences with marriage. Every household should normalise this concept of freedom. People need to understand that while some women want to marry and have kids, others don’t. And it’s absolutely okay to have ambitions that do not revolve around matrimony.
Even after my 12th grade, those same relatives joked about how I had become an adult now they need to find ‘suitable boys’ for me. When I got into a decent college, it turned into ‘now even college is sorted, but what about boys for marriage’. It’s frustrating to the point that I want to pull my hair or preferably theirs.
My concern with this is also that why am I not encouraged to find someone for myself by myself. Why am I expected to follow in the footsteps of my grandmothers, aunts, etc and embrace the “family life”? Does it not matter what I want?
Now I have learned to tune out all such misplaced advice that comes my way from my relatives. But on some occasions, it still bothers me. I often feel like asking them, being thin, having a husband and embracing motherhood, can’t a girl set goals for herself apart from these?
Bhavya Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.