“Beta budhape ka sahara hota hai”, living in Indian society, you must have come across this phrase quite often. Indian families uphold their sons as Raja Betas, the inheritor of the family fortune and the pride of the family. Haven’t most of us grown up listening to the story of Shravan Kumar, the ideal son who carried his blind and old parents on his shoulder?
But did we question why is it always the son who is revered as the ideal support of parents? What if a son isn’t capable to carry the burden? Does it question his legitimacy as a good son? Why can’t a daughter too be the pride and support of the family? Is it right to define the value of the offsprings based on their gender whose dynamics is defined by the patriarchal society?
Male-child preference, the indelible evil
Male-child preference in our society is like the indelible speck of dust on the table. Even if you clean it today, it will be there, the next day, residing like a king on his throne, literally. Families may marry off a young daughter who rather wants to study and get rid of the burden while simultaneously buy a new motorbike to satisfy the demands of their sons’ blooming youth. It doesn’t matter how a daughter is being brought up as long as she is fully covered, keeps quiet and says yes to everything.
But families can’t afford to compromise with the best upbringing of the sons and to deny their demands, however ridiculous they might be. Even though some families today understand the value of education and empowerment of daughters, sons get more freedom, power and the right of inheritance.
The major reason behind this is the idea that women are considered as paraya dhan, who are the “amanat” of their in-laws and should invest themselves in managing their matrimonial house, although not financially. While men are seen as the embodiment of the dominant gender, power, strength with the brain to manage the business and finances as easily as snapping fingers. And hence are preserved by the families as the golden pillar of support.
Patriarchy is devastating for men too
But dear society, is it right to measure the worth of daughters and sons in terms of their gender, abilities and how much they can pay back to their families? Why should an offspring who is mainly the daughter, lose the right to stay with her parents just because she cannot support them financially? Moreover, would a family estrange the son if he is not able to carry the burden of the financial needs of the entire family?
No rather he is shamed and pressurised to hold up the Sisyphean task of supporting the family alone even if it requires a sacrifice of dreams, choices or self. Because it is ingrained in the mindsets of the family members that men (and only men) should be tough enough to carry the family on their shoulders.
Remember, patriarchy is devastating for both women and men. Many men have to give up their education, choices and dreams just because they are expected to inherit the family business they are least interested in and marry a woman who could stay at home and do the housework, against their choice. While, women, on the other hand, are never given the choice to inherit the business, delay their marriage and pursue something which is more significant to them.
Time to change, let daughters hold the reign too
So it is quite obvious that in today’s world when sensitivity around gender equality is increasing and both men and women want to own their life choices, patriarchy and male-child preference is the biggest hurdle in the healthy development of the society. It not only harms women by divesting them of their basic rights but men too.
Yes, men comparatively end up having more power by being head of the family but does any privilege make sense if it demands the loss of personal choices? For whose benefit then are we propagating male-child preference? Society? That only feeds off scandals and doesn’t care about your happiness?
It is about time now to change the customs and define task and responsibilities by passion and abilities and not by gender. Women should be educated, empowered and encouraged to be the pillars of support for their parents. Men should be brought up as feminists who not only respect their own choices but those of the women too.
Providing support and security to parents is the right and responsibility of both the sons and the daughters. Why should only sons be expected to do it? Rather it should be a shared responsibility and it shouldn’t matter if the woman provides the major financial support while men look after other needs.
At the end of the day, we all want a happy and supportive family which can easily be gained through equality and feminism. Why then must it be marred by inequality and gender roles? As Ratna Pathak Shah rightly said, “Home is the nursery of patriarchy” so why should we be the nurturer of an evil that can only destroy and not mend or invent?
Views expressed are author’s own