Opinionated daughters! Just yesterday, my parents were discussing my marriage prospects. But when I said I wasn’t interested, the discussion ended and my parents promptly said, “you give us so much stress”. Hearing that made me anxious. I could not wrap my head around the fact how could I be a reason for my parents’ stress.
How could my tendency to voice out my opinion, my view and resistance upset my parents to such an extent that I have become a source of upset and anxiety for them? That I cause them stress. Should I feel guilty about it? Should I stop being opinionated and submit to every expectation they have from me?
I am sure I am not alone. This must be the experience of many girls. It is not easy for a woman to be opinionated in patriarchal families. In some places and homes it is not ‘allowed’.
A woman has to conform to parental/patriarchal expectations in order to deserve the overrated ‘good woman’ tag. Without the tag, a woman is shunned as unruly and immoral who doesn’t respect and trust her parents. Whether it is about resisting marriage, speaking up on patriarchal rituals and inequality in family, women’s outspokenness is often discouraged and not taken seriously. But why is women’s freedom to be themselves seen as an attempt to disrespect their elders or parents? Why do a woman’s dissidence and opinionated character become a reason to shame her parvarish? Why isn’t expressing opinion and resistance seen as a part of being a good girl?
The major reason behind this is the parents’ fear that opinionated daughters will not be accepted in society. Or that a daughter who goes against societal rules will be a smear family reputation. But as it has popularly been said that the family is a microcosm of the larger society. The restrictions and rules followed within families are a reflection of how society perceives certain ideas or genders. If women are raised as demure subjects of patriarchy, that is exactly how other sectors of society will treat them. A woman who has internalised silence and conformation will never be able to raise her voice against the injustice she is subjected to inside and outside the home.
Why then are we forcing women to undergo such tribulations? Why are we raising women who don’t oppose injustice and stand for women’s rights? Do we even know the risk that we are taking?
Parents assume that there is no need for a woman to be independent or outspoken. Men are supposed to be their source of money and their voice in society. But what parents do not foresee is how this submission puts women’s lives at stake. Women lose themselves while trying to conform to patriarchal standards. They lose their self-respect or expectation to be respected and treated like a human by society. Are parents right in subjecting their daughters to a lifetime of servility?
It is high time we stop discouraging and shaming women with a voice. To achieve equality in the true sense, society needs women who speak for themselves and others. And it is a parents’ responsibility to send outspoken women leaders in society. Let us understand that it is not the woman’s fault for being outspoken but the family’s and society’s fault to be intolerant towards opinionated women. It is about time we stop considering outspokenness as a masculine domain where a woman must not trail.
Views expressed are author’s own