A woman earning praise for her culinary skills feels good and doesn’t sound wrong, but when the focus shifts to just that ‘talent’ overseeing all her other traits and accomplishments, there’s a problem. We, as women, have been at the receiving end of sexist compliments and accepted them with a smile sometimes without even realising they are in truth, demeaning.
Often times, in Indian families, women are subjected to sexism disguised as praises. And there is an official term for such remarks which are totally wrong but makes a person feel good about themselves. Benevolent sexism, the termed coined for this concept, is described as “viewing women stereotypically and in restricted roles but that are subjectively positive in feeling tone”.
We often hear “women are more sensitive and caring” than men, although that might sound like a unharmful comment but it’s a sexist compliment.Â Next time your are at a family gathering, keep your ears open for some of these sexist compliments or the ones in the same line.
Here are a few sexist compliments I bet you have heard:
1. You are so pretty, anyone would marry you.
Yes, apparently thatâs all it takes to get married in our country, a pretty face. In some way, all your achievements are reduced to nothing when you have that âprime attributeâ. And let me tell you, these unsolicited remarks don’t even consider a girlâs age.
A neighbour once commented about my 11-year-old cousin saying that “if anyone sees her theyâll ‘book’ her for marriage”. I can’t even begin to explain everything that’s problematic about her statement. Unfortunately, these passing remarks or the person making them is never questioned. Somehow we have normalised women being subjected to objectification no matter what age group they belong to.
2. She is my son.Â
Families who claim they donât treat their children differently on basis of their gender, are often heard making these remarks with a puffed out chest. Newsflash! Your daughter deserves all the opportunity your son gets and thatâs not a privilege.
This particular assertion is expected to be considered a proof of progressive mindset. Definitely, it sounds the opposite of it because saying so puts the other gender in a superior position. For starters, if you have to emphasis on how you raised your âdaughter like a sonâ, you arenât actually being a pro-feminist.
At times, when women take up responsibility of their parents or family, she is referred to as the son or man of the house. How is all-that is outside the kitchen a manâs territory?
3. You learned to cook, bas ab koi tension nahi.
Oh really! So what should I do with my degree now? It all comes down to your culinary skills after years of education and efforts to have a career ahead. Cooking, which is an essential skill barring oneâs gender, is deemed as an area only women need to master.
The pride in our family’s eyes when we cook a meal has no comparison to any of the moments of notable accomplishments. Ironically, women probably wouldn’t get the same encouragement if they chose to be chef, to exhibit the same culinary skills.
4. Itâs good that you choose to be a teacher. Ladkiyon ke liye best career option hai.
We see women across the globe achieve great heights, watch them on television, sing praises for them and then tell girls or women in our own house that they need to limit themselves to a ‘safe’ job. How about the women here gets to decide what’s best for them and all you provide is some support?
People opine working inside four walls is what a woman should opt for. Well, we face misogyny and sexism inside those walls on a daily basis and believe me thatâs quite harmful to us.
P.S. All journalism students do not tell your relatives about your ‘unsafe’ career choice.
5. Your child is too ambitious for a girl.
Do only boys have the right of chasing their dreams and having aspirations? I still find it difficult to fathom the term ‘too ambitious’ which is strictly applicable to womanâs goals. There are enough instances of families ‘allowing’ their girl child to have an education but when it comes to entering the job market itâs a big no.
What we overlook is the essential need for a woman’s financial independence which leads to gender equality. They are often expected to live off their father or husbandâs money which leaves the woman with no financial security.
The path doesnât end with providing your daughters with education. Financial freedom brings power as Melinda Gates said, âWhen money flows into the hands of women, who have the authority to use it, everything changes â for women, their families, and their communitiesâ.
6. She has grown up to be a âgharelu ladkiâ.
Our society has never flinched away from character assassination of a woman, mainly when they tend to carry out any activity a man does, without giving it a second thought. Growing up we have learnt to tick off the requirements that fits us in the box labelled ‘sanskari’ women.
Not interacting with the other gender, keeping our skirts at a ‘decent’ length, not stepping out of the house without a male member to ‘protect us’ and the list goes on. however, this criteria is usually decided by almost everyone around us, from school teachers, who have shamed us for having male friends, to relatives who find us too invested in our career than our family.
7. Your daughter doesnât speak much na? Warna aaj kal ki ladkiyanâŚ
To be awarded the title of a ‘good girl’ in an Indian household you need to sweep your opinions under the rug (especially when relatives are over). On the contrary, men are approached to seek their outlook on almost everything- sports, finance, politics or womenâs right to speak.
Your viewpoint when you speak up is totally overlooked and what grabs the focus is that you dared to voice out your thoughts. Though I hate (read love) to pop the bubble uncle/aunty for you here, but the same girl who is quiet at family gatherings might be schooling some troll on Twitter or leading a protest at her university, much like other âaaj kal ki ladkiyanâ.
Views expressed are the author’s own