If you are a daughter to Indian parents, you would know what we mean here. It is not that Indian parents are malicious towards their daughters or do not treat them well, but it is the trappings of our patriarchal system that are so deeply embedded into the whole working of our society that makes them do hurtful things.
It would not be all true to say that Indian parents treat their sons and daughters equally or do not hold any gender-based biases in their behaviour with their daughters. Their intentions might not be so, but the sad truth is a lot of parents are not fair with their daughters and depressingly enough, are not even willing to admit the shortcomings and make rectifications. They have just ingrained it in their system that this is how things are and this is how it has always been. So what has been around for so long ought to be righteous and correct. Little do they realize that all the biases and prejudices have run their course and it is high time we start treating each individual respectfully, irrespective of their gender.
The further irony of the situation is the role that Indian mothers play in this entire setup. Having been through the same differential treatment all through their growing up years, and being well aware of how acutely this can bruise the self-esteem of a daughter, they still repeat the same behavioral patterns with their daughters. Is it really that difficult to treat both your sons and daughters at par with each other? Are daughters not just as capable as the sons? Do daughters love their parents any less than their brothers? Are all the sons inherently better children to their parents than their sisters?
It is time Indian parents realized that they are parents to a child first, rather than being propagators of redundant patriarchal beliefs and practices that are irrationally tilted to favour the son of the family. Giving them the benefit of doubt, we would like to believe that all this is in sheer oblivion and they are really not aware of the wrongdoings or the unknown damage that they are causing to the emotional and mental health of their daughters.
We very explicitly spell out below a few things Indian parents should immediately change about their behaviour with their daughters viz-a-viz how they embrace and unconditionally accept everything that their sons do. Girls are just as good or rather even better when it comes to being adherent and supportive towards their parents and it is in all righteousness that they deserve to be treated just as well at their homes as their brothers.
Indian Parents, We Hope You are Listening and Realizing Too!
1. Never tell your daughter that it is not her home, especially in front of your male child. Indian parents keep mentioning to a girl that how her parental home is not hers and she has to leave one day for her in-laws house which would be her real home. Parents need to realize that the girl is born into that household and she is as much a part of the family tree as the son. Instead of saying that she has to leave for her real home one day, parents should instill confidence in their daughters telling them that no matter which part of the world they go to, this is would always be her home. Parents need to have the back of their children at all times. This way they instill an unwavering faith in them to take on the world. In their ignorance and unmindfulness, Indian parents have been severely uprooting the very identity of their daughters by not acknowledging them as permanent members of the family. Stop pestering her for marriage almost every breathing hour of her life making her feel totally unwanted and burdensome. Parents have no idea how deeply this can scar the self-worth of a person.
2. When it comes to household chores or gender roles, Indian parents really play a very biased game. Why is only a sister supposed to serve food to the brother, why can’t it be the other way round? Why are only daughters taught to learn their ways in the kitchen, why are son’s not encouraged to cook and be self-dependent? Cooking, cleaning and leading a disciplined life are basic life skills and everyone should be taught to take responsibility, irrespective of gender.
3. Please stop giving preferential treatment to your sons against your daughters. “Every time my parents needed to go to a doctor or to the bank, they would ask my younger brother to accompany them, even though I knew driving really well. It was as if they considered him their real child and I was just a guest member for a few years.” Indian parents take it for granted that their sons would be there with them forever, whereas the daughter has to leave in a few years. This kind of makes the daughter feel very disassociated and cut off. Treat both your children the same way and keep them connected to the family equally. You never know, one day your son might leave you all alone, with only your daughter to take care of you.
4. When it comes to money matters, Indian parents almost disown their daughters. Everything that belongs to the parents belongs equally to all their children. It is just instilled in the minds of the sons since childhood that all the materialistic possessions of the parents by default belong to them. The daughter is just an outsider who is there at home to perform the homely duties and would leave in a few years for her real abode. Also, whenever parents need any money, they unabashedly ask their son for the same, while the daughter is secluded feeling left out. Parents are as much a responsibility of a daughter as of her brother. Do not feel shy asking your daughter for any help or monetary exchange. It is her duty to support you and aid the family with all the financial assistance that she can. This does nothing but makes her feel more valued, wanted and included.
5. Rather value the education and career of your son over that of your daughter. It is the right of every child, irrespective of their gender to undertake the highest levels of education that they can. Invest in the future security and career development of your daughter. This is the best parenting care and love that you can shower with her. A lot of parents are skeptical to send their daughters abroad for studying or letting them live all by themselves. Financial independence is just as important for a woman as it is for a man. By investing in her education and growth you are securing her future forever.
Every change is first inbred in the mind and thought process and later reflects itself in actions and behaviour. Treat your daughters as equal to your son in your thoughts. If there is unawareness about some topic, read and educate yourself. Do not hesitate to ask for further enlightenment on the topic. A lot of things have been held taboo by our society for years for no particular reasoning. But that differentiation has scarred the personality and self-confidence of our daughters for all these years severely impacting their relationship with themselves as well others. Let’s break those unsubstantiated beliefs and give our daughters the respect, love and value that are so long due.