In the face of big movement on women empowerment, are we doing and imparting right lessons to our kids? Read on to understand the basics where we are actually going wrong.
So lately, we all have been talking so much about women freedom and empowering the female voice…it is a massive movement! And I must say that apart from some truly ridiculous extremist views it is delightful to see world and in particular, developing countries waking to it. The recent women’s march in the US is a big example of how the gender inequality has cut across the barriers of race, religion, education and development. We all are talking big and it is wonderful!
The thing about this big movement is that we women are its foundation and we all are in our own ways creating our identities and fighting bias everyday. That is the good part of it but the bad and probably the worst part of it is not the “patriarchal society”, it is in fact the “stereotyped woman” within us. And this woman lives amongst us, is educated (like highly!) and at times financially independent. The bad part is that sometimes she has daughters. Confused? Now that I have a child of my own, my interaction with other mothers is at an all time high, and sometimes this interaction breaks my heart. Let me complete what I have to say and then you would not be so confused.
This practice is dead…we are educated
Every once in a while an amazing video dealing with women’s rights and society’s perception surfaces. In one the daughter refuses to be our quintessential girl, in another the father of the girl asks the boy if he knows how to cook because his girl cannot eat instant foods or takeaways all the time……really amazing! But how many of us really have guts to do it? Ask me, I would say probably 1%! I have seen a lot of peoples’ reaction to such videos “looks good on video but in reality it can’t happen”. Yes true, does not happen but should happen and can happen. That was the whole point that you missed in that video.
The evil career mother
You can talk big in front of your daughters and preach all the things about being strong, independent etc but it is the small things you say and do that actually matter and she will learn to emulate them in her life. How many times have you girls (I mean the mothers or even fathers) criticized a successful career woman because her child stays in day care or is left with nanny all day? And don’t tell me, you have not! So when you do this, you are simply gender basing a girl’s role. When your daughter hears this, she will simply accept that this is what her primary responsibility is! Before criticizing, have you have ever thought that may be the financial condition in her family does not allow her to stay at home (never mind, if they look affluent)? Have you ever wondered what a tremendous job this woman is actually doing? Taking care of her home (in the best way she can, everyone hires a help these days), solidifying the financial position of her family and becoming independent so that she is never a burden on anyone! Have you ever thought of presenting her as an example in front of your daughter? There is nothing wrong in staying home to take care of your family ( I am stay at home mom)… but do not try to present it as a norm for females.
I am so sick of hearing “what is the point in earning and having a career if she is not able to spend any time with the child” or “why have kids if you want to leave them with nannies”? Really! These talks almost make me nauseous every time now! You know ladies, I have probably seen working mothers spending more quality time with their kids than the stay-at-home moms. It is the age old battle of quality Vs quantity. You don’t know what is going on in the house of that working mother, so just take a step back and stop judging her especially in front of your impressionable daughter. If you have to discuss, discuss it with your friends in “absence” of your kids, even if those kids are boys!
Karate is for boys!
Yes, I recently heard this one. And I wanted to laugh and YELL at this friend! So when I asked her if she was putting her daughter in Karate classes, she said “no, I think I will put her in dance class because karate is a very “boy” thing”! How many times do we all talk about how girls need to be expert at self defense. I actually rest my case, I don’t really have to make a point here, she made it for me.
Your Shit becomes hers
The meek girl! How perfect! I have a son and I always tell him that sometimes you should keep quiet even when you are right. Frankly even I keep quiet at times when the other person talks nonsense or when I know that since this person does not have authority to do anything, it is just a mindless blabber. But when someone threatens my self-respect, is unfair to me or insults me, there is no way I keep quiet. When you keep quiet (always), your daughter learns this from you. Lead by example, don’t take shit. I am not saying become a warrior but stand for yourself. You have to be FIRM not LOUD! If you don’t then your daughter will go through what you are going through, and I have seen this happen! So you are setting a vicious circle in motion when you are scared or keep quiet and, congratulations, you just put your daughter in one!
The Unmarried Bitch
The unmarried old uncle is “cool” but the “unmarried old aunt” has been quite characterless! Mothers, your daughters don’t need a man to run their lives. Choose between the two- having a daughter with great career and financial independence or married daughter. Obviously you chose the first one, but try walking that rope! I have seen parents fail at that miserably. The idea of her being married is equated to her being settled. We have seen way too many girls actually getting unsettled after tying the knot. If you make marriage her lifelong ambition then she will probably condition herself accordingly allowing her tremendous talent go down the drain. Not only this, she will have no ambition thereafter and god forbid, if the marriage is an unhappy one she will be heartbroken for life. Thing is you cannot change your husband the way you change a job, so focus on career and yourself!
So many studies show that girls lose their confidence as they grow, particularly around their teenage. Today we rejoice when the girls top exams or form the top 5% of any course, remarkable! But have you even realized that only a handful of girls actually compete as compared to boys? This is because we try to mould our children based on their gender. The thing is nature has already molded them….after all it is evolution, so refrain from hard coding them into something that they are not. The restrictions we put, the rules we lay actually go on to stifle the girls and this happens around at the time, these little princesses are stepping onto their teenage. The thing is after 10 years, my son will have a lot of belief in your daughter’s capabilities but she herself would not! It is heartbreaking!
Catching them Young
This happened when my son started going to Kindergarten. He would come back from school and tell me what “girls are supposed to do” and “what boys can do”. I was shocked and quite unprepared for handling this since he was just about 3 years old. Besides I had assumed that our world has become so much more progressive that I would be imparting these important lessons of life to him quite late. Now I show every uniformed female officer or police woman to my son to let him know that there is no gender basing in professions. I was glad that this time while we were travelling, we happened to have a female pilot. I make it a point that my son sees these women and understands that it is not about men or women…it is about being human and as human beings, the possibilities for both genders are tremendous.
Things are changing and they are bound to change. The change will be faster when you truly become the part of it. Many women tell me, you have a boy so you don’t understand. Ladies did you forget, I am a woman! I don’t need a daughter to know what a woman is capable of. For once forget the gender and don’t clip her wings. Why are girls not allowed to make the same mistakes that boys do? Why am I teaching my son the importance of gender equality when tomorrow one of yours’ daughter is going to teach him otherwise and he will turn to me and say “Mom, you were wrong all along”! When half of our world’s population comprises of under-confident women, how can we ever have a thriving planet. Don’t stifle her…. Make her a good human being not a good girl because we sort of have enough of them and that is not helping anymore!
Originally published at medium.com