Written by: Uma Sathwika Manda
Every parent cares for their children. But for the parents of girl children in India, it is a whole different tale. They are so perturbed by a myriad of little things that they actually forget to address fundamental issues. Growing up in this very society gives us many experiences that validate the same. Patriarchy, double standards, rape culture, taboos, suppression, and so on.
Growing up as a girl in this country is even harder. One of the major issues with this is that parents themselves approve of womxn’s subjugation in many different ways. In this article, we go through girls’ upbringing in India and understand why these methods are wrong.
Period! A word that many girls cannot utter in front of their own mothers that get periods too. Jaw-dropping, isn’t it? Menstruation is a natural phenomenon. Yet, most girls in India are not told of it unless they become menstruators.
Many have no information about tampons and menstrual cups. They aren’t aware of why they even get periods. Yes, this is about that lecture in biology that was given as homework and was never taught. Many girls don’t know about their own bodies. They cannot explore their sexualities even though they wish to. Most teenagers learn about sex either through friends or through pornography. There is no formal sex education in the country. This is India in the 21st century.
And there are double standards too. For those unaware, in a nutshell, double standards are those standards that society sets on people based on their gender. “Girls cannot drink, boys don’t cry” – these are a threat to the survival of any girl in India. She is not allowed to go out with guys. She has to be home before it’s dark. Her dressing style provokes men, and it is not about the man’s insatiable lust.
Girls should not try to disobey their parents, while it is perfectly okay if you are a boy and you do it. Men that have lost virginity before marriage are considered attractive and naughty, while womxn that do the same are labeled as sluts. Society calls a womxn’ bossy’ when she discharges her duties and delegates the work to people working with her. An independent womxn is considered to be dominating while she and her husband are fine with it. There are a thousand such examples of double standards that prevail in the country.
Ever seen your mother not letting your father do any household chores? Yes, womxn accept patriarchy and reinforce it too. Your parents might not be doing this consciously, but this does happen. But what is the big deal if a man helps his wife do the washing or clean the utensils?
It has always been that way, many say. And it has been that way since girls are taught from childhood that they are to do all the household work and take up the responsibility of looking after everyone in the entire family tree. They are never taught to respect their feelings. Eventually, these womxn try finding happiness in that of others’.
Why not try to imagine a house in which both the spouses’ work and they share all the household work between themselves? Doesn’t that make life easier? Since childhood, everyone dreams of becoming something that has somehow appealed to them. Hold on, if you are a girl with conservative parents, let your dreams wither away. Get married to a rich guy and serve his family.
In most cases, men suppress ambitious womxn (this is sometimes also done by other womxn). This either makes them become the victims or helps them succeed if they courageously manage to bounce back. Girls must be taught from an early age that their dreams matter too.
What if Ms Indira Gandhi wasn’t empowered by her father? Who knows what one might become? Parenting is, in fact, more important than most people perceive it to be. It just doesn’t negatively affect the girls but also teaches the boys to try suppressing the girls around them. So, if this cycle just goes on, there would never be an egalitarian and inclusive society.
Now, what are the ways in which parents can take steps to end patriarchy? Firstly, both girls and boys are to be treated equally at home. There should be no communication lags between the parents and the children. Children should be taught everything, and it should be ensured that the taboo words are put into use so as to normalize them.
They should be taught from a very young age that society always assumes things and that it is very judgemental. Kids must be made aware that they should always try to pursue whatever they wish to and not give in just because someone tries to stop them from doing so.
Also, as Amy Mits said, “Before talking about feminism, we need to identify the women that undermine other women. We need to tackle that like being controlled by men. We need to counsel women that envy other women’s success. How can we achieve an egalitarian society if women don’t support women?”
Parenting plays a crucial role in every child’s life, and it is the onus of the parents to cater to their children’s needs carefully. Normalizing patriarchal phenomena like rape culture and slut-shaming leads to the boys imbibing patriarchal values.
Boys must be taught of periods, of doing household chores by themselves, of respecting womxn that assert themselves to be independent, of understanding that a ‘NO’ always means a ‘NO’, of treating womxn as equals and not be proud of having given them something that has been snatched away from them for centuries, and of making them understand that they should understand womxn. The parents should also ensure they practice what they preach. Finally, as Peter Kreeft said, “Be egalitarian regarding persons and elitist regarding ideas.”