Have you ever paid attention to the words when someone is praising their kids? Notice the traits that are used to appreciate girls and boys. Girls are considered “good” when they learn how to cook, help out at home, look after their parents, and maybe get decent grades. Boys, on the other hand, are praised when they look and act physically strong, play “manly” sports, and behave how young men are conditioned to behave in Indian society, like self-proclaimed kings. Boys will be boys, no? And then we wonder why girls don’t fight back against abusive husbands, why they stay silent in the face of harassment, and why they don’t make the big bucks at work.
If you want to raise strong, confident girls who can fight for their rightful place in society as adults, here are a few things you need to stop doing at home. We’re all guilty of this behaviour at some point but it needs to be rooted out before another generation of women has to fight for basic human rights.
Stop telling them to change their clothes when male relatives come over
When you tell your daughter to change out of her shorts and t-shirt because chachaji/fufaji/mausaji/any other uncle is coming over, you basically tell her that her body is offensive. This is where the unnecessary sexualisation of her body starts. And this is where she learns that most of her mental and physical energy in life should go into covering herself up before men. Let her wear what she’s comfortable in, and if someone is acting creepy around her, throw them out of your house and protect your child.
Stop discouraging them from following male-dominated career paths
When you tell your daughter that “law is too demanding for women”, “get a job with fixed timings”, “there are very few women in tech so the office will be uncomfortable”, “you can’t travel or move out of the city for work”, you’re telling her that her gender will always hold her back and that it’s perfectly acceptable for this to happen. Stop teaching her this nonsense and give her the confidence to take on a difficult career if she really wants to do it. Support her, don’t pull her down.
Stop laying down curfews that don’t make sense
“Get back home before dark”. Why? Does violence against women stop when the sun is out? Ask yourself how you would behave if your daughter was a boy. If you would give the same curfew to a boy, sure, go ahead. You probably have logical reasons beyond gender for this time limit. But if you think a boy can stay out later than a girl, you’re playing a significant role in making the world unsafe for your own daughter. Stop playing to the patriarchy. Educate her about the reality of the world but don’t bark orders at her that make her hyper-aware of her gender.
Stop monitoring her phone calls to make sure she’s not speaking to a boy
It is normal for girls and boys to be friends and interact. Can’t you have a normal conversation with someone from another gender without making it sexual? Your daughter can’t live in a bubble and talk to the same-gender friends you choose for her. And do you really want to make her feel that she can’t talk to you about something as significant as a romantic relationship? You’re not really a parent then, you’re a dictator.
Stop imposing marriage as a life goal
We need to stop telling the young women in our families that marriage is any kind of goal or achievement in life. Yes, it’s a significant moment in life. But it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. Pushing shaadi as the only important thing she’s going to do in life makes her feel that any amount of studying or working hard is a complete waste.
Stop reminding her of her biological clock
Here’s another thing that comes with the pressure of marriage. The giant biological clock ticking in every woman’s body. Instead of telling your daughter that she needs to get married before 25 to be able to have kids at “the right age”, research and give her options like freezing her eggs if she really does want kids sometime in the future. Stop being your child’s worst enemy by pushing her to do something she doesn’t want to do.
Related: Everything You Need To Know About Freezing Your Eggs
Stop the routine body shaming
For her and for yourself. When you look in the mirror and keep admonishing yourself for putting on a few kilos, this is what your daughter learns. She will keep finding flaws in herself and her appearance forever. But if you learn to ignore your changing body type, then she too will learn that life is so much more than the appearance of your body.
Stop telling her to ignore those who harass her
When you tell her to stay silent and ignore that vicious catcaller, you’re telling her nothing can be done about this kind of behaviour and it’s something she has to live with. But that’s not true. If you do say something and report one harasser, your daughter will learn to stand up for herself when she’s alone. She will learn to hit back at that guy on the street who thinks it’s okay to whistle at women, and she will confidently fight against a colleague who tries to invade her personal space at work.
Stop downplaying your authority as a woman in front of the men of the house
If you’re a mom raising your daughter in a household with men, assert your authority. When you downplay yourself and your opinion in front of the men at home, your daughter will do the same when she grows up. But if you make yourself heard and put your foot down when you’re right, your daughter will know that it’s perfectly acceptable for women to go against men.
Stop giving her brother more freedom than her
If your adult son has a car/bike, and your adult daughter doesn’t, ask yourself why. If your son is allowed to go out with his friends at all times of the day or night, and your daughter isn’t, ask yourself how this came to be. If the answers to these questions are “because she’s a girl”, you know what you need to do.
When we start raising boys and girls equally from the very beginning, the harmful, sexist conditioning that we’ve grown up with won’t dictate their lives. And you would’ve raised decent, successful human beings.
Related: Boys Locker Room: What You Need To Teach Your Sons About Women
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