An email: If I am around people who think that having or giving birth to sons is everything in life how should I behave?

Now we know that in Indian culture,

1. We don’t bless mothers with ‘May you have many daughters‘.

2. We don’t allow a permanent identity (name, second name) to girl children.

3. We believe it’s human to expect some parents to think of some of their children as property of somebody else (‘paraya dhan‘)

4. We believe it’s okay for parents to teach some of their children to accept unhappy and limited lives as their destiny because they were born girls.

5. We need laws to discourage parents from killing their own girl children (sex selection, infanticide, honor killing).

Then how does such a culture deal with parents who are actually delighted to have girl children?

Sharing an email.

***

Hi IHM,

Verbatim to you – a mail from my sister (own) who has a 1 + year old baby girl and she is very ok with it (our kind) …  you have some suggestion? 

– A blog reader.

***

Hi Bhaiya,

How are you? I have something to ask you. I am in Canada so I won’t be able to call you. If I am around people who think that having or giving birth to sons is everything in life how should I behave? I feel bad and at the same I get angry. I get emotional because I love my daughter so much, I feel that all these people are making me feel that in my life K’s
Importance is less because she is girl.
But I love K and I want them to know that K is sweetest child and I would never ask for anything more than this from God. I am not upset and not any trouble but I am asking you because I want to learn how should I protect my child. I know these people are sick who differentiate  between gender. So just being quiet and ignoring their non sense conversation is the best option?

– K’s mom

Edited to add:

Here are some thing that I think might help.

1. Do not allow others to ask your daughter to perform girls’ chores around the house, like asking her to make tea or fetch water when there are other kids around her age who are not being asked to do the same because they are boys.

2. Don’t ever allow others to make her wait to eat until after the boys and men have eaten, or she gets hot chappaties from the kitchen while the boys are eating.

3. Firmly discourage (by ignoring) advice about teaching her to be a good future daughter in law.

4. Don’t discuss her marriage as her goal in life. Do talk about her future like any other child’s future, about your plans for her future career, self reliance, dreams and aspirations.

5. Don’t discuss or lay stress on her skin colour, height, features (sharp or not sharp), thickness of her hair.
Focus on her fitness and good health.

6. Let your family and friends see that she is loved and cherished by you, don’t be affected by any talk of how she would find it difficult to adjust with her in laws if she is loved and spoiled by her parents.

Related Posts:

From a girl child – Shail

48 thoughts on “An email: If I am around people who think that having or giving birth to sons is everything in life how should I behave?

  1. She should tell them that she feels this way and will not allow them to treat her kid in an inferior manner. Because, a girl shouldn’t grow up in the environment she mentioned. She might internalize the misogyny.
    And what if she has a son later? Can you imagine the feelings of inadequacy and hatred this girl will feel? For herself and maybe her bro too? And the superiority complex the son might have? All due to an accident of birth? There will be very small chances of them actually having a healthy relationship.

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  2. I think she does not need to protect her child from anything because she is happy having a girl child, and her child is being brought up by her. A child seeks reinforcement from parents first and from society later. If the parents are loving and know how to handle the child’s angst (if she faces any) in a logical manner then the child will be a happy child. In my family, my sister and I were raised on par with my brother. Of course, I was aware of all the terrible things that happened to girls in my country. But, I did not internalize any of the hatred because my own upbringing was so good. Somewhere, the lady has to learn to ignore or avoid the company of such types if they make her feel depressed. “Kuch toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kehna…”

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  3. Just tell them your daughter is precious and that you would not tolerate any negative comments against her. Remain firm and sound positive when you tell others that your daughter is very important to you. And do not forget to add “My daughter is very important for me. I love her. she is a darling, a sweet heart and I will make sure she will get the best of everything in her life”. The more we get agitated about people’s comments, the more we will be subjected to such comments. Instead, if we sound firm, positive and make them feel that we are not agitated by their comments, people will think twice before making unwanted comments.

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    • Brilliant advice.

      Polite but rock-solid firmness does the trick always. Will actually make the other person look silly. They will stop once they realise their comments don’t bother you in any way – and they will see that only when it really does not bother you.

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      • Thank you, N. I used to get very frustrated when people asked “you should have a boy now” as though it is an ‘over-the-counter’ kind of thing. Each couple will have their own priorities. Why don’t people respect that? Now, I do not get frustrated, instead smilingly, politely and firmly tell them ” In fact, I want to have a girl again, if at all we decide to have another baby.. BTW, do you know that it is the men who decide the gender of the baby? You will be surprised that not many know this, even the educated ones at that.

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  4. Here are some thing that I think might help.

    1. Do not allow others to ask your daughter to perform girls’ chores around the house, like asking her to make tea or fetch water when there are other kids around her age who are not being asked to do the same because they are boys.

    2. Don’t ever allow others to make her wait to eat until after the boys and men have eaten, or she gets hot chappaties from the kitchen while the boys are eating.

    3. Firmly discourage (by ignoring) advice about teaching her to be a good future daughter in law.

    4. Don’t discuss her marriage as her goal in life. Do talk about her future like any other child’s future, about your plans for her future career, self reliance, dreams and aspirations.

    5. Don’t discuss or lay stress on her skin colour, height, features (sharp or not sharp), thickness of her hair.
    Focus on her fitness and good health.

    6. Let your family and friends see that she is loved and cherished by you, don’t be affected by any talk of how she would find it difficult to adjust with her in laws if she is loved and spoiled by her parents.

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    • I feel more than just happy to read this list of points..It is so true!

      Just because you’re a girl, they want you to be perfect.. perfectly good looking, a perfect cook..even when you are a kid when you do not even know what marriage means, they talk of your marriage only..they scold you saying one day, you have to get married, people will blame us if you don’t learn all this..
      They ask girls to reduce weight, saying, “how will you get married if you aren’t slim”.. Can’t they talk of health and physical fitness instead?

      These things might seem very small.. but only a girl knows how it feels..It feels as if they are preparing you to get married, as if they are producers and they wish to have a competitive edge,and hence they wish to improve the quality..
      On the other hand, if your parents ask you to take care of your health, to focus on your career, if they discuss your problems, you feel that they do care for you.. that you aren’t someone who has to leave their place one day..that you are, and you will be, a part of their life.. forever..

      Why don’t people realize that even after a girl gets married, even after she lives at a new place with a new family, she still happens to be their daughter! And she would always be there for them..So how does the word ‘paraya’ come into picture?

      If they stop teaching her how to be a good daughter-in-law in future, and love her for she is YOUR DAUGHTER she would grow up to become a confident, strong woman! And she would probably be a better person in dealing with all kinds of relationships, and dealing with her life in every aspect..

      Like

    • superb points IHM! I’d like to add that this should be implemented by BOTH the parents – the messaging should be consistent. And when ‘outsiders’ make any comments such as ‘oh her graduation is done…time to search a groom for her’…BOTH parents should OPENLY and firmly disagree and discourage these comments.

      Here is a wonderful example of upbringing. I have a very close friend who lives abroad. His mum and brother live in blore. Mum is a school principal, and he lost his dad in the late 90s. A couple of years ago, I was looking to sell my car when my friend said his mum wanted to buy it. Since he was abroad, and I had not met his mum or brother, all of us spoke over the phone and the deal was done. I went over to his place to give the papers and the keys. His mum was away, but she had instructed my friend’s brother about my arrival.

      As I chatted with his brother, he made a great cup of coffee, and cleaned up after the preparation. Since his mum was delayed, and I had to leave – he even gave me the traditional kumkum and ‘tamboola’ that his mum wanted to give (I think it was a festival). When I left, his mum called me and apologized, and said ‘I hope you had coffee and snacks; and I hope you took the tamboola.’ I have every reason to believe that if I had said no – the 28-year old son would have been taken to task severely by the school principal :D

      It’s not really a big thing – but I love the way these sports crazy, drag racing, headbanging boys have been brought up! I could not help chuckling – the home was so ‘boys’ – rackets, mitts, cricket pads, gloves and what have you adorning every shelf and corner…and this guy casually whips out the coconut and kumkum LOL! I mean I was really amused when he carefully measured a jasmine strand with his palm and cut it as a part of the ‘tamboola’ :) At least, I’ve not come across a situation where a so called ‘girl’s chore’ was performed so unassumingly, without any hangups :)

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  5. Mother’s love does wonders. I’m sure you won’t tolerate anyone illtreating your child now that you know what is right and what is not. Don’t treat her like she’s born to do chores and become a good DIL in future. Heck, don’t ever think about her future marriage until she grows up to be of the right age. And don’t let others talk about all this crap either.
    If others talk about her being a girl child and how it is not good, you have be there to protect her interests and give it right back to them. Be brave and fight for your girl and teach her to fight for herself too. I know the world is filled with morons, but when you send out a strong message that their nonsense won’t be tolerated, you’ll be surprised to find that they’ll most certainly back-off.
    You’re happy with your child, make sure your husband is too. Just ignore everybody else.

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  6. //But I love K and I want them to know that K is sweetest child and I would never ask for anything more than this from God.//

    This was such a beautiful thought; you have the heart of a true mother. I would do all the things IHM mentioned. Does the e-mail writer live in India or Canada? I was a little confused. I might just add one thing (and I hope no one thinks I’m out of line) but maybe the young woman’s husband or in-laws will be on her soon to have another child (this time a boy). I would encourage the email writer to definitely NOT to give in to pressure to have a sex determination test. (I know in Canada it is quite easy to get such services openly). If the next child is a boy, wonderful. If it is a girl, also wonderful. If there isn’t another child, that also you choice. We should all accept what comes our way and not worry about unfair gendered pressures. After all, your child (and any future child) already has the most important thing: a loving and accepting mother who can see the flaws of her society and is reaching out to find ways to resist.

    Best of luck to you!

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  7. Forget respecting the buzurg, if they cant respect your daughter, they are not worthy of receiving any either. Your daughter shouldnt be around adults who discriminate against her at such a young age. Give her wings and teach her to fly! And if possible tell those adults goodbye.

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  8. Thanks IHM, loved your 6 points.
    a similar question has been running in my head for a while.. Whenever i meet my hubby’s relatives they bless me to have a boy. it is so irritating!
    My SIL just had a boy and she is being celebrated for being such a good bahu. Fact that her boy is fair is also being highlighted to me often.
    I am going to follow all answers here to see what I can use..

    Like

    • Even today, they might say that all we want is a healthy baby, doesn’t matter if its a boy or a girl..

      But the fact that one day she has to get married is what they have in their minds.. We can’t take money from her salary, she is a daughter, not a son.. She can’t support you for she will leave you one day and get married..

      Actually, the way people in Indian society think that once a girl gets married, her family and her world= her in laws and her husband only, is completely responsible for all this.. A girl is equally responsible for her parents, even after she gets married.. Whats wrong in terms of morals and ethics if a married girl supports her parents financially, if required? Whats wrong if a married girl goes to her place once in a while to look after her sick mother? Such views make a daughter ‘paraya dhan’..

      And secondly, they take her marriage as a duty, as a responsibility, and spend whatever they have earned for the big fat wedding.. these extravagant expenses, they make her a ‘burden’ for her family.. Also, they feel worried about the fact that she would be a good DIL or not.. for their ‘izzat’ depends on the same.. Hence, right from the point when she is born, even if she is given all luxuries and comforts, the sense of belonging, affection, is missing, compared to what a son receives from his parents..

      The moment people realize this, the word ‘paraya’ won’t exist for daughters.. and they won’t be considered as a burden!

      Like

  9. We are two sisters but I have a son. I can see for myself how much my mom obsesses over my son. I found out from some of her relatives that she had always wished to have one son at least but instead she had two daughters. It would have been hell if one of us siblings was a boy because it is apparent who she would have preferred. I can see how she is so possessive about my son and shows her apparent frustration at me for having a son when she couldn’t have one.

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  10. We are two sisters in my family too and my parents did an excellent job handling people like this. My mother also saw this kind of behaviour (far worse in fact) since she was one of 3 sisters in her family. My father made it clear he wanted atleast one daughter. We were brought up in a gender neutral way and anytime someone said something about the advantages of having a son, they said they were confident me and my sister could do anything irrespective of gender.

    There was one very scary incident which happened when I was a 4 yr old kid and my sister was just 2 months old. My father was out of town and my mother had to singlehandedly shift into a new apartment. My father’s colleague(not well known) who lived there dropped by to help. He started off with not-so-subtle comments about how daughters are bad and then he actually offered to throw my sister out of the window (the apt was on the 8th floor) to quietly get rid of the ‘burden’. My mother couldn’t say anything, she was completely terrified he would actually do that. My parents went to great lengths to avoid that man again and luckily he moved out soon after that.

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    • OMG !! :( I cannot even imagine your mother’s state of mind at that point. I mean what if he had really done that???????

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    • OMG!! someone actually thought of throwing a baby out of the window because the baby is a girl!!!! very very sad!!
      We are 3 sisters and my parents had to face this comment very often”3 girls? what will do you do now?”, My parents would reply “What will we do? We will educate them well and bring them up as strong individuals. “. I am very thankful they did. My mother is no more (RIP, Amma), My father will move in with my eldest sister soon. He sounds positive and firm when someone asks him what he will be doing next and he replies “I will be moving in with my daughter. She will take care of me very well”. We need parents to be firm and positive when they answer questions about daughters. “Betiyan parayan dhan hoti hain, beti ke ghar mein paani tak nahin peeten” all these age-old, unwanted thoughts and traditions should stop now.

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  11. I had only one child who happened to be a boy. I have no Indian background, but my husband was a Sikh whose family was Punjabi. When I was pregnant, quite a few of the community got very annoyed with me because when they would say, “May you be blessed with a son,” I blew up in their faces. “Whatever we are given will be a blessing, girl or boy, and will be loved and treasured.” I left it there, but felt like saying much more. My husband and I agreed to have a big “welcome to planet earth” party for this child, whether girl or boy. We were delighted with our son and would have been equally delighted with a daughter. His parents wrote it all off to me being a slightly crazy white girl. I hope they were wrong.

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  12. ‘May you be blessed with a son’! – answer: “You mean healthy child, right?”

    “You have two girls?” – answer: “Yes, very fortunate. What about you?” (My mom’s standard line!)

    “You know how boys are!” (normally accompanied by obnoxious smirk and obnoxious behaviour by said sar ka taj) – answer: “No, I don’t. Is it tough on you?” or “No, I don’t.” (can be accompanied by thankful, relieved grin, works even better coming from the mother of a son!)

    ‘Oh, I am not a feminist or something like that!” – answer: “Oh, women aren’t people?”

    ‘No, no, you know the bra-burning type!” – answer: “Yeah, I know, burning’s not good for the ozone layer!”

    I have a son and a daughter and I have to say, it is pretty awful to have people justifying bad behaviour, letting boys get away with being brats, not giving them the benefit of discipline and good parenting and thinking of them as end term nurses, long term money bags, emotion less providers.

    Gender neutral parenting and pointing out what we like to our kids is what works best in the long run. These people aren’t going to move even a bit in their stance because of the answers I give to the questions above. THAT is purely for my satisfaction! :-D

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    • Its so annoying when people term my feminism as something “controversial”. What is SO controversial about equal rights?
      And when they become uncomfortable and change the topic
      Or laugh at me
      Or think it is a phase.

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      • I feel exactly the same way archismita! I think it’s mostly due to ignorance. A lot of people have bra-burning in their minds when they think of feminism and think of it as something radical. I think the other big misconception is that people (mostly men) think feminism is “anti-men,” which it isn’t. It’s exactly what you said: feminism is about equal rights and a gender-equal world. It’s not about taking anything away from men, but giving equal rights to all.

        When you ask a woman if she believes in equality for women, most will say “yes.” So even while they don’t like the word “feminist” they believe in feminist values. It annoys me to no end that woman disassociate themselves from the word without trying to understand what it is all about. Feminism can never be a phase. It’s a way of life! :D

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  13. It’s weird. I’m a woman… I’m not married… I send money home to my parents… I take care of them whenever necessary, I don’t ask them for money for anything… what would a son have done different for them?

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  15. Argh!!! I had to wait for my annoyance to subside to reply here. To the email writer, whatever others say or do, you, stand up for your daughter until she can for herself. Loving her for herself, is a good beginning. Never tell her she cant do/say/wear something because SHE IS A GIRL. Teach her about being appropriate under the circumstances. IHM has listed fantastic advice. I like Sangita’s comment too…sometimes you need to put them in their place…

    I had one incident that comes to mind when an acquaintance made an unsavory comment about my daughter who was a toddler then….”Keep her away from the sun, if she gets any darker, it will become tough to find a groom for her.” I cooly told her- that I would come find her son then to marry my daughter :). Now I am wishing I said “Oh I dont want her to marry” instead :P

    I follow these in my home, I dont know how much about parenting, but I intend being fair –
    1. I dont buy gender specific colours.
    2. No gender specific toys either, there are trucks, tool kits, legos teddy bears/soft toys, doll houses and dolls 3. No escape from any household chores, I have a chores list which I alternate between the two of them(I have a girl and a boy)
    4. No change in rules of the house just because one is male and the other female.
    5. No getting away with bad behaviour who ever it is and where-ever it is.
    The last rule is very important…cause most people I have met have the tendency to think that “boys Will Be boys and girls Have To Be girls” and will excuse misbehaviour from either genders when they are in someone else’s place or outside their home, please dont bow down to their Norm. My rules for behaviour holds for both, in the house and outside the house.

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  16. Personally, I have never experienced discrimination, because I was born to parents who badly wanted a girl and everyone in my family was overjoyed because I was the first girl child in my generation. I was never treated badly or even made to feel like less of a person just because of my gender. This is what my parents have always done and believed in:

    They have given me the best quality education from good institutes, and it was never drilled into me that my ultimate goal in life was ‘to get married’. The focus has always been on getting a good education and making me stand on my own feet.

    My dad always included me in his activities like gardening (which involved getting messy and dirty :P ) and football, and even let me sip some of his beer when I was six (its a different matter that I spat it out, but the point is he never denied me anything because I was a girl). My uncles (all of them who had boys) never got me Barbies or pretty frocks because I was a girl, and I spent most of my childhood wearing Arsenal tees and playing with Beyblades and Lego and such. I was never treated any differently.

    Not to brag or anything, but I think more people should come up and treat girls just as they would treat boys, like my parents. Not to say that girls should lose their feminity and start behaving like boys but yeah, you get what I’m saying. :)

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    • more parents should also raise sons in ways they raise daughters – teaching them to cook, clean, look after themselves, be nurturing etc.

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      • exactly! Although I can’t say that for my brothers, I know many of my male friends who love to cook, and are totally cleanliness freaks – the complete opposite of me! :P :)

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  17. Its all in the body language. Whenever people ask such questions, say whatever you have to say with confidence and pride. Your child wont remember the words, but she surely will remember that her parents never had their head down or looked diffident when awkward questions about her popped up. And she will imbibe the same body language from you!

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  18. Have had many arguments with my Maasi on such issues. She isnt bad at heart and loves me like crazy… Her son, who incidentally has a daughter and wants her to be an only child, says she has become like that being around Marwari behenjis…she wasnt like that before, but she’s impressionable…Behenji are the teachers in govt. schools where Massi has worked till her retirement…. Hmmmm… I cant help but roll my eyes at her….(No offence to Marwaris please)
    She said to my mom one day about how its a good thing that atleast my dad’s brother has a son (He has a daughter too and I am the only child, and Kaka is a major major showoff, apne moonh miya mitthu types, and he has frankly, no respect in the family). My mom was quick to retort that kaunse gul khila liye hai un logon ne. Apne maa-baap ka hi dhyaan rakhle, bohot hua…My dad says, hum kaunse shivaji ya rathore ke gharane se hai, ki vansh ka naara thoko…
    I am so proud to have such parents, who decided to have me as their only child and love me and support me for everything… They sent me to USA to do my PG in Mechanical Engg, which is considered a male dominated field. But my dad has supported me throughout and encouraged me to go ahead and follow my dreams….
    I sincerely hope, that there is a paradigm shift in people’s outlook… Any discrimination, be it on the grounds of caste, creed, religion, gender, age, race is bad…

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  19. I’m a mom of 2 almost grown up kids.. one can never control what society and others say, they have a right ot say and do anything they want, it is upto the parents to raise the kids as they see fit. let the people in nyour kids lives know your stance and how you feel about their upbringing and how you want them raised and leave it at that. If they work with you let them have access if not limit their access to when you are around.
    I’ve never bought general neutral stuff, etc., i’ve always go tmy kids what they want. which have been cars and trucks and general toys. they have never been raised to think they are important or special because they are boys, and they had their tasks an chores and expectations from them like any other child.
    Kids also see and learn, if they see the mom being treated likea doormat and taken for granted , then no matter how much you teach them they will learn differently. I’m the only female in our family apart from our cook and both my kids know that we are no different than the men.
    On top of that i’m a feminist going off on rants when i see or feel percieved or real injustice to women, so they learn , they hear and see the injustice does to half the population and light dawns.. believe me it does dawn eventually . likewise i assume if a girl is raised by fair and just parents she will grow up to be independent, successful and happy.

    I was raised by a typical patriarchial family and with just scant feminist tendencies from my aunts i have come this far. kids learn by seeing , i never wanted ot be treated like my mom or sacrificing like my mom .. no instruction was needed .

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  20. I have to comment on this. We are two sisters and my sister has two daughters and thus have had to face the ‘ ohh no son/brother..how sad’ attitude a lot in my life. Mostly from complete strangers. In my extended family daughters are very valued (the daughters of our house are way more competent and confident than any of our sons- being the basic attitude)..A few months ago this elderly gentleman and his wife were sitting next to me on the plane and asked me about my siblings (usual small talk)..when told that we were just two sisters, he told me,
    “oh your parents must’ve wished for a son”,
    Me- “No uncle, My parents were very happy with two daughters and I know this.”
    Him- “No beta, you don’t know..you parents have always wished for a son.. all parents do…their wish will always remain unfulfilled.”
    This is from a man who has NEVER met my parents and has talked to me for all of 10 mins… This is when I wore my headphones and watched some random hindi movie that they were playing on the plane for the nth time. But the fact that there are people like this in this world is just scary. However I also know that I am loved and appreciated by people who matter and any any child born in our family is loved equally, irrespective of gender. (well sometimes I think that the women in our family have an edge over the men.. but I like it that way =) )
    So I would say as long as you as parents can communicate the message loud and clear to your children that they are loved and that you have faith in them irrespective of who says what they will always carry that confidence in their hearts and can take on the world.

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  21. here is what i did when ppl told me they would really like us to have a son (random, arbit ppl, not even family). i would look them straight in the eye and ask, “why? why is a son better?” They would answer (honest, first answer): sons carry on the family name.

    me: so, whose name are you carrying? how many generations will remember that name? whose name did rani of jhansi carry forward? whose name did tantya tope carry forward? only their own. only your actions can carry your name forward. not your sons. you should think of a son to carry forward your name only if you are a cripple in actions. ”

    Once chided like this IN PUBLIC, they never bothered to trouble me with the son daughter thingie again.

    and i can be shamelessly rude.. age no bar. which is why the seniors keep a safe distance from me. :-)

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