It was a Monday morning and everyone had left for school and office. It was just me and my daughter who was home for her study holidays. I was browsing through the day’s articles and newsfeed and came across the Pollachi incident. Every time I came across it, it enraged me and a chill ran down my spine. How can we ever be sure our daughters will be safe? How do we ensure our sons are brought up right? Isn’t there a huge onus on us to bring up boys and girls who will be sensitive, respectful, empathetic, thinking and feeling individuals who treat each other as equals? Today’s kids are tomorrow’s society. How do we want the future to be? Definitely not like the one we come across and read every single day.
Though I didn’t want to instill fear in my daughter, I still wanted to discuss this incident with her just like I did with every other issue. To my surprise she had read about it too and I was secretly relieved that I didn’t have to go over the horrific details regarding that incident. We get talking and right at the outset I make it very clear in no uncertain terms that “honour” and “shame” (that was played up in that case) are merely the regressive thought process being used to target the vulnerability of women in our society from time immemorial and that it’s time we put an end to it. Blackmailing of any sort (as it was used in this case), with whatever anyone holds against us should never be a means for submission. EVER.
While we are having this intense chat, we move on from one topic to another – from “Me too movement” to a lot of associated issues that are slowly but steadily breaking deep seated barriers set against women. I also noticed that the conversation that started out with an intention of doling out advice to my daughter, turned out to be quite different. I noticed that the exercise that I started to empower my daughter with the right ideas and weed out any regressive notions she might be harboring due to social conditioning, turned out to be empowering and heartening for me. I was very happy to hear her take on all of the issues surrounding women today; the way she presented her opinion with conviction, clarity and level-headedness made me sit up and be proud of her. She was very clear on how the “shaming” should be actually associated with the perpetrator of any wrong doing and not the victim.
She tells me how the media is basically only aiding in fear-mongering by graphically describing all these crime against women. It isn’t helping in empowering women at all but rather driving the point strongly that women need to be scared and on high alert all the time. Be safe, they say (which we really don’t know how any more) and they advise us to stay away from danger; by dressing conservatively, staying in-doors, by not venturing out after dark, by not traveling alone and so on and so forth. Why should women do all this to just live a normal life like men? Why are there always talks about how women should keep themselves safe? Why isn’t anything done to make sure that women do all of the above and still don’t have to worry about their safety?
Yes, lots of questions and lots of good questions indeed…
The conversation slowly moves from the grave topics to what we see and experience in everyday life. All crimes against women are a result of misogyny and that stems from deep-seated patriarchal norms and gender-bias. She categorically states that with all the talks about gender equality, she doesn’t see much of it around her; she hasn’t come across even one of her friends who spoke about their dads helping out around at home with household chores, or anything else that even remotely breaks stereotypical norms; which wasn’t at all comforting to hear. She said the gender roles are still very stereotypical in most households as they always were. With patriarchy still so dominant how can we ever expect any major change to happen? How will crimes against women stop, if we don’t see any gender sensitization around us? Lots of questions for which I had no answer but I was glad to hear her perspective on such important issues.
It was heartening to listen to her speak with such clarity on this sensitive topic because no matter what we as a family instill in our children, there is always the society at large and it plays a huge part in shaping our kid’s thoughts and ideologies. By throwing open such topics for discussion from time to time, apart from educating them and preparing them for future, I also want to have a sneak peek into the mind-set of my kids to see how they are impacted by all that’s going on around them. While I was feeling all elated that even with media and societal conditioning shaping her thoughts, my daughter has still managed to form her own views based on what she really thinks is right rather than what’s the norm, I couldn’t help but feel proud.
While we were still on this topic she suddenly and quite out-of-the-blue says, “Mummy, I think you and daddy have made me set my standards much higher.” This statement, yes, this is what jolted me and made me sit up and take notice. It took me sometime to comprehend the statement and understand what she meant by that. Is she accusing us or is she proud of us? Slightly confusing, yes. It took me a while to process that information. And once I deciphered the message, I was elated. My heart swelled with pride. As parents, we had done something right! What more could a parent want to hear from their daughter? We had accomplished what we always wanted.
But my happiness was short-lived as she continued, “And believe me, that isn’t a good thing mummy, because society at large isn’t filled with people like you and dad. The majority are still like my friends family. I will never fit-in, because I wouldn’t accept anything less than what I see at our house. I would always want and aspire for what we have in our house in my future relationships and that is going to be pretty hard to find.” This is what a millennial kid thinks of today’s world.
Those words broke my heart. For our daughters to think they can’t find someone who treats them as equal is truly a shameful truth and the reflection of the society we live in. So by setting a good example and by being a good role model, have we actually created a wrong image?
I didn’t think so.
Though I took some time to gather my thoughts on how to answer that question as honestly as possible, something gave me hope and gave me the courage and conviction to tell this very confidently to my daughter.
“You should never ever have to lower your standards. I promise you, you won’t need to do that. The world is definitely changing for the better my dear. I can assure you because I have proof. Your brother is an example of how we bring him up and you see him to be a person who isn’t brought up to think that he is superior just because of his gender. You are seeing first-hand the change that you want to see in the world. And it’s not just you and him. I know there are many such wonderful gems of children brought up by caring and compassionate parents around the world. I am positive because I read, hear and see mothers and fathers out there equally passionate about bringing their children up in a gender-neutral environment. I know because I am a part of a smaller community which is a reflection of the society at large. I know mothers who are striving hard, learning, unlearning and finding their own ways to bring in gender-equality in their homes to bring up their sons and daughters in the most positive manner without any gender bias.
So, I promise you, that you will not have the need to lower your standards. And you shouldn’t ever.”
Keep your standards high girls, because I am positive that our boys will rise up to the occasion. That day is not far. You are all in good hands. We, as mothers and fathers have a greater responsibility than just raising kids; we shoulder the responsibility of raising the future Utopian society we all aspire to live in. Don’t lose hope in times of utter desolation and dark times. We can change the society, one family at a time. Let’s make it a better world for our children than we got to live in.