When you think 21st century and year 2016, you think development, technology, change, equality. But, is there really equality out there? Gender equality? If there was, I wouldn’t feel the rage I do today knowing where I stand as a woman in this society. If there was gender equality out there, I would feel proud, powerful, confident and accepted as a young woman. But on the contrary, 22 years old and living in America in the year 2016, I find myself facing the realities of my society where, being a feminist and having strong opinions regarding equality of women, are seen as nothing but a nuisance.
Few days ago, I found myself at odds with my parents, actually only my mom, about a woman’s place in her own family. My mom is a beautiful and amazing woman, but her ideas of where she stands as a girl in her and her in law’s house are something that come as a shock to me at times. My family and I were on our way to a Sunday picnic while a conversation of lunch get together came up. My grandparents were to head out to a lunch later which was hosted by my cousin aunts, and we were invited as well. Fun! family+Indian food=Life made. Except, life was about to change. So let’s recap my life, I had grown up literally being my parents’ little girl and the princess of the house. I fortunately had an amazing childhood, did same chores and got same praises as my brother did, and I was never in trouble because I was miss goody-good. So imagine my surprise when my grandparents mentioned their ideas of how daughters are different than sons.
Now now, my grandparents love both their children a lot and the same, but equality wasn’t really there in terms of gender. I understand their ideas of what a woman should do and what a man should do because they grew up in India where their roles of a daughter and son, then later husband and wife, and then mother and father were very different than what we see nowadays of a woman and a man. Anyways, my grandma said, “oh its good the girls are keeping the lunch together they won’t have to work too hard themselves and it’ll be cheaper doing it together and then distributing the money”. I nodded, the idea of pitching in and just ordering food from a restaurant sounded smart, money-saving, and time saving for not just the hosts but the guests too; saving us from the troubles of having back to back lunch dates with each aunt.
“Wait, then why can’t the cousin brothers just get together and host a big lunch party too instead of being burdened to host individual parties? Just let the sons of the family do the same!”, I said thinking of why no one had thought of that before. “No honey. They have their own wives and families. Their wives have duties to invite and host parties for her in laws. Our girls on the other hand have their own in laws to please. We don’t want our daughters to spend more money or host too many parties for us, that’ll get them in trouble with their in law’s”, my grandma explained. “We don’t want your aunts to get in trouble with their husbands and mother in laws saying she spends too much time and money on her family”. WHAT??
Alright, so let me explain. In Indian culture, girls have two families. After a girl gets married, her life and her devotion is for her husband and her in laws. She has to keep them happy, and her immediate family who she lived with for the most important years of her life have to adjust to being the second most important people now. So my grandma felt that her daughters/nieces, needed to be left alone and not be bothered with the burden of keeping back to back lunches for their aunt (basically second mom since she raised them for many years).
I was amused at first, laughed a little and then asked again why my dad and his brothers couldn’t do the same. Again, I got the same answer but in a slightly annoyed tone. So I made my point saying, “No that’s wrong. Daughter or son, both are equal and their love and devotion for their parents should be equal too as well as their duties. After I get married and if my mom starts thinking she is a burden of any kind or an annoyance to my in laws, I would not tolerate that thought. If my brother has to feed you and take care of you, so do I. Married or not, my parents come before anyone else. Just because a girl is married does not mean her duties towards her parents change and become secondary.”
To this little monologue/speech or whatever you want to call it, I was not met with the response I hoped for. My grandma was annoyed, and my mom was a little mad showing clear signs of how much trouble I was in for speaking up in front of my grandma. But what broke my heart was my mom telling me “Shush! Don’t Speak!” and that “you talk too much. They are right and it makes sense to have it the way we do.” Shush. Sit. Again, told to sit down, shut up, and just blindly follow what my parents teach me without raising my voice, or else grandma and grandpa will think I am a trouble maker. But! what mend my heart right then was the reaction from my dad. My DAD, a man himself, clapped when I raised a concern of there being a difference between a daughter and a son. He clapped as if proud that I spoke up for my right as a DAUGHTER, to fight for a right of having complete love and devotion for my own parents that my brother is told to have. My dad clapped to show his love to me for being a strong and confident woman who knows when to speak up for her rights.
Now you’re probably thinking that I had mentioned being raised by loving parents who treated me equal to my brother. I was, and am. But this is society, and my parents live in a world full of fear of being outcasted. They live to make the society happy. So anyone who stands up against the traditions, who speaks out when told not to, who shares unwanted opinions is a trouble making child and risks the reputation of their parents. So my parents obviously just want me to be the behaved, quiet, soft-spoken girl that’s accepted in this society.
But, is reputation more important than living in a carefree society where every woman is just as equal as her male counterpart? That day when I was forced to re-think my place in my own household after I get married, my changed rights as a daughter after I become someone’s wife got me thinking, is this society really changing in terms of how we think? Or are we stuck in the world of change without really changing our thoughts on the roles of women in our society? Though this particular in laws and after marriage role of a girl might not relate to other western societies, there are many ways how women are STILL not seen as equals to men throughout the world.