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What I Will Teach My Daughter

She had always hoped for a daughter. She would dress her up in pretty dresses, braid her hair; she would be her precious doll. In anticipation and hope, she bought lace frocks and other beautiful clothes for baby girls. When her daughter arrived, she forgot about the dresses, dolls and braids. She felt unmatched fear.

What if someone tried to hurt her daughter? She hadn't thought of that. Is everyone right? Is a daughter really a liability? Then she looked at the strongest woman she knew. Standing next to her was her mother. The only person in the world she looked for during her excruciating labour pains. The only person who could comfort her and make her stronger at the same time. Her mother had never thought she and her sister were liabilities. Her mother had raised two strong, independent women. Then she realised what she had to do. She had to be strong to make her daughter strong. She knew what she would have to start teaching her daughter from the beginning.

Equality starts in the toy room.

You don't have to play with dolls and stuffed animals, if you don't want to. You don't have to play with guns and toy soldiers either. I will bring you a range of things to spark your interest. After that, it's your choice.

The right touch and the wrong touch.

It is not acceptable for someone to touch you without your consent. I will teach you the difference between the wrong touch and the acceptable touch, and I hope you won't shy away from telling me if someone does touch you inappropriately. Don't keep even the tiniest doubt to yourself. No one is exempt from this rule. Not your uncles, not your aunts, not your grandparents, not your brother, not your father, not even me. If something makes you uncomfortable, talk to me or your father about it.

Feminism is not only for the oppressed.

Feminism is for every woman in the world. It doesn't matter whether she has had an easy life or not. Feminism means women are equal to men. But it doesn't mean that you hate men. Not all men are criminals, just like every woman isn't a saint. For every man that hurts a woman, there are many others to stand with her and demand punishment for the perpetrator. At the same time, don't demand privileges or concessions just because you're a woman. That's not equality.

Be independent, and encourage it in everyone around you.

Don't become a doormat for anyone. I expect you to look after yourself after a certain age. I expect you to pick up after yourself. But I will not tolerate anyone expecting you to do that for them. I expect you to protest against such behaviour too. Whether it's anyone in the family or someone you may marry, you will not become anyone's slave.

Be selfish, if you must.

It's nice to do a good deed without expecting anything in return. That is the definition of a truly unselfish act. However, always working without gratitude, not getting your money's worth, or being in a one-sided relationship will only make you a bitter person. The world is not a perfect place. It is naturally inclined to take advantage of the naive.

Being alone is not a bad thing.

When you start working and earning enough, I expect you to move out and live independent of us. People will tell you that it is not safe for a girl to live alone. Don't believe them. If we run scared from everything that is not 100% safe, we may as well build ourselves a bubble. That's no way to live.

Marriage is a choice, not a necessity.

Marriage is not a destination for you. It's a choice you may or may not make. It is not a girl's job to groom herself for marriage. It is also not every woman's job to produce children. Marriage and children won't make you whole. An education, a fulfilling career and a happy life will make you a complete person. Marriage and/or children are big commitments. No one, not us or any man, can coerce you into doing something you don't want.

Never let anyone curb your dreams.

Your dreams are yours alone. I would love for you to become the most successful person in the world in any career you choose. If it is your dream to become an astronaut, work for it. If it is your dream to travel the world and write about it, work for it. If it is your dream to marry a man and start a family with him, I won't stop you. That's hard work too.

Your sense of style is yours alone.

You can wear whatever you want to wear. Develop your own sense of style. No one else has any business telling you to wear a shorter skirt or a longer skirt, tighter jeans or looser jeans, a longer top or a shorter top, Indian or western wear.

Don't ever let a man assert supremacy over you.

It is never acceptable for a man to thwart you, no matter what the reason. You are educated, you are independent. You will not let a man tell you what to do. There's no harm in taking advice from people who mean well. But don't ever let a man tell you that your womanhood is a drawback.

You will not be defined by relationships.

You are you. Everything else is secondary. Your role as a daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife, or mother does not define you. Always maintain your own identity independent of every relationship in your life. You shouldn't be sidelined in your own life.

Your in-laws are a part of your family too.

If you do decide to get married, your spouse's family does become a part of your family too. Even if you don't like them, I expect you to be civil and behave courteously. Don't offend, but always defend yourself if the need arises. This is not to say that they are your only family now. I will always be your mother and will always be ready to fight with you and for you.

Be fit enough to defend yourself.

Your mother is not a fitness freak, but she is capable of defending herself if attacked. I would expect that to be your minimum standard too.

Your health is foremost.

It is very easy for a woman to ignore her health. I've ignored it and I've regretted it later. Some women have ignored health problems because they have felt ashamed to talk about it. Menstruation and any health problems that come with it are nothing to be hidden.

Don't fall prey to body-shaming.

Unfortunately, body-shaming is one of the evils of the world today. Women are ridiculed for being too fat, too thin, too curvy, or not curvy enough. At no time in your life, should you feel ashamed of your body. Unless there is a medical problem that needs to be resolved, do not try to change anything about your body just because it doesn't adhere to social convention. If everyone looked the same, how would we tell each other apart?

Your body will keep changing. And it's fine.

In your adolescent years, you will see and feel your breasts starting to grow. You will begin to menstruate. It's a part of growing up for a woman. Ask me any questions you may have and I will answer them to the best of my knowledge. If you have a question I cannot answer, I will find out the answer and talk to you about it, or we will find the answers together.

Menstruation is not a virtue, it's not an evil.

Your menstruation cycle is yours alone. It's no one else's business to tell you to shout about it from the rooftops, or hide it like a shameful secret. It's a natural process that every woman goes through. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it's nothing to be proud of.

Stand up and speak up for your rights.

If someone tries to take them from you, snatch them back. That's the only way. Courtesy is not meant for those who don't deserve it.

It is my job to protect you and advise you against everything bad in this world. But I won't be around forever. I need you to know these things to prosper, despite all odds. It's not smooth sailing for women in this world, but I hope you conquer.

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