"I treat my daughter just like my son."
"She is not my daughter, she is my son."
If you are not an Indian, the above statements may sound odd. However, if you are an Indian, you have probably heard such proclamations, usually said with much pride, several times. Most Indians think there's nothing wrong with these statements and take them either as a parenting best practice or a compliment to the child.
I won't deny that the parents who make these statements mean well, but they perhaps do not fully realize the implications of what they are saying.
Let me give you an example:
What is said: "My daughter is awesome, she is like a son to me."
What is meant: I love my daughter, and I don't believe in gender bias.
What is implied: Having a son is awesome. Having a daughter is not quite at the top of the awesome scale. But, hey I am all about equality, and she is as awesome as my son.
Note: Son being the standard for awesome here.
It is like saying, this carrot is so awesome, it's almost like a cupcake (can you tell I am bad at examples?). This is a compliment to the carrot. It tries to elevate the carrot to something more desirable, like a cupcake. I am just saying that it is enough to be a carrot. You can be a good carrot without being a cupcake, or like a cupcake (OK, this sounds weird, but you get the point).
A daughter is good enough. She does not need to be like a son. She does not need to be like anything or anyone else.
Still not convinced that there is something fundamentally wrong with saying daughters are like sons? Here is some food for thought. Let me know if you've ever heard anyone make the statements below:
"I treat my son just like my daughter."
"He is not my son, he is my daughter."
Not likely. More often than not, a compliment for being a great son will go like this:
My son is awesome. He is such an ideal son.
When you say your daughter sings like Lata Mangeshkar or your son plays cricket like Sachin Tendulkar, it is perfectly acceptable. You're just being a proud parent and trying to attribute the superior qualities of those people to your child. However, a child, just by being a son, does not become superior or have superior qualities.
Here's the gist of it: A daughter is good enough. She does not need to be like a son. She does not need to be like anything or anyone else. She is good enough being who and what she is.
We all mean well, we really do. Let's just try and make a conscious decision to avoid all forms of gender bias in our actions and our speech (explicitly or implied) as that will be the next generation's standard. If we all work towards it, I am sure we can make it happen!
Do share your thoughts on this. I would love to hear from you guys!
A version of this post first appeared on the author's blog - Shanaya Tales
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