‘Why is god testing us this way?’. M’s nanny came back from a month long break that she had taken to help her daughter with her second pregnancy. This was her reaction when I asked her the gender of the baby. No prizes for guessing what it was. A girl.
She went on to explain that her daughter’s in-laws were so upset that the second child was a daughter too that they did not come to visit her at the hospital even after a complicated C-section in which she lost a lot of blood. The father of the child was ‘understandably’ upset and did not return after his hurried first visit. He says he will not stop trying until she gives him a son.
The little baby does not have any new clothes or accessories because..well, she’s a girl. Apart from M’s baby clothes, they have not bought anything for her.
To all those friends and people who think women in India no longer have it difficult, it’s time to shrug the modern façade and dig deeper. Another woman I spoke to claimed that she had done 4-5 self-abortions at home when she found out that she was having a girl. When my own daughter was born, I remember (even in the daze of anesthesia) some relatives said ,’No worries, better luck next time.’ As if I had lost a race.
Each time I hear an incident like this, apart from the initial anger and disgust, I feel cheated. My daughter does not deserve to grow up in a society like this. I, too deserve better than to be stereotyped based on my gender. Every girl does. Sometimes there’s so much hate in me that I want to take M and run away from this country. Other times I imagine bombing houses of people who think this way. But one common emotion that always comes back is helplessness. I absolutely loathe feeling helpless because that’s exactly what the society wants girls to be.
I know for a fact that this attitude goes beyond degrees of education. I have close relatives who have gone to questionable lengths for a male child and those who have two daughters almost always feel that they have let their family down.
Our societal framework has succeeded in turning women against their own gender. And what’s worse, if you look closely, most men inherit this attitude from their mothers.
My friends and family often tease me to be the ‘flag bearer’ of feminism when I talk about stuff like this. I am mocked way too much for being so bothered by such incidents.
Whether it’s subtle things that have been programmed in us since we were kids -only girls learning housework , women eating after men are done with their meal, women exclusively looking after their kids or the presumption that you like to cook because you’re a woman and countless other things, or blaring instances such as these, women in India have learned to make do. They’ve learned that surrendering to their fate is easier than fighting it. They are convinced that ‘this is how it is’.
What can I do to make it better? How can I make a whole section of society unlearn and adopt a new mindset? Is it a lost cause? Or a slow change that will take generations to come into effect? I don’t know.
We’re still living in a world where wife beaters are more acceptable than husband leavers, a place where ‘you’re modern’ is used as an insult and a mindset that women can be free if the men allow them to. Under the blanket of progressive thinking, there’s a murky reality that hides double-faced intentions and convenient modernism. The appearances have changed but the situation remains the same.
‘Your second child will definitely be a son’ said a well meaning lady to me. When I told her that if I ever have a second one I want it to be a girl too she looked at me like I was an alien.
Being born as a girl in India is like going to a party that you’re not invited to. You try to fit in and look cool. But somehow, you’ll always be the outsider.
Featured image: actionrefraction.com
Image Credit: Undertoad/cellar.org