Sharanya Misra

I had fought battles to shed all these layers that society had thrust upon me growing up, just because I was a GIRL. And now, my daughter, would have to go through the same cycle. The thought shattered me.

On a mildly rainy evening in the October of 2018 in the UK, I walked home hand in hand with my husband, lost in thought. There was a cheerfulness in his steps. But mine? Mine were laden with worry and a deep sense of foreboding. We had just been told in our scan that we were pregnant with a girl.

From that day on, and for a long time into my pregnancy, the thoughts didn’t let go of me. I was having a girl. All my life, the very few times that my maternal instincts had surfaced, I had always imagined having a baby girl myself, probably because I had wanted a little me! Yet, when the dream was to come true, my happiness was drenched with a sense of fear. You see, being a woman myself, I knew what kind of a life awaited my daughter.

“What kind of a world was I bringing my daughter into?” This was a question that kept bothering me. A world that would question her, and judge her at each step. A world that would expect her to sacrifice and be a martyr. A world that would always belittle her because of her gender.

How many times had I been mocked growing up, for my colour, and my lack of what one could call socially acceptable standards of beauty? So what if I was intelligent, confident and smart? The comments shaming my appearance pierced a little girl’s heart and sit wedged there even today, albeit only as a reminder of conquests conquered. Would my daughter too be judged or body shamed for being too thin/too fat/too dark/too hairy/too pale?

How many times had I been told (jokingly “of course”) growing up, that my parents would have wanted a son instead for their second child? And hadn’t I seen enough instances of this thought being harboured all around me even as an adult? Don’t people prefer sons even today? Would my daughter too grow up believing that her parents would have preferred a boy instead? Wouldn’t that make her feel…unwanted?

How many days had I woken up to the news of yet another innocent girl being raped mercilessly? The word ‘rape’ reverberated in my mind over and over. How would I keep my girl safe in this society where some men could be worse than animals? Would I too tell her to ‘wear long dresses’ and not ‘show skin’ and ‘come back before dark’ because that was the only way I could keep her safe, knowing fully well I would be curbing her freedom and rights for absolutely no fault of hers?

How would I stop people from telling my girl to ‘learn to cook’ because that’s how she could keep her ‘sasural’ happy? Isn’t that what every little girl has to hear, even if told in jest? Didn’t those humorous comments condition my thoughts around marriage and my role as a wife? Would my daughter too grow up imagining her marriage to be the ultimate goal of her life and believing that she had to make ’round rotis’ to be a ‘good wife’? How would I ‘uncondition’ her to teach her to value her mind and her financial independence over her marital/relationship status?

Wouldn’t my daughter too grow up listening that she is “paraya dhan” to be “given away” one day? How would I convince her that she was no different from anybody’s son and that she would always remain our child, our pride?

How would I be able to protect my girl from the 10 different stereotypes associated with her gender? How would I tell her that all those people who said she couldn’t “shake her legs” or “sit wide legged” or “touch pickle in periods” or “be too outspoken” or “wear shorts” or “cut her hair short”…were all wrong, and that her gender couldn’t stop her from doing anything she wanted to?

I had fought battles, to shed all these layers that society had thrust upon me while growing up, just because I was a GIRL. I had learnt to steel myself to what the world thought of me and to value myself instead. I had taught myself to speak out, defend, fight for and fight against. I had rebelled and defied, to be me, and not some socially acceptable version of me. And now? Now I was looking at the possibility of my daughter, the little me, going through this same cycle. The thought shattered me. And for that moment I lamented, if only I were having a boy.

For many, pregnancy is a cheery, bright time. For me, it was a time of introspection. A time to reflect upon what kind of a parent I was going to be. And I am glad I had that time. Because it made me even more resolute in my attempt to make this world a better place for my, and all the other, girls. The more I thought, the more I realised how blessed I was to be given this beautiful opportunity, of parenting a girl child the way she deserves.

And thus, I have embarked on yet another battle. A lengthy one too! But it is a battle I must fight. Today, I speak up when people set questionable examples before her. I question patriarchal traditions. And I make my parenting intentions clear. As a result I am tagged ‘angry’, ‘disrespectful’ or ‘a changed person’. But then, doesn’t every battle have casualties?

At the end of the day, I do know that I cannot shield my girl all the time. Nor do I intend to bring her up in an unrealistic bubble, away from society. But I do plan to show her by example that it is okay to be different from what society expects of us. That it is okay to not adhere to social norms and obligations and live our lives our way instead. And that it is okay to be angry, because that is the first step in ushering in change.

Today is International Day of the Girl Child. India has one of the highest numbers in the world of female foeticide. Why? What is the mindset that we harbour that makes us abort a baby just because of her gender? As per studies, our girls are merely considered “unaffordable economic burdens”. Furthermore, it is not enough to just birth a girl. Look at all the dowry deaths. We must ask ourselves if we are giving our girls an equal and just unbringing, the best that we can, keeping all social prejudices aside. Are we raising them to be independent, as we would raise our sons? There are lots of questions to be asked and introspected upon. Let us do it. Our girls deserve our time and thoughts. It is time to bring up our girls differently.

Featured Image Source –

This post is part of my MommyMoments series.

Mommy Moment with my daughter.

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