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Today’s girls, tomorrow’s women

Today’s girls, tomorrow’s women

‘Beta, come in the kitchen and learn how to cook. How will you cook for your husband and in-laws if you don’t learn it now?’ said Ayushi’s mother. Meanwhile, 15 years old Ayushi didn’t quite understand the analogy. She was asking herself whether she should learn how to cook so that it would be easy for her when she goes away for her further studies or to feed people who weren’t even in the picture yet. She picked up one conclusion- cooking good food= the only way to make husband and in-laws happy.

Haven’t many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, said a few stereotypical things to young girls and made their young minds believe that this is how a woman should be? But why does this happen? Let’s take example of tv-serials: the daughters or daughters-in-law are portrayed as people who, no matter what, should carry their responsibilities well and find solution to every problem that a family has. They have to behave in a certain way to be a perfect ‘beti’ or perfect ‘bahu’. Watching such examples have made the women condition themselves and accept that this is how the society expects them to be. This thinking is then is passed on to the next generations and the cycle continues.

Another reason could be ‘the nice girl syndrome’. The nice girl syndrome is a conditioning done to girls from young age for being the ideal girl. This is done by praising only the qualities which are considered ideal. For example- a girl getting praised for talking in a low voice and not getting aggressive even though she is filled with rage, praising the girl for helping others even when she has tons of her own work to do etc.  In this type of conditioning, or let’s say mind training, the girls get used to all the praise they get for fulfilling their duty in family, not disappointing others even if that means that she has to struggle, not saying ‘no’ to anyone, in short being the ideal or the ‘good girl’. If a girl, from her early years is conditioned to be ‘a nice girl’, then she will feel that is the only way to get validation. Growing up, her self-worth might get affected as she might feel she is responsible for other people’s feelings. She might consider it her duty to live only for others and might not take a single step in her favor.

It is quite understood that many us do not purposefully discriminate between gender roles, after all they have also been conditioned for it from generations to generation. But once we are conscious about it being wrong, then it is necessary for this cycle to break. How to do that is what you ask? Let’s find out.

BREAKING THE CHAIN

Young minds are very vigilant. They base their perspective on their early experiences and on the things that are discussed with or around them. Hence, as adults we need to understand how to not condition these young minds. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Adjustment vs Maladjustment: Yes, adjustments are part of life. One has to adjust during the uncertain times, but sometimes the definition of adjustment is portrayed in wrong ways. This is especially told to girls with context to marriage. Yes, adjusting with a partner during is bad times, financial or emotional, is fine. But being a toxic relationship or marriage is maladjustment. So henceforth, while talking about adjustments with your young ones do tell them the difference between adjustment and maladjustment.
  2. Appropriate books: The fairytales that we read to our children, often portray the girls or princess as weak or lonely who would need a prince to get them out of their misery. This could set wrong examples for them. As parents, research about feminist books which your young ones could read so that they get an idea of what equality is about. A few examples of such books are- Snow White and the 77 dwarfs, Kate and the Bean Stalk, Dara’s clever trap.
  3. Setting boundaries and being assertive: It is important to teach young girls to say no assertively wherever it is essential. Saying no doesn’t mean one is a bad or self-centered. As girls, we are taught to go beyond our limits to help others and be polite about it. In future this, the women are asked to do the same in their marriage, workspace and in social setting. In the entire scene, the women’s capacity or wellbeing isn’t taken into consideration. Hence it is important to teach the maidens to know themselves and to say no whenever required.
  4. Independence: ‘Jyaada choot doge toh ladki haath se nikal jayegi’- the most heard line in an Indian house. Yes, we agree that current times are crucial and women safety is at bay. But independence doesn’t only mean letting girls go on trips with friends, it also means independence to choose their career, to choose how to handle the household, to choose what kind of job they want to do. But how to incorporate this in younger girls’ life? By using decision making. Let the girl decide if they want to play with barbies or cars, if they want their room to be floral or plain, if they want to wear a dress or jeans, give them independence to make such small decisions, then they’ll be able to take big decisions in their future.

Our country is progressing in terms of finance, media, technology and also in terms of gender equality. All we need is a little push to make an impactful difference. Let’s take a pledge of smashing the generations long conditioning happening to girls. How we nurture today’s girl is important because she is going to carry that image with her to become tomorrow’s woman.

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Shriya Rajendra Khalate

MA Clinical Psychology Counselor Co-founder at Unico

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