“As women, we know that we must always find ways to change the process because the present institutions want to hold on to power and keep the status quo.”

~ Bella Abzug

I have two younger siblings, whom are both women. There is a three year age gap, between me and my middle sister and twelve between the youngest. I grew up with number of friends, who also had three sisters. To me, being one of three girls was just the norm. However for others, this was seen as a ‘curse’.

I remember from a young age, even when it was just me and my middle sister, my parents would have people coming up to them, asking if the two of us were their daughters. To which they would reply ‘Yes’, they would then proceed to state ‘You only have two daughters?!’ said in shock and surprise (maybe horror). The conversation would conclude, with the other party providing some kind of advice on what to do to have a son.

Its like we were disregarded because we were girls and the ultimate goal was to have a son. Well, obviously right? Because son’s carry on the family name and they would also be the ones to provide for parents in their old age. It’s only men that can do this right? Only men who can carry on a name because a woman, is made to change hers, as that’s just the way it has been and we are told we have to continue it. And, I can’t provide for my parents because I would be the one who would get married and move in with my husbands parents. Which would mean, I wouldn’t have the capacity to care for my own? On this basis, its ok for strangers to come over to my parents and make them feel unworthy because they have not bore a son. They haven’t completed the list of goals set by society, more so Indian culture. They did the job, marriage and house but they missed out on the gold star – having a son. It’s never enough is it?

I can’t even imagine the immense pressure, my parents felt by not having a son. That feeling of being judged by people who had nothing to do with them, and you wonder why they care if they had a son? It’s not their family name we are carrying on. No, its because of how it’s perceived in society and they have the right to pry into my parents lives and question, the sex of their children. As if my parents, were able to dictate it. So, for nine years we had people come up to my parents, then my sister and I. And ask ‘Is it just the two of you?’, ‘Don’t you have a brother?’ Their facial expressions said it all, they felt sorry for us because we didn’t have a brother. But to me it made no difference, I didn’t know a life with a brother so how could I understand one without? It was others that made me feel, that we should have one and we were at a loss because we didn’t. I wonder if families with three son’s had the same problem? Do people go up to them and pity them because they don’t have a sister?

When my youngest sister was born, there was a huge sense of disappointment. I suppose for my parents, they had spent years, trying out all these things people had advised them to do. Carried out all the prayers, had the right type of food and all the other ridiculous concoctions people had suggested. And then their third child also ended up being a girl. Now being older and more aware, it was so painfully obvious people were feeling sorry for our family because now there was three of us. People would say ‘Is it the three of you sisters?’ and we would reply ‘Yes’, to which I have even had people say ‘Oh I am sorry, you don’t have a brother’.

This same kind of conversation carried on well into my 20s, it hardly happens now but we do on the odd occasion, have a concerned citizen questioning where our ‘brother’ is. And the reaction is the same. People are so conditioned to think this way, they don’t even realise what kind of impact they have on others. Young parents who were trying to just manage life and have children, to then be made to feel that they aren’t enough, like there was something wrong with them because they couldn’t have a son. And two young girls, who were made to feel like they were missing out on something crucial. It still baffles me that Indians think its ok, to go in and ask such intrusive questions.

Having a girl is seen as a burden. This has transitioned through tradition, as well as son’s being the ones to provide for their parents when they are older (and its normally the eldest son, that lives with their parents in the Indian culture). It’s also through marriage, back when my parents were married and even now to some extent. It lies with the women’s family to pay for the wedding because she would be moving into the mans house and so they would be providing for her and the women’s family would then pay for the wedding. In addition they provide a dowry –  “In many societies, dowries have served as a reciprocal gesture by the bride’s kin to the groom’s kin for the expenses incurred by the latter in payment of bridewealth.” –

It was always seen that then women’s family were loosing a daughter. Loss, is a word that comes with having daughters but this is all based on how this has been positioned in society. Many people do see the positive in situations and do understand in marriage, both families are gaining a new family member.

Though it’s getting better, where women aren’t seen as subordinate beings. We are still, some distance away for women not to be treated differently. I find that within the Indian culture, we are even further away. We are made to be obedient and abide by the rules that men have imposed, make sure we dress appropriately, so we don’t give the ‘wrong’ impression. Be made to feel like your opinion is not valid, wait on men hand and foot, even though we no longer live in a breadwinner society and to some we are still leered at like pieces of meat. There is a rise in strong Indian women coming forward and owing their own, being independent and breaking down the barriers we face. Being a girl/women should be just as empowering as being a boy/man we need to tear down the archaic traditions and make our own marks on the world.

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