Have you heard people say – I treat my daughter like a son? Contrary to popular opinion, that’s not a parenting best practice. It’s unconscious gender bias. Not convinced? Read on.
“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 heard this over and over again. Many of us (Indians) will not find anything wrong with the above statements. Mostly because the ones who have heard it repeatedly, have been conditioned to believe that this is either a compliment (to the child) or a parenting best practice.
To an extent, I agree with this, because this is almost always meant in a good way. However, sometimes we need to take a step back and think about what we mean to say versus what is the implied meaning of what we are saying.
Let’s take 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 (Okay – this sounds weird, but you get the point).
Still not convinced that there is something fundamentally wrong with the above statements? Here is some food for thought. Have you heard anyone say?
“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 an awesome son will go like this:
My son is awesome. He is such an IDEAL son.
Also, when you say my daughter sings like Lata Mangeshkar (top Indian singer) or my son plays like Sachin Tendulkar (everyone knows him- well okay not EVERYONE *wink wink* ) – THAT is a totally acceptable comparison. Here, you are essentially trying to attribute superior qualities of those people to your child. However, a child, just by being a son does not become superior or have superior qualities.
All I am trying to say is: A daughter is good enough. She does not need to be like a son. She does not need to be like anything or anyone. 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!
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