This is for every daughter in the history of daughterhood. And for every woman who’s ever been told “I’m so sorry!” when she has given birth to a daughter. I’m sending you comforting thoughts and vibes ❤
I just realized how well my parents have raised me and my siblings. Especially my brother. Alhamdulillah for that. And may God grant them healthy, peaceful, and long lives, aameen. May they live to see and be proud of our successes and the lives we create for ourselves, with their blessings, aameen.
I said this to a friend. I told a friend how proud and grateful I was that my parents raised us so well, that we’ve turned out so well. (Never mind that they’re not all too proud because not all of us pursued medicine like they had dreamed/expected we would.) Of course my sisters and I turned out well because what other choice did we have? We’re girls – we’re bound to turn out well. It’s my brother who had the opportunities to turn out not-well.
My friend’s response was bone-crushing truth: “Yep. Because in a patriarchy, boys are forgiven for everything and they can get away with anything. Girls can’t, so it’s the boys we should be worried about raising well.”
We’ve already all established, at least in this blog, that patriarchy is founded on lies and myths about women and men, but it tells these lies enough times so people accept them as truth. This whole notion that it’s harder to raise girls in a patriarchy is one of them.
In a patriarchy like Pakistan, we’re also fooled into believing that that’s why too many families mourn the birth of daughters and celebrate the birth of sons. That “no, no, it’s not that we don’t like daughters! They’re our heart and liver! It’s only that when you’re walking alone at night down the street, having a girl with you, if you’re a woman, will not make you feel safe; you’ll feel safe only if you have a male with you, no matter his age, be it a five-year-old.” It’s why divorced and widowed women, especially in patriarchies like Pakistan/India/etc., are considered fortunate if they have sons but unfortunate if they are son-less.
This nonsense needs to die yesterday, okay. If we fear the safety of our girls, it’s not because it’s harder to raise girls – it’s because it’s apparently harder to raise boys who will not be monsters, rapists, sexual predators, murderers, and thieves of all other sorts. And war-mongers, war criminals, and brutal blood-thirsty politicians.
If we fear the safety of our girls and our own selves as women, that means we are not doing a good job as a society raising our sons to grow up to be decent males.
If we fear the safety of our daughters, it’s because we’ve wasted all our energies and efforts and lives raising better daughters only; we should’ve focused that energy towards our sons to ensure that our daughters — the daughters of our society — don’t fear for their lives every time they’re walking alone at night and hear someone behind them and imagine the worst.
People typically respond to this with some more patriarchal nonsense like, “Yeah, but let’s be practical – you can’t change men! You have to take care of yourself, too.” I’m, of course, not at all suggesting we not take care of ourselves (what even?!), but do you see what this statement is actually saying? We’re actually being told that it’s easier to control girls than it is to require men to behave themselves. Patriarchy knows that with thousands of years of its influence, it’s far easier and more “practical” to tell a woman it’s her fault for being abused, assaulted, raped, killed, etc. than it is to demand that men behave, that boys be taught better – that they be required to respect all humans. HOW that’s more easier and practical, I have no idea.
When families, like those in/from Pakistan and surrounding countries/regions, say that it’s harder to raise girls and that’s why they prefer boys, what they’re really saying is that they’re not willing to work hard, like responsible humans, to raise better sons. (Don’t get me wrong: I do believe in a significant level of responsibility and accountability, and some men are simply bad no matter how hard their parents tried to raise them to be good humans. But my point is about the myth that girls are more difficult to raise than boys.)
The reason patriarchy — anywhere, including good ol’ Murrica — says it’s hard(er) to raise girls is this: You have to raise a very particular kind of daughter in a patriarchy—the kind who will not threaten patriarchy’s existence. THAT, yes, that’s definitely a difficult thing to do. Because being humans and being thinking, blessed with the capacity to think and question things and stand against what we know is wrong deep inside our heart and mind, all humans—ALL humans—are innately oriented towards what’s right. This is one of the core beliefs of Islam. Every human being is born with a tendency towards what’s right, towards what’s Good—towards the Truth, towards God. God here doesn’t mean something necessarily literal for me; for me, it’s all things Just, Good, and Right.
Girls, if raised without any patriarchal influence (or despite patriarchal influences) will call patriarchy out when they see it; that’s the natural thing to do—fight against what’s wrong, fight for what’s right. Patriarchy tells us that it’s difficult to raise girls, and what it really means is that it’s difficult to raise girls because it’s a ton of work to convince them that patriarchy should remain the norm, that patriarchy is acceptable, that patriarchy is the natural course of the universe.
This is because it takes more effort to maintain a lie than it does to maintain or simply pass on a truth.
P.S. This is also related to the too popular claim that “girls mature faster than boys” – only to let boys get away with “being boys,” with being the reason girls and women are unsafe in a patriarchy. As my friend ena ganguly writes so beautifully in her poem to the right.