She is your DAUGHTER – NOT your son! And sooner you accept & like it, better for all of us!

My encounters with TV entertainment are limited. Only very occasionally I do tune in to the popular trending shows. If only to assure self and others that I still belong to the world, here and now. That I am not quite a dinosaur or an alien already.

So, when it comes to catching snippets of Indian Idol Junior‬, ‪I have learnt to ignore the painful drama of the presenters, the silly, sanctimonious and repetitive script of the judges, and the sheer pointlessness of the format. After all, my taste in art, music and entertainment is not what the nation wants, and if a gladiatorial decimation of young talent is what sells, who am I to rail against it?

But today even my serene, accepting, let-it-go attitude has had enough. Hence this post. From a rattled and ranting me. On the raving lunacy I perceive being playing out on a widely watched iconic show. In praising one of the contestants, a young girl called Naheed, Sonakshi Sinha prattles thus : “I noticed what your Dad said to you right at audition time, and that is what my Dad says to me, and it makes me feel very proud. That you are not my daughter, you are my son.” Or in Hindi, ” Beti nahin, Beta ho Tum”.

So, we were being told again, on a very popular nationally broadcast family TV program, at PrimeTime, by a young working woman, a daughter of a famous yesteryears cine-star, that being a daughter is after all a cross. And only when your father can see you as a son, are you blessedly redeemed! And if and when that happens, count your lucky stars for the wonderful, progressive and great man you have as a father. A man who can so magnanimously let you step into the shoes of a son!

I only wish we were in a time-capsule and this scene was taking place at least 40 years ago. Or even 20? But we are in 2015.

I felt sickened to hear Sonakshi do this. I felt the toxic touch of a deep rot that seems embedded into the psyche of so many of us. I wonder if Sonakshi has at any time felt bad that her Dad is not proud of her as a beti (daughter)? Did it ever ever bother her, as to why there is even a need to bring in the beta (son) comparison ? What is the sub-text of these statements made so blithely and so proudly? Do Sonakshi and the millions who mouth the same kind of lines realize that by deigning to respect a girl only by accepting her as a beta (son), you invalidate her very being, her very natural state? You deny her a valid existence in the skin she was born with. It is as if only when the taint she carries- her daughterhood, is relegated to irrelevance,  supplanted by her being seen as a son, that she can truly make everyone proud, and truly be one with her worldly achievements and glory!

The fact is in our minds and in our ways of framing world views, we are still lagging behind. A show like Indian Idol allows all genders to participate as equals. It is not like some places having rules that forbid certain things for a girl. But no, we have to still act like we are in the times of the ‘abla naari’ – the helpless, victimized and weak woman. We are like this only, and we will extol misogyny! Being a girl is still not congruent with worldly success in our minds. Else why the need for the imagery of a son, to tell the tale of a daughter’s glory? I doubt I can wrap my head around this one, but I promise you I am trying very hard!

Naheed did well because she is hardworking, talented and so on. She should not have to bear the ignominy of being validated as a son she is clearly not, and being invalidated as the daughter she naturally is. Can we respect our daughters just as daughters, without the need to see them as proxy son‬s? Can we stop stripping them of their natural birth-given identity and sense of self in moments of their greatest triumphs, by not saying about them ‘beti nahin beta ho tum?’

At the birth of a girl, many so called modern, progressive parents decide to be really good to their daughter. By asking her overtly to not do ‘girly’ things. By drilling into her how she is the beta, and is therefore free to do all the great things a beta would. What about telling her instead, dearest daughter, you are a wonderful new life we are blessed with, go live your life to the fullest, chase your dreams, and let us be the wind beneath your wings?

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17 thoughts on “She is your DAUGHTER – NOT your son! And sooner you accept & like it, better for all of us!

  1. Wonderfully expressed as always Kiran! Indeed the prevailing truth inspite of outwordly ‘modern ‘ outlook. Here’s to all daughters and the womanhood!

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  2. I totally agree with you… In our country a Daughter is judged by what is she able to do …to be considered not as a mistake but as a son… We have forgotten that it is the a daughter who creates a man… A daughter is same as a son and even more… but the point is there is no comparison…there should be no comparison !!

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  3. Excellent sum up Atul Kakkar…there should be no comparison. Girl and boy, beti, beta, man, woman. All complementary foces. Let each be, respect each for its uniqueness. Thanks for reading and joining the conversation.

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  4. Brilliantly put. I love to watch the recorded version of Indian Idol, just so that I can skip the rest, and hear them singing. Naheed has a lovely voice, and so do the other girls. And I really wonder why they are considered to have proved to be betas, rather than hardworking and talented beti.

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  5. Thank you Arpita; I too watch it for the singing, for the lovely talent these people showcase. But as you say, other than the actual singing, not a thing is worth my time on it. And yesterday sonakshi was so dumb regressive, it was just awful to watch her preening and be so smug.

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  6. I haven’t watched this but isn’t it like legitimizing the common refrains of parents who have produced daughters just so they can console themselves. And in a larger picture, isn’t it another extension of an average Indian parent’s comparison of a child to someone else, the neighbour’s ideal child or the cousins?

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  7. Ilakshee, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I am ranting precisely against this tendency to “legitimizing the common refrains (of pain, regret, guilt, inafdeqauacy? what is the refrain about, pray?) of parents who have produced daughters just so they can console themselves”. Why the need for consoling? sonakshi should know better than to add to that refrain. she should be the change, even if she was brought up withthis outmoded refrain by her anachronistic father. As to your other point, about the wider tendency of parents comparing their child, I don’t fully agree there to. Not all parents compare, and not all kids are compared. Comparisons happen out of insecurity and inferiority, usually. If you are saying, that denying a girl child her daughterhood identity is the same thing as denying a child his/ her uniqueness by constant negative comparisons and exhortations to be like some other idealized child, in part I can agree with that point. But this is also about something more. it is about the focused denial of girlhood as a desirable, worthy thing in itself.

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  8. You have said it all, and said it so well you should hear me clapping!
    I have always cringed at people using ‘You are my son’ type of phrases and I have always tried to see an muted expression of disappointed escaping the daughters’ faces behind the gloss of proud smiles. Really, what must they think? And hwy must they be made to think thus?
    Wonderfully written, Kiran, and with a voice so steady I would have guessed the hand behind this post .. knowing you.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Wow Sakshi ! You would have guessed..?knowing me? That is …. I don’t know what to say to it. For the rest, thanks so much for reading and for the solidarity. I think what such denial of identity type statements do to girls or to anybody who faces them, is to harm the psyche at a deep level. And very few are able to come to that awareness and then overcome it. I feel rather strongly on this, and hence the blog post just sort of wrote itself.

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  9. I think this is seeing things in just black and white. Our society is still transitioning and someone’s father referring his daughter as son may just be a way to assert that he is accepting this change in societal norms and expects the same from his daughter that was expected of only sons not so long ago. I think we need to broaden our minds and excuse our elders for such petty mistakes since they are not so intelligent as the new generation is today.

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  10. Arunudayan, thank you for reading and sharing your views. The thing is, you are saying pretty much what i feel too. On other places, where I have shared this blog piece, we have had similar discussion, and really everyone knows how the elders did this in a different context and it in fact helped the girls. But you would also appreciate that such corrective interventions which are not basically grounded in universal truth and principles of acceptance, will turn toxic and harmful over time. Over time, the causative conditions have to be changed. My grandfather said these lines of beta ho tum, to my mother, in the 60s. And it was empowering for my Mom. But not without its harmful side effects. Because even then, she felt the discrimination inherent in such a statement. She needed to be something else, because that something else was ‘better’ way of being? But if my Dad and Mom say it to me in the 70s-80s, it would be more harmful still, as the world has changed in terms of what all a girl can normally do, what I will see other girls doing, while still being appreciated and accepted as beti-s. . It will make me wonder , why am i not enough as I am? And imagine this being done in 2015….! Even then, I am not even asking what Naheed ‘s father said it to her. In a lot of smaller towns, traditional mind sets are deep, and to get out you need to use these crutches. But the point to know is that it is only a crutch, not a proud stance to perpetuate. the point of the crutch is to help you through a difficult time and place and support you so you do not need the crutch at a future point. Nor do I therefore even question Shatrughan Sinha saying it to his daughter. But I do want people in Sonakshi’s place, time and privilege to have grown out of the crutch, and certainly not perpetuate that crutch needing mentality.

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    • Yet again I have a problem with us seeing people with just one viewpoint. If Sonakshi is happy with his father calling her his son then be it! Why would you assert that her or her father’s view point is incorrect.. It’s like putting negativity into a happy soul’s mind.. If you think calling daughter s son-like is dangerous then impart such culture to your own kids and may be not in your lifetime but some 100 years from now, the things would certainly change. Why would you want to use Sonakshi as your crutch to propagate your ideology!

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  11. Yes, Purba; I agree with you . Pretending at sameness is not necessarily the path to freedom or respect, when things are clearly not the same in every way. And nor must difference mean discrimination. Acceptance could be the key beyond this imitation game.

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