If You Have a Son, Here’s What You can do to Bridge the Gender Gap
The world is evolving but the gender gap is still wide.
On one hand women are travelling to outer space, on the other hand they are raped by their male relatives, teachers, boyfriends and husbands. On one hand, women grace the top corporate positions, on the other hand they are married off with a huge dowry. On one hand women balance a demanding career with an equally demanding family, on the other hand they are still not allowed to be born.
Similarly, men are smothered with love while growing up, but they are considered a failure if they opt for a liberal arts/creative career. Men are allowed to marry girls of their choice, but are ridiculed if they come out as gay. Men can express violence in public but not tears.
What must be done to bridge the gender gap?
We have no control over the world around us; however what we can control is the future. We have, in our powers, the ability to shape the minds of the next generation of men and women. Let us begin, one step at a time.
This post is my two-cents on what today’s parents of boys can do to bridge the gender gap.
Start right at the beginning, from the moment your son is born.
Do not distribute laddoos because you have begotten a son, distribute laddoos because you have been blessed with a healthy child.
Do not feed him extra or spend extra money on his education just because he is the future cash cow and your ‘budape ka sahara’ (shelter of old age). Take good care of his meals and education because as a parent, your child is your responsibility till he is an adult.
Do not tell him that he must look after you when you are old. Tell him to always love and respect you till the end of your days.
Do not have a give-and-take relationship with your son. I feed you, give a roof over your head, send you to school and then expensive colleges so that you can earn money, live with us, always do as we tell you is nothing but a selfish give-and-take relationship and not the loving parent-child relationship that you should be nurturing.
Do not tell him the family is his responsibility. Do not impose your dreams of a 3-storied bungalow with a back-garden on your son. Do not imply that you wear old sarees/trousers so that he can wear new clothes during festivals. Give him the freedom to choose his means of income when he becomes an adult and not be pressurized to look after his aging parents. If you have taught him well, he will always be responsible for your well-being without the added pressure.
Do not tell him to be manly. Teach him to be a man. Do not tell him to protect his sister. Teach him to protect any woman he finds in need of his help. Do not advise him to run at the first sign of trouble. Tell him not to be afraid and offer his assistance if the situation so demands.
Do not allow him to be cruel to animals. Do not applaud his violence.
Do not make him dependant on you for every single need. Teach him basic cooking and cleaning. Teach him to fold his clothes and put away his shoes and socks in the right place.
Do not smother him with so much affection that he forgets how to stand on his own legs. Do not give him the impression that you will condone his mistakes. Pull him up when he is wrong.
Do not pander to each and every of his whims. Tell him to earn the money he wants to spend on after-school junk food. Do not hand-hold him. Teach him aspects of personal finance.
Encourage him to appreciate women in all their roles – mother, sister, friend, lover, wife, colleague, boss. Make him aware that women struggle twice as much in their professional career to be successful and yet they are often passed up for a promotion in favour of a man. Tell him that when the time comes, he should not differentiate his subordinates on the basis of gender.
Don’t give him the impression that he will be taken care of throughout his life – first by his mother and then by his wife. Tell him his wife is not a replacement for his mother. Tell him his wife is also not the replacement of a cook or maid.
Don’t sell your son during his wedding. Don’t be under the misconception that accepting furniture, flat, car or cash-in-lieu of car is not dowry. Don’t tell yourself that all these ‘gifts’ will be used by the daughter-in-law only. If your son is old enough to marry, then he is old enough to buy his own house and car and furniture. If it is a custom in your community, be the first to break it.
Don’t take the high ground during the wedding just because you are the ‘ladkewale’. Listen to the wishes of the bride’s family too – they are also marrying off their darling daughter. Do not make them overspend. Do not invite your long-lost childhood friend just to add up the invitee count at the expense of the ‘ladkiwale’.
Don’t allow your son to mistreat your daughter-in-law in any manner – emotionally or physically. Don’t sip your ‘adrak chai’ in front of the television while your son humiliates his wife openly for adding a little extra salt in the daal.
Tell your son to shoulder half the burden of household chores with his working-wife. Tell him it’s okay to rub the aching feet of his stay-at-home wife at the end of the day and lend a helping hand to her on weekends.
Teach him the boundaries that he should not cross with respect to the body of a woman, be it his wife or girlfriend or any other woman. Make sure your son knows that she has the right to say no and he does not have the right to force.
Teach him that rape is a criminal offence. Tell him that he does not have the right to assault, sexually or otherwise any woman.
And lastly, request him to inculcate your teachings into his children.
And what should parents of a daughter do? That’s for another post.
Edited to add: This post was chosen as a Spicy Saturday Pick by Blogadda 🙂