Sunday, 23 October 2011
Gender Prejudice: An Evolution in Attitudes?
I recently wrote an article for Aaila magazine about gender prejudice amongst parents:
I grew up in a loving home, but one that did not escape the South-Asian cultural preference for boys. As one of four sisters to a lone brother, this did none of us any favours.
People would commiserate with my mother for having so many girls with “it is Allah’s will” (in the same vein as other tragedies such as you have lost a loved one “it is Allah’s will”, your house burned down “it is Allah’s will”, you lost your job “it is Allah’s will”) I know that this always made her feel a little inferior in front of other women.
I have had a few responses from Sisters saying they have had similar experiences. It was good to hear from sisters and I believe it is also good to share our experiences and explore how we can move on from these situations and work to ensure they are not repeated in future generations.
These things are easier said than done, with behaviours and attitudes taking many generations to overcome, often being perpetuated unconsciously through us despite our best efforts. I was surprised then, about a conversation I had with Little Lady this week. I was trying to explain to her what I had written about in the article (she loves to write too and we often discuss what we are writing, with her trying to censor edit anything about her she does not like). She was amazed that this had happened, that people had felt sorry for my parents because they had so many girls. She seriously couldn’t conceive that such a thing could be true. She is desperate for a baby sister and is always happy when she hears someone has had a baby girl.
I had to describe to her the way people can behave and the things they sometimes used to say. She found it hard enough to believe that people don’t prefer girls, but harder still to imagine that someone could think that way about her beloved aunties (the “ma’khala’s” as she calls them – abbreviated from “my khala’s” meaning my mum’s sisters).
It made me realise that there had been some change in thinking. She hadn’t been exposed to the negative feelings about daughters in the way many in my generation had. To her being a girl was an extremely positive thing. I think there are a lot of things that contribute to this: having strong role models in her aunties, getting less negative bad vibes from her grandmothers generation (they seem to mellow in their views as time goes on), getting a positive role model in her dad’s behaviour towards women.
Funnily, this attitude appears in her brothers as well. Little Man recently commented “When I get married I’m going to cook the food and my wife will do work on the computer.” Some girl is going to be a very happy wife one day I think.