Grooming daughters to be tough – 16 Dec 2009

Revati is an adventurous girl, always willing to take the plunge into the unknown, ready to climb a tree, scale a wall, or even swim in a river in spate. Her parents, however, wondered often how she got all these traits, this toughness, this willingness to stick her neck out. For, they had a different picture of girls in their mind when they got married thirty years ago.

They wanted one son and one daughter, which they got. And they wanted their son to be tough and the daughter to be coy and shy. This wish of theirs was not fulfilled. For, in the process of grooming the kids, Revati became the tougher type, and brother Rakshak was timid as compared to his sister.  The parents did not like that, which was beyond their comprehension and in sharp contrast to what they had planned.


Of course, this is not the only stereotype known. There also are families that help their daughters to be physically and mentally tough, and also willing to take on any challenge. The second category is small, of course understandably. The larger category is of the people who wish to pay not special attention to making their daughters tough girls so that they can fend for themselves in this big, bad world.

Revati did not want to join the Armed Forces, nor did she want to be in Police Force. But, as she started growing older into the teens, Revati wished to join judo or karate class, and possibly a mountaineering course.  Given their nature, the parents refused to let Revati learn any of such things. Study well, pass well, and start earning for yourself. “That is all we want her to do,” Revati’s parents said.

Most parents are like Revati’s parents — well meaning, insisting upon ethical life, all focused to do things in the best possible manner. They also want their children to be good and successful in whatever endeavour they would undertake. Yet, when it comes to grooming the girls in the family, most people follow the stereotype.

So when girls like Revati become big enough to decide that they wish to join any of the Armed Forces or the Police Force or become adventure coach, the families oppose tooth and nail. Many a girl gets wasted in such a manner.

One wonders why our society has still not learnt to groom girls in the family in such a manner as to make them tough, ready to take on any challenge. When one fails to arrive at an answer, then one concludes that social constraints must be keeping the families from grooming the girls in a tough manner.

Of course, it would be wrong to say that all girls are coy and shy. We see the other extremes as well. Yet, the values average Indian families cherish include ensuring that girls should be coy and shy. Girls are groomed never for tougher professions. The expectation is that the girls follow some soft professions; while the boys take up any career they want.

The issue of women becoming fighter pilots also floundered on such a rock of social attitudes. Whether girls should become fighter pilots or not is an entirely different issue, but our society is still locked in social stereotypes, which do not expect girls to be tough types.

In general, there should be no issues on this. For, the type of grooming to be chosen for boys or girls has to be left with the family. Yet, a little annoyance gets built up in the mind when one feels that the society does not want to jump out of the stereotypical thinking.

The girls should rebel when they find themselves trapped in such a situation, of course if their thinking does not match with the thinking of their parents. If they have no problems, then none else should have any.

Basically, Indian girls are tough. If groomed in a tough way, they can be naturally good candidates for tough jobs that require not just physical fitness but also mental and spiritual toughening so that our girls are all geared up to take on any challenge any time This is the point to be made again and again.

Published in Hitavada Women’s World on December 16 2009

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