Is it a boy or a girl?

Today is International Women’s Day 2016.  Here’s wishing all the women in the world lots of happinessimages (1) and joy!  Here I share my previous article.

The theme of Woman’s Day 2015 is ‘Make it Happen‘. Indeed it should be so. After all a woman is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a grand-mother. She’s caring, she’s an epitome of sacrifice, somebody worth worshiping. Even Aristotle had said, “If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning”.  This world is a better place because of women and behind every successful man, there’s a woman. So guys, buy lots of nice gifts for her today, and every other day. The last bit was unnecessary. Oh well! I think I got too carried away.

To be fair, I heartily wish same happiness to all male children of these women, i.e. all boys and men of this world, young and old.

While many similar cliche` thoughts cross my mind today on this day dedicated to us wonder women, I am reminded of one of the previous writing prompts by Word Press’ The Daily Post. “Happy Happy Joy Joy.”  The prompt seems appropriate for my feelings today as I probe my identity of being a woman.

The prompt asks:  “We cry for lots of reasons: sadness, pain, fear . . . and happiness. When was the last time you shed tears of joy?

Yes, we all cry tears of joy occasionally. Often as an outlet of extreme happiness that we feel for our near and dear ones. While there have been many such instances in my life, I remember at least one of them.

It was when my brother called me to inform that his wife had given birth to their second child, this time a baby boy. My father’s family and extended family have always had hordes and hordes of females, something that has traditionally been often considered a worrisome matter in a patriarchal society like India.

We too are four sisters, my dad’s brother had six daughters. Like so. I myself was an unplanned child, probably a result of my parents’ trial to have a son. Maybe the third one will be a son, they must have hoped. At my birth, there was no celebration like it was when my only brother, the youngest of us siblings, was born after four girls. Not that it mattered to me. Didn’t matter when I was born nor when my brother was born, not even now. We were all a happy family and we loved him for being the baby of the house.

That doesn’t mean we girls were not loved. Our father used to argue with anyone who ever pointed out that four little girls, all under the age of seven, are a big lot. He would retort back and ask, “Why are you worried…are you going to look after them?”  My mom used to tell us that she did harbor a secret desire to touch little boys’ (macho) shorts as she was tired of hanging colorful frocks on her washing clothes-line. Later on we were a line young women ready for marriage.

Now, before you start relating this scenario to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, let me narrate my specific context. In those days, that is when I was born well into the 60s, it was embedded in the psyche of most Indian families that girls leave their parents’ home while boys have a greater chance of living with them till their old age. So even if birth of a daughter did not give sorrow and it did give joy, still it was assumed that birth of a son may give a lasting joy, esp. if one already has a daughter or two.

And I shamefully admit that even though I am a feminist who fights for women’s rights…in my brother’s case, for a moment I felt quite like most others do. A feeling that, with the birth of a son, my brother’s family is complete. Even if it was a temporary fleeting feeling, it was there.

So, does it mean that much as we pretend to be the harbingers of change in the society, we ourselves are victims of the old rudimentary thoughts and beliefs?  Or is it a fact that these old practices had at least some truth in them?

Of course, as I said before, in Indian context (esp. that of the times when we grew up) it was assumed that a daughter will leave her father’s home and eventually she belongs to her husband’s and her in-laws’ house. Nowadays the social dynamics have changed a lot and therefore young women don’t cry after their marriage ceremony and celebrations, but those days there were so many weepy Bollywood songs that depicted dramatic scenes of a bride leaving her parents’ home forever, as if she is dying or something. The sad tune of shehnaai music added to the woeful drama.

So yes, this thought prevailed that girls have to leave her father’s home at some stage while boys are here to stay. A son and his wife will (or may) take care of old parents. Hence, why would parents not wish for a son?

Another reason for this preference for boys is of course rooted in nature itself. Girls are naturally different from boys, therefore women are different from men.  Nowadays they are trying to be like men and are almost there, aren’t they? But even in non-patriarchal societies, that is in the matriarchal societies, a girl has monthly periods and pains since puberty. Come puberty, in fact even before that, a girl becomes a liability, what with fear of rape and molestation in the hands of some barbaric man, as in this rape story. If she escapes all that, soon she faces another physical fact, that a woman has to undergo so much to become a mother. Even the simplest of deliveries are actually a ‘labor’, not to talk of caesarean section or difficult births. After becoming a mother, a woman has a life different to that of men at least for a few years. There is truth in this belief that a good mother is the foundation of good families so a mother often sacrifices her own goals or interests for her children.  In most families, if husband and wife both have full-time jobs, it is woman who ends up going part-time, unless and until there is extended family to look after her children. Thus, where is equality in nature??

Put it in another way. There is no inequality in nature but nature created men and women different. The solution also lies in accepting this fact. Women do not have to keep fighting and claiming that men and women are the same. The point to convey is, they may not be the same but they are still equal within these differences.

For men too it is vital not to continue discriminating but women be accepted as equals despite all these differences, not just accepted but encouraged to live with dignity, encouraged to stand on their own feet within their family circumstances.  Also, if home-bound women do more than their share of child-rearing or house-hold work, then these mundane tedious services be well recognized and respected.

No superiority or inferiority of sexes. No suppressing. No unfair treatment. Pure respect!!

Oh well, I drifted from the topic of ‘tears of joy’.  So I better stop here and discuss feminism some other time.

Coming back to the daily prompt, I did have tears in my eyes as an expression of joy at the birth of a baby boy within my father’s family. Particularly so as my father was not alive to see the baby so it had caused emotions. My brother quiet young when our father passed away, therefore my brothers’ new-born baby boy happened to be the only other man in the family beside my brother. Looking at it that way, there was nothing wrong in feeling happy about the birth of this baby boy.

That brings more varied thoughts on Women’s Day. We, the feminists, say women are important. We want equality – women should get their full rights, women this women that. But men too have a place, esp. if they are strongly needed within some families. Birth of a baby girl and a baby boy, both are to be rejoiced.

To stop thinking about this topic, today I called my mother in India and discussed this boy versus. girl imbalance. She disagreed with me about Indian families wishing only for a boy. It’s all changed, she said.  Parents these days want two kids – a boy and a girl.  If there is already a boy then parents heartily want a girl and secretly do not wish for another boy, my mother argued Int Women's Day 4while enthusiastically citing many such examples from within our family.

And mama can’t be wrong. For she is a woman, and that too with lots of experience about life, a woman worth respecting this Woman’s Day and every other day.




Header: Silvia Pelissero

6 thoughts on “Is it a boy or a girl?

  1. I have two daughters and no son- I have never felt the need for a son because though I belong to a patriarchal society myself, in my family there were more women than men and they were all very successful women at that. Long after their husbands passed away, these women would labour and toil, often amid difficulties to run their families. It has often been a thankless job- so much so that many of these women only wish sons for their own daughters, in the vain hope that perhaps their daughters will not feel the pain, they felt when bringing up their families single-handedly.
    I would celebrate the birth of a son or a daughter for all of my sisters for the simple fact that a baby is born and there is a new generation for my family- selfishness indeed because I want my family line to continue.
    I feel as you do that women and men have different roles to play in life but a woman’s role is imminently more difficult and so more important because without a woman, the human race would die out.
    Notice how many of the deities in traditional societies are women. I wonder where the notion of the boy child being more important sprang up from- perhaps it is because the boys were the more likely to fall prey to illnesses and were hence weaker.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences within your family. It shows strength of these women, your sisters, but as you yourself mentioned they did end up wishing only ‘sons for their own daughters’. That way, if a man faces circumstances where he has to bring up his children on his own without a woman in his house, he too would feel the brunt and be tired of it all. And yet, there’s a difference. When left alone, not only are women compelled to become the man of their family, but they often face societal pressures and discrimination as well. Societal attitudes have to change.

      And yet, woman facing such circumstances become very strong. They ‘grow’ and get to experience life from their individual point-of-view, without being too dependent on their husband. When my father passed away, my mother woke up from her stupor and actually went out and looked after his business which she never did when he was alive. But it is easier said than done/experienced. As you say, to you it did not matter whether it was a son or a daughter, and you celebrated the birth of a baby in your sisters’ home. That is what we as ‘outsiders’ do in every sphere of life. We cannot relate to how others feel.

      And indeed, even though I did feel happy at the birth of my brother’s son but I was also very happy for the daughter, their first child. My parents too never discriminated and my father’s brother who experienced people counting and commenting on his six girls…well currently all my cousins are highly successful doctors.

      And yet I had unique experiences in whole life. Here, I talked about my father’s family where we were all girls. In contrast, my in-laws’ family had more sons and one daughter, thus it was an entirely different story with a very pampered daughter but the sons and daughters-in-law were aplenty. A number game about less fascination for the too many.

      Thanks for reading this lengthy reply :). Your valuable insights are always welcome.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Alka,

    This post is brimming with so many emotions…some contradictory but the oppressive facts of age-old traditional and conservative societies have not changed even today. We may raise our daughters to be financially and emotionally independent but they have to interact with the same mind set, which refuses to melt because the so called ‘Manus’ do their best to impose their diktats in one form or the other and when the highly educated girls marry, they have to face the jealousy of those women who could not be like them, who would do their best to reduce them to their own level – accept servitude or else! Women are equally responsible for gender inequality, for creating the mindset, for rubbing upon their sons that they have to act superior. More than men, it is the women who need to introspect.

    Yes, the birth of a child is to be welcomed, without giving any thought to whether it is a boy or a girl. I have written two posts on similar topics, one you must have read: why I married at 23 and another is about traditions, conservatism and giving.
    Thanks for sharing a thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Balroop,

      I type with my eyes closed hence these free-flowing ramblings may sound contradictory at times, also because these issues are in fact contradictory in nature. Times change, roles evolve but certain natural facts do not change.

      And yes, some of these issues can be related to age-old beliefs when women had a defined role…were highly sheltered by men. I too always thought it is our blind following of old traditions that results in such discriminatory gender biases. But having lived, experienced and closely observed general attitudes as well as treatment given to women in various parts of India…I would say it is a much better scenario in South India, irrespective of the state. Surprising thing is, all ancient traditions and customs are also highly preserved in South India as well as many other parts of India. At the same time women are doing very well there, well respected by men.
      We do not like to admit but in certain states, predominantly our northern home states where we hardly see any ancient culture remaining now…it’s rather over there we see more discrimination to the point of foeticide. And of course, statistics show that religion has nothing to do with these numbers. They are all the same.
      In Australia, a new country, there should be no gender issues. There are no old imposing customs, population too is very less and as such not much discrimination but concealed bias at workplace does exist. Over here, so many single mothers deserted by their boyfriends, men whom they loved and believed, and had children out of wed-lock. They are young girls, barely out of school, now become single mothers left to fend their kids all alone while surviving on dole. On top of that there is plenty of domestic violence amongst all races, families who come here from all parts of the world. But obviously, this kind of thing does not exist in higher class Australians or, though not completely absent. Education is the key.

      So, I feel, more than any religion, culture, belief-system, it is a class-based thing as well. And it is rampant in all cultures and religions.

      You are spot on about one thing. Women are equally responsible for gender inequality. A young educated bride may have to face such women who themselves didn’t get a chance to fulfill their dreams, if any. So they become vindictive and find faults in the new bride or else reduce the new arrival to their level so as to feel more powerful and valued within the family. This attitude also exists more in our northern state, see that in soap-operas 🙂

      Heavy stuff!! Enjoy discussing with you. Thanks for your unique perspective that made me think even more.

      Liked by 1 person

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