I’m sure your daughters are kind, smart, wonderful girls. I’m sure you’re imagining their weddings to wonderful Indian boys, raising wonderful Indian children, in wonderful Indian tradition. I’m sure you’re imagining that in two to five years, your daughters will finish their degrees—biology, psychology, speech pathology, engineering—and go on to work in places where they make upper-middle-class salaries. I’m sure they’ll live in upper-middle-class homes, take vacations every six months, and call you every time they make a major life decision. I’m sure they’ll be outgoing around their female cousins, modest around their uncles, and respectful to their elders.
And I’m sure that in fifteen to twenty years, they will also guilt, scare, and threaten the disobedience out of their daughters.
You see, what you are not imagining is this: you’re not imagining that your daughters may see more in the world than just her parents and her relatives. You’re not imagining that some day, your daughter might want to champion a fight—against poverty, cancer, climate change, global injustice, politics—or that she might want to start her own business, write her own book, direct her own movie.
I’m sure you have no trouble imagining your sons doing this. I’m sure you can imagine that your son might be that new business co-founder, that your sonmight be Ph.D. who’s rallying the government to get more funding for anti-cancer therapeutics, that your son might be the Senator razing his bridges to the ground in an effort to preserve his integrity.
But your daughters?
You’re not imagining the number of times people will tell her no, you can’t do that, you’re too young, too foolish, too inexperienced. You’re not imagining that people—many of whom will be her elders, her mentors, her bosses—will attempt to talk her out of ideas before they’re even formed. You’re not imagining that they’ll use logical arguments, illogical arguments, emotional arguments, sarcasm, guilt, fear, ridicule, to tell her that she can’t do it.
You’re not imagining the number of times that people will tell her she’s a woman.
You see, every time you ask us to be obedient, you ask us to doubt ourselves—you ask us to believe that our parents know the outcomes of our decisions better than we will, that our elders can make better choices than we can. Every time we ask for permission, we are reminded that we are not old enough, experienced enough, knowledgeable enough to make a decision for ourselves.
When you’re asking us to be obedient, you’re not asking us to make smart decisions. You’re asking us to follow the decisions that you made.
And how can we ever be a leader if we just follow what is asked of us?
Dear aunties: we’re sorry that we can’t be the best daughters.
But, believe us—we will be damn good women.