Yesterday, my 6-year-old daughter came to me and told me that she doesn’t want to wear shorts anymore. When I asked why, she started crying. Without wasting any time, I left my laptop to hold her. She told me that she doesn’t want to be a Bad Girl like me! She wants to be a good girl! And, when I asked her who told her that she is a bad girl because she wears shorts, she told me “Amma” i.e. my mother-in-law.
My mother-in-law told her that the Good Girls don’t wear shorts! Girls become bad girls if they wear shorts or short dresses. Good girls cover their bodies fully and they are the ones who are loved and liked by everyone.
This made me so angry. But this isn’t the first time that my mother-in-law dictated the rules from her ‘Good Girls Handbook’.
My husband and I had a love marriage and I struggled a lot to settle into his conservative family. From being told to cover my head all the time in front of elders to wearing no cut sleeves or jeans to being told not to wear red lipstick to always keep my body covered, I have heard a lot of things. And, in the end, when I refuse to comply, my in-laws labeled me as a bad daughter-in-law a bad girl. They told my sister-in-law to stay away from me because I am a bad influence.
Frankly, it never bothered me because I knew about their regressive mindset before I got married. My husband was very clear about how his parents were conservative but he would take a stand for me and let me live life on my own terms. 8 years have passed and he never asked me to do things against my will.
On the other hand, his parents still have reservations about me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate them. But, if someone tries to label you as a badly raised woman, there is hardly any chance that you will fall in love with them! But recently I realized how they try to influence my daughter to follow their rules. How they couldn’t make me follow their regressive thought process so they started focusing on my daughter.
But, I am very clear that my daughter won’t follow the Good Girl Rules set by our regressive society. She won’t follow the ‘Good Girls Handbook’ authored by my mother-in-law, rather she would follow her heart like her mother and so many other women who are refusing to bow down to the patriarchal mindset.
So, I took my daughter in my arms, wiped off her tears, and took her to the place where my mother-in-law was busy watching one of her favorite regressive TV serials. Serials where the good daughters-in-law to cover their head! I wanted to have this conversation in front of her so that she understands that I won’t let them make my daughter victim of their regressive thinking.
In front of my mother-in-law, I asked my daughter if her doll is a bad girl. She said,
“No Momma, Riya is a very good girl. She loves her pet and her friends. Everyone wants to play with her!”
“But, Kittu Riya is also wearing shorts. Beta, we don’t become bad because of our clothes. We become bad because of our actions. If Riya hits her friends or pets or do things to hurt others, do you think anyone would like to play with her!”
“No Momma, no one!”, Kittu says in an innocent tone!
In the same way you won’t become bad because of your clothes but your behavior! So, till the time Kittu loves every body and treat her friends nicely, she is a good girl!”
I saw a smile appearing on Kittu’s face and I felt so relieved. Though I am not sure if I handled the situation well, she is only 6-years-old and I am sure, with age, she will realize the society’s concept of Good Girl is nothing but an excuse to shame women for living life on their own terms! Till then, her mother would raise her to be the woman, who is strong enough to stand for herself and her desires, dreams, and choices!