Through an open letter series, our community member shares why our society should stop telling its women to respect elders; rather teach its elders how to earn respect.
When I was getting married, my mother gave me a list of dos and don’ts on how to be a good wife and a good daughter-in-law. The crux of which was to be respectful to your elders – which included literally everyone in the family – my in-laws, husband, sister-in-law, and her husband.
In order to make sure she deeply engraves the message on my mind – she shared what she exactly means by showing respect to elders. And, here’s a quick list:
Even if they something rude, you stay quiet. Show respect and things will be okay with time.
If they pinpoint any flaw, just understand they want you to do better.
Don’t be a big mouth and show-off your knowledge to prove them wrong.
Be flexible and adjust as per their lifestyle. Don’t complain too much.
… and the list goes on.
But she concluded the list saying, don’t act like Jhansi ki Rani and don’t pick up the unnecessary arguments.
Though I had a lot of issues with the list, as many new brides at that point, I thought I had more important things to be worried about than this stupid list. But I was so wrong. This stupid list actually turned out to be a crash course on how to be perceived as a good daughter-in-law. I was shocked by how my in-laws and husband also had similar expectations from me as that of the list shared by my mom.
Every time I faltered on the list, I was labeled as not good enough. And this happened not only by my in-laws but by my parents too! It left me frustrated and sometimes amused how people around me expected to treat them with utter respect even when they treated me rudely or cursed me or unnecessarily criticized me and my choices.
After failing to follow that list for 3 continuous years, I arrived at three major conclusions. I would like to share it with the ones who were also asked to be respectful to our elders:
Conclusion #1: You can’t be a good Daughter-in-law
After miserably failing to be a good bahu, I have arrived at the conclusion that I can never be a good daughter-in-law. Doesn’t matter how much I try, I will still fail on the unfair expectations of being a good daughter-in-law.
Conclusion #2: Who Is A Good Daughter-In-Law?
Based on my experience, I realized the good daughter-in-law is one who manages to follow all the regressive rules. She has to be either the torch-bearer of patriarchy herself or she is a victim who doesn’t have the right support to raise her voice against it.
Conclusion #3: Society doesn’t know anything about RESPECT!
Firstly, our society itself has no clue about what is Respect. For most of us, it is defined as blindly following our elders. It is heartbreaking when you question the regressive thoughts, it isn’t seen as a sign of intelligence but as an act of disrespect. Dear Society, following someone blindly isn’t respect; it is stupidity!
Secondly, it’s high time our society should stop telling women to respect elders. Rather, it should help elders to learn how to seek respect. Not only respect is a two-way street, it is also something that one needs to earn. You can force fear but you can’t force respect. So, an elder who doesn’t respect others, keeps insulting them, or keeps finding unnecessary flaws in them, s/he maybe feared but not respected.
While I have happily decided to live my life with the label of ‘badatmeez bahu’, I hope one-day society would understand what respect actually is!