Recently, in a family gathering at my house, an aunty approached me and asked,
“Ammi ki help ki thi kitchen mein? Tum ne kaun sa dish banaya hai?”
I was taken aback and despite knowing her expectation, I bluntly told her that I had not, in fact, helped my mother in any way that day.
Not satisfied with my reply, I heard her asking my mother the same question a few minutes later. I waited with baited breath, wondering what my mother would say; but my mother unhesitatingly replied with a proud smile on her face,
“She was busy with her school assignment and I didn’t want to disturb her so I didn’t ask her to help me.”
I was ecstatic with my mother’s response to the aunty’s (infuriating) question but I do wish I could have told that aunty (and others like her),
“Aunty, when my mother first held me as a baby, her first thought was not “I can’t wait for the day when my daughter will help me in the kitchen” so, what is your problem?”
Why do people think that girls are born with the sole purpose of cooking meals for their family and playing host to guests? Don’t girls have the same right to study and pursue their careers as boys do?
I just can’t understand these aunties who wear the newest lawn prints and flaunt the latest cell phones, all the while thinking that they are ‘fashionable’ and progressive, while in reality, their perceptions are still stuck somewhere in the 1950s where girls were only thought good for kitchens!
And what’s worse is that these aunties condition their sons to have the same mindset. Boys and men walk into their homes demanding their sisters, daughters, mothers and wives to bring them food, serve them tea and iron their clothes. If it weren’t for such aunties, our men might be able to fend for themselves and make themselves a cup of tea at least. Aren’t we doing a disservice to both, our sons and daughters, by perpetuating this mindset?
“Let’s make girls super-women who can cook, clean, raise kids and work a day job and let’s make boys super-dependent on these already over-burdened women – even for basic things like hanging a towel out to dry!” Ugh!
We read about women like Helen Keller, Fatima Jinnah, Indira Gandhi and so forth. We talk at length about how they challenged the status quo and showed to the world that a girl can do much more than lay out a five-course meal on a beautiful table. We can’t stop raving about strong women today like Muniba Mazari and Lisa Randall who have taken the reigns of life in their own hands and stand tall in a ‘man’s world’. And yet, when it comes to our own women – our daughters, sisters, mothers and wives – both, men and women are truly happy when they make gol rotis and iron clothes to perfection.
Look around you and you will see that women are working side-by-side with men and are able to have successful careers. Whether you are a man or a woman, promise yourself that you will let go of these stereotypes that a woman’s education is only enough to get her a good rishta and her sole purpose in life is to cook, clean, get married and have children. Promise yourself that you will encourage others around you to re-think these stereotypes and stand up for women’s rights – for basic human rights.
Every girl has a right to live her life and make her own decisions. She has the right to get an education and she has the right to pursue a career or not. It is her decision.
Perhaps, we’ll live to see the day when boys are also asked by aunties,
“Aaj kia banaya? Ammi ki help kari thi kitchen mein?”