A Letter to my Daughter

Photo by lauren lulu taylor on Unsplash

Dear daughter,

I wish that I could tell you that you can overcome anything that you set your mind to and that no obstacle will stand in your way. That with passion, enthusiasm and vigour, you could change the world someday. That with hard work, dedication and commitment your voice will be heard. I want to tell you that you can achieve anything you want to in this world. If I did this however, I think it would be untrue. This is not to say that you can’t do all this but just that the odds will be stacked against you. I wanted to protect you from it all, I wanted to be your shield. But I’d rather break the mirror of illusion and show you what is real.

As a child you will hear stories of princesses trapped in towers. You’ll hear about the strong knights who rescued them with their might and powers. You’ll read about princesses with goals of finding their prince. You’ll see Cinderella stuck at home giving dirty clothes a rinse. You’ll read about the princesses who wake up only when they are kissed. But I want you to know that this is all implicitly sexist.

There will come a time where you’ll bleed once a month. Men won’t understand what you’re going through because we don’t talk about these things enough. There will be ministers and lawmakers who will tell you what to do with your body. It’s just not a level playing field which is why sometimes I worry. I’m sorry that you’ll be judged on the clothes that you wear. The length of your skirts apparently justifying any unwanted look or stare. When you go out at night, there’s always a risk or chance, that you’ll probably have to fight off an unsavoury advance. The truth of it is that some men are dogs. The same ones who will be cat-calling as you walk along. I’m sorry that when you start to date there will be double standards and layers. You could be branded a “slut” but your brother hailed a “player”. I want you to be ambitious in school and sail through one exam after another. Don’t think for one second that all you can be is someone’s mother. I fear that you’ll have to develop a thick skin to rise above it all. In some courses at university you may well be the only woman in the entire lecture hall. I’m sorry that when you start to go to work, you’ll feel obliged to wear a full face of make-up. You’ll do the same job as your male counterpart but may actually be taking a pay cut. I’m sorry that in the world of work, you’ll find some unfortunate realities. Such that you’ll have to choose between a promotion or starting a family.

To be honest with you, even with the Indian community sometimes you can never win. If you’re unmarried and over thirty it’s like you’ve committed a sin. A community that expects a girl to fly without wings. A community where your degree is worth less than a finger with a ring. Fair and lovely and they will sing your praises but they fear a darker complexion. A group of people that will call others racist but lack basic introspection. A place where you’ll work twice as hard and get half the respect you deserve. When you go into the living room, you’ll find a table of men waiting to be served. People will look you up and down and assess you on your weight. A community that doesn’t care enough about its girls and too much about what other people say. When you get married, they say I’ll have to “give you away”, as if you’re someone’s property. The main thing is that your partner treats you with respect and your relationship is centred on equality.

This is but the tip of the iceberg, I’m afraid to say. My girl, I will be there to fight with you, every step of the way.

Lots of love,

Your father

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