One of the hardest struggles for me is dealing with womanhood. This issue is problematic because many parents raise daughters very differently than their sons. Many parents raise their daughters as if they are precious gems needing protection from the storms of life. However, sons are raised to become warriors that will brave those same storms. So, on the surface, men are repeatedly being socialized to believe that women are helpless and need protection. So, it perpetuates this cycle of men being superior to women. In comparison, I was raised with this belief that a man’s natural-inclination is to protect women. So, I needed to be protected from ‘men,’ ‘sex,’ and the other ‘vices’ of life. In the process of learning my role as a daughter, I learned the role of my younger brother in becoming my protector. Unfortunately, I would often be told that he is a ‘boy’ or a ‘man’ and that I am a ‘girl’. So, the behavior(s) of men became acceptable because males will be males. In growing up to accept that women are constantly in need of male-supervision or the protection of men, I began thinking more about womanhood and how these ideologies affect myself and women all over the world. In my struggle of formulating my sense of womanhood, I believe it is important to explore my upbringing, along with why many females’ sense of identity within womanhood is stunted and even detrimental in their progression of growing into healthy women within the world.
For my parents, I will always be their little girl. I will always be deemed as that gem to be ‘untouched’ and ‘unscathed’ by life. However, is that fair to me? Well, I can definitely understand that most parents are afraid to see their daughters as being: sexual, free-thinking and able-bodied individuals that can make decisions for themselves. This is not to say that male-children don’t undergo a similar experience, but for me I have always been held to a different standard than my younger brother. In seeking to protect me from the world, my parents have always held my hand. They’ve always felt comfortable in walking me through life without me taking the lead. Nonetheless, I am definitely grateful for their guidance and love, but this form of ‘protection’ can hurt you. Yes, I understand from an Islamic perspective that a father and husband should protect his family, especially females under his authority. However, this ‘protection’ doesn’t help as much as one would think. In being protected, I’ve been saved from many of the vices in the world. I’ve always been too afraid to step near a night-club, drugs, alcohol, sex or dating. In growing up,these weren’t options. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean I was truly protected. It just meant I didn’t have these experiences. In the long-run, I would later find out that I was naive, ignorant, and unable to handle various situations that would come up. Yes, I believe that parents should keep their children from vices, but I also believe that parents should give their children autonomy. One day these children will grow into teenagers and will have to navigate through the world alone. If anything, parents should equip their children with the necessary skills to travel through the world. In many ways, I never had important conversations with my parents about various topics because they never thought I would encounter certain issues. In some cultures, women aren’t taught about their bodies, specifically their reproductive system. I have many friends from a particular culture and we would sometimes talk about female-issues, but there would be an unsaid tension within these conversations. So, I asked why it was so hard for them to talk about: menstruation, sexual health, and sex. They told me that these issues weren’t spoken about publicly in the home, but they were simply issues to be confronted in marriage. In the back of my mind, I thought they were totally backwards. I couldn’t believe that their parents wouldn’t tell their daughters about these important issues, but due to my own arrogance, I was in the same boat. It wasn’t until I took classes in school over sexual-health and menstruation that I truly learned about the biological aspects of the body’s functions. I remember when I was 11-years old, my mother had printed out a huge-packet over menstruation. I laughed at it. I laughed, but I read it. So, it was definitely awkward for my own mother to grasp such a topic with her daughter. Later on, I would later feel confident to talk to my mom about menstruation due to the classes I had at school about Sex-Education. However, I never had a talk with my parents about sex. For many Western parents, there is always the talk about the “birds and the bees” or sexual-intimacy. No, the extent of this conversation was “Stay a virgin, wait for marriage and only adults do this”. This conversation may not provide enough inspiration for a teenager to stay celibate until marriage, but it was for me. On top of this, I have a father that will never find comfort in men courting his daughter. There’s always that raised-eyebrow and mean-look from him that will scare curly-hair straight. So, my parents are and will always get love and respect from me because I know that being a parent doesn’t come with a how-to guide on how to parent children. However, I would have liked those intimate conversations about: girlhood, womanhood, sex, marriage, sexuality and men. I definitely do not believe that all men are dogs and needy for just sex out of women. Unfortunately, I’ve been taught this for a good period of my life, so in many ways I objectify myself by believing that men are only sex-mongering individuals without souls declaring all women as sex-objects.
I can’t speak on the experiences of anyone else, but I believe that parents should treat their daughters as individuals. Parents should understand that their daughters are: free-thinking, sexual, rational, and independent beings. If she isn’t treated as such then she will continue to believe that she is in need of someone else to make decisions for her. Not only this, but this prison-like restriction of her freedom can breed rebellion. If you keep a bird caged up then just open up the cage’s door and you’ll see that caged-bird take flight. This is no different than a young woman that experiences oppression in the guise of protection. In another real scenario, if someone harvests anger inside of themselves then they will eventually explode. This is similar to nature, a cloud can only hold so much water; eventually the cloud will send rain, sleet or snow. So, this is important to think about when we think about the way we deal with the issue of protection. Now, I am not saying it is okay to delve into destructive activities in the guise of freedom. I don’t agree with destructive-behavior, at all. I just believe anger and frustration can definitely be directed in a constructive and positive manner. So, I definitely believe that protection can be imprisonment. This imprisonment can stunt a female’s view(s) on life. If she is unable to decide for herself then how will she know what is truly best for her? One father is quoted saying in an article, called ‘Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex’ saying:
You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall. I’ll help. But I think there’s value in getting lost. I think there’s a strength that only comes from fumbling your own way out of the darkness.
So, it is time for parents to allow their daughters to discover their own likes, dislikes, needs and wants. Now, I definitely sound like a feminist…and I am. However,I just feel it is really important to honor people. How do we honor someone if we take away their options? Each of us appreciate the ability to decide about the welfare of our own lives, especially as adults. So, it is important to honor the next individual’s right to decide about their life, even if its your own daughter.
So, in my own struggle of dealing with womanhood, I have accepted that this business of womanhood is serious. We may never think about these issues because they may not necessarily concern us or be relevant, but they are. Womanhood differs from one country to the next. Womanhood is affected by various factors. So, its really important to understand that treating daughters as if they are precious diamonds that will never get scratched up in the chaos in life is detrimental. If anything, let them get scratched up, but just let them know that you will always be there for them.
For extra reading:
“Dear Daughter: I Hope You Have Awesome Sex”: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/brand-dear-daughter-i-hope-you-have-awesome-sex/