The Invisible Daughter Syndrome – Rashi Bindranotyourwife1214
The Invisible Daughter Syndrome
As women and daughters especially in households where sons are given priority, even today unfortunately women are somehow made to be quiet, or be “invisible” if they don’t measure up to the expectations set by the family. This doesn’t mean she isn’t independent, it means she is not heard. Her dreams and desires are nonexistent, causing a lot of women in situations like this to self-sabotage in some way. It usually happens with the people they date, or the type of friends they attract or even shrinking down their own dreams and goals. Occasionally, it shows up as eating disorders, “the desire to shrink oneself” to almost give in to the fact her role is not significant in the life she leads.
Why though do we encourage this sort of conditioning despite living in an era of education, access to science and proof that all humans are unique in their own way?
Every child/ daughter is different. Some are very outspoken at a young age while some are shy and takes them longer to speak or give an opinion. Sometimes their gifts/ talents show up later in life. Yet we become so quick to dismiss a child who may stutter, or who isn’t sure of what they want or is in their own world that we run to the next child who becomes like a shiny object for us. And we take that shinny object and treat it like the most precious thing on earth while we dismiss the other daughter.
We let her wonder what is wrong with her, why isn’t she allowed to speak her mind like Aunty Reshma’s daughter Pooja, and why her thoughts aren’t valid. . She grows up trying to be the best at everything she does but doesn’t handle criticism well not because it is an ego thing, but because she sees it as her value being dismissed. Her relationships never seem to make her feel like she is good enough, or worthy. She either settles for a partner that holds her back; where she consistently works for approval or keeps pushing aside her own desires. Her ability to give is strong but her ability to receive is weak. Her friends use her to their convenience and she eventually spends most of her life battling a low self-esteem without even realizing she herself is in this cycle.
How could she see that a difference of opinions as a tool to succeed when all her life anything she has said or done was not given any importance?
Let’s take a glimpse at Seema. Seema comes from a medium size family; two older sisters, herself and a younger brother. Both her sisters grew up knowing they had to have a good job, find husbands and spend time giving back to society. Seema didn’t know if her sisters every day dreamed about traveling the world or becoming a writer, she just knew they all had to stop what they were doing when their dad came home from work and it didn’t matter how much homework they had, they couldn’t sit to eat till their younger brother and dad were at the table and hot rotis were coming their way. Both her sisters and her than sat and the discussion usually flowed between her sisters and brother. They were encouraged to give their opinions but as long as it agreed with their father’s point of view in life. Seema still remembers the time when she declared she wanted to be a writer. She wanted to write stories and help women suffering from domestic abuse. Her entire family shunned the idea with comments like “you need a real job, and men don’t marry artists, and you dream too small no wonder you will end up doing nothing in life”. Anytime she wanted to chime in with her opinions on segments she saw in the news, or if she didn’t agree she was told “ she knew nothing” and to best go in the kitchen and do something. A pattern had emerged for Seema; she had to put her brother’s needs first despite her being Involved in several projects and working, if anytime an aunt or uncle began an intelligent conversation with her where they discussed different viewpoints on business, economics; etc her parents would notice, interrupt and send her away to go help in the kitchen or help the hostess whose home they were visiting. She noticed her sisters weren’t subjected to that, neither were any of the kids ( young adults) of her age. In fact the adults would be fascinated when Gita and Mini spoke; they were loud, very opinionated and seem to build their own relationships with the aunties. Their parents seemed to encourage them even if they came off as haughty.
Women like our Seema grow up and struggle with finding a proper place within their environment. They keep themselves super busy by being involved in many activities and things. They usually hover over that threshold of wanting something bigger and better in their lives but unable to express themselves. They may want the promotion, set their boundaries but they are so wanting to feel heard and accepted that they allow themselves to settle for temporary validation.
Why do we do this? Why as a society/ community we shun women from expressing their values/ thoughts and opinions? Why as parents we judge and care what other people think instead of focusing on what our daughters think of us? Why do we place this gender burden on them? We allow men to do and say whatever they want and whenever they want. We then get older and complain about an unfair patriarchal society. But aren’t we encouraging this by shrinking our own daughters/ sisters?
What does make a good daughter? Is it meeting a set of generational expectations or love and being a fulfilled human being?
Cultures, religion, spirituality, are all secondary because we are first a living breathing organism before we are a gender and a name.
By Rashi Bindra