We Don’t Want To Be Good South Asian Daughters – Ravinder Kaurnotyourwife1214
If I asked you to conjure up an image of a good South Asian daughter, how would you describe her? Does her dark hair tumble to the ground? Is she tattoo and piercing free? Does an air of submissiveness surround her?
I find myself wondering – in 2021, what does it mean to be a good South Asian daughter? If I asked some of my family members, they would probably say something along the lines of being able to make perfectly round roti, speak well with others but simultaneously knowing when to shut her mouth is what makes a daughter that any mother would happily boast about. By all means, I’ll happily be that daughter that aunties refer to when they berate their children and use others as a superficial role model but I deeply question the term. Is it a compliment? Albeit a backhanded one? Should I be grateful to be considered as constantly inclined?
As South Asian women living in Western society, we’re often unable to conform to Asian or Western ideals and that includes societal, cultural and even beauty. The thought process that South Asian women are forced to voyage through reveals how we determine we should please and conform to the standards of either society. Our innermost insecurities take center stage as we often feel rejected by both communities in terms of the way we dress, behave and
carry ourselves. We tread this fine line of living as good South Asian daughters (simply living to please our parents in fear of what others will whisper behind our backs) and living for ourselves. You’re not alone if you share this sentiment.
For many of us, building and establishing a career is viewed simply as a placeholder for a husband. We’ll bid farewell to our parents and eventually become housewives once we fall pregnant. All sense of independence is abandoned, neglected and rather than a hiccup, this will feel like a factory reset. As time passes, the housewife badge will feel harder to unpin and our days will become consumed by the unsatisfying bounden duties at home.
Being a part of a culture where shame, blame and guilt are currency, often families are the source of toxic relationship patterns. In contrast, chosen families offer freedom and healing. However, it’s not automatically true that you must reject your biological family to create a chosen one. They aren’t mutually exclusive. We have to work to heal our relationships with our biological family and there’s no comparison between the two support structures.
To me, a chosen family is a set of people who see, accept and support all of me. And you don’t need to share DNA to do that. Reclaiming the role of being a good South Asian daughter cannot happen overnight but evaluating the term and redefining what that title means to us is a good place to start. Whilst the tricky narrative of a nuclear family is hard to navigate, and we cannot solely blame our parents, we’re unwillingly made to act as load- carrying members of the bio-unit and ultimately one that is eager to lend an ear. We’re expected to be emotionally and readily available. We’re there to distract and divulge. We’re liable to trauma. We’re there to blame and to be seen as the root cause of all the problems that occur in the household.
We’ll never be enough. There’s always that one thing that will set us apart from next door’s daughter – she’s friendlier, smarter or prettier than you. We can’t win. The harsh reality is that no matter our appearance, personality and mindset, parents, family friends, distant relatives and the South Asian community as a whole have an opinion of us, an expectation, and that is ultimately damaging to maintain but also to silently endure. Ultimately, our bodies and minds are not seen as something that belongs to us, we are often merely living to please the community.
Daughters are silenced, forced to keep their feelings and opinions to themselves, to escape the shame placed on their shoulders. As women around the world are increasingly discussing their mental health, a new generation of South Asian daughters are starting to push back when they are pushed down. With all due respect, if a life of silence, being subservient and simply enduring and ignoring equates to a good South Asian daughter, count me out.
By Ravinder Kaur | Instagram: @ravinderj98