“She is equivalent to a son for me,” my maternal grandfather exclaims as one of my relatives (yes, Auntie, it’s you) comments on how having a son would have been better for the family, instead of the two daughters that he has. According to her, an elder brother would have helped my father with the expenses of the house.
I don’t understand this unending need for sons. If you don’t have one, you want one. You have one, you want two. You have a younger one? Oh, an older one would have helped more. It’s almost as if the amount of sons you have directly correlates to the amount of money you have.
Coming back to my grandfather’s statement, I took great offense to my aunt being called the son, because she is not one. She is a daughter, and a very happy one at that, thank you very much.
I am ecstatic that my granddad deems my aunt equal to any son he would have, but I feel indignation at her or any other daughter being referred to as “the son.” “Why?” people ask. It has something — actually everything — to do with the fact that I cannot understand this tendency to label anything and everything that shows power, responsibility, and strength as male.
Because, apparently, females are delicate beings who are born to remain protected within the confines of their family.
The fact that she, as the daughter of the family, took up the responsibility of the house after Mom got married and my maternal uncle died, somehow makes her a son. Because only sons can take the responsibility of the family. Only sons can run the house. And if a daughter is capable enough to do so, she isn’t a daughter anymore. She suddenly becomes a son.
Because daughters don’t run the house, sons do. And if she were to still be referred to as a daughter, a female, it would somehow challenge the very essence of patriarchy.
My aunt never married, for her choice of guy was rejected in the house. She stays with my grandparents and works and earns money and pays the bills. Everything that is, conventionally, as per the society, the duty of a son. This is the poignant aspect of patriarchy that hits me right in the gut. Anything that shows fearlessness, power, strength, ability, and control is labelled as male. And people deem it as growing equality — that finally a woman’s contributions to the family are being recognized.
How? By referring to her as a son?
Why can’t a daughter still be called a daughter despite being the bread-owner and the decision-maker of the house? Why should she be a son?
I don’t see it as equality. For me, equality would be when a people can get it through their skulls that a daughter doesn’t have to become a son to take responsibility of the family. A daughter, without being called a son, can be the head and can supervise the house. She can make sacrifices, and she can stay with her parents — not because she is attempting to be their son but because she is their daughter.
And at last lies the most crucial part. Who is going to perform the last rites of my grandfather when he dies, for he has no son? My mother will. My aunt will. They are his children too, aren’t they? A son and a daughter are equal, reflections of the same two individuals, albeit a bit differently. The fact that one of two has a Y chromosome instead of an X doesn’t make a difference, not to me. It shouldn’t, not to anyone.
It’s ironic that sons are born from daughters. Yet we insist on labeling a daughter as a son, or at least an equivalent of one, when she shows supervision and authority. She is the authority; she gives more to the family. She gives a child.
Daughters can be in control, and they need not be called sons.
There’s only one thing I want people to get.
Sons can be delicate, and daughters can be strong. Sons can be insouciant, and daughters can be controlling. These traits are unique to the individual, not to the gender.
For me, my children would always be my children to me. My daughter would still be a daughter if she runs my house, and my son would still be my son if he doesn’t.
Stop this incessant labeling. Your child, irrespective of being a son or a daughter, can sustain you.
Prithiva Sharma is a seventeen-year-old student from India. She is a literature enthusiast and fanfiction writer. She is currently pursuing a major in English literature. Her writing style is exceedingly personal with hints of political commentary.