The concept of “feminist” wasn’t really on my parents’ minds during my childhood. They obviously believed in gender equality, but the complex socio-political nuances of modern feminism weren’t something they deeply pondered. And yet, they somehow raised two feminist daughters.
My parents, and especially my father have never fit exactly in the mold of “strict Indian parents”. Sure, they were more rigid than most other white parents, (though, in retrospect I am immensely grateful my parents gave me that structure), but never excessively so. They prioritized education above all things. I am convinced if my parents had been given 2 sons instead, they would have been raised the exact same way.
Despite my total utter lack of athletic ability, I was strongly encouraged to pursue soccer and even though I had zero interest my dad always tried to make me a better player. “Be more aggressive” was something he used to say. In terms of soccer, that kind of failed because I was way more interested in talking to my friends than running after the ball.
My dad pushing me to be more assertive was a constant theme, and I didn’t realize for the longest time that his encouragement was unusual. Traditionally indian daughters are not taught to speak up, or advocate for themselves. From school, to friendships, to extracurricular activities my parents always wanted me to make sure my voice was heard. Bossy? That word didn’t have any meaning, my parents wanted their children to be leaders, to take charge.
( I suppose in my case, this probably backfired slightly because I am now a relatively argumentative, stubborn individual. I also still don’t understand, at the age of 20, what “talking back” is. Maybe I’ll figure it out if/when I have children of my own.)
I was taught some traditionally feminine tasks, not because I would have to do them for my family some day, but because my parents wanted me to be self sufficient, and because I now live on my own for the majority of the year and they didn’t want to have raised a total slob.
The type of woman my parents expect me and my sister to be is one who is smart, self possessed, independent and confident, and never anything less.