Before I am called out for differentiating between a daughter and a son, I am sure deep down we all have heard and witnessed this distinction- so why not just confront it?

“Ye meri beti nahi, beta hai!” I have always grown up listening to this in my home. And all those years, it would make me feel content, and why not, right? You’re being given a better position- the position of a son. But when you break it down to layman’s terms, it really isn’t. It constantly makes you feel that your gender is not worthy of praise itself. That if you’re better or strong-headed, you’re not just a “daughter material.”

As we grow older, we learn new things; we understand how the society works. And especially in Pakistan, the P stands for patriarchy- it really does solve the puzzle of our societal needs, no? (pun intended). In the culturally rich tapestry of a desi household in Pakistan, where traditions and expectations often intertwine, I found myself under the weight of patriarchal conditioning. From a young age, we are ingrained that only a son can fulfill the desires of his parents; someone who can carry on the family name or take up traditional responsibilities. The daughters are just a delicate part of the family, who doesn’t have to do any ‘manly’ work. From terms used like, “Akeli larki tu maa baap ki zimedaari nahi le sakti,” to “Ye akela larka maa baap ka fakhar hai,” we see a really big contrast.

The arbitrary notions of “izzat” and “sharam” hung heavily over my head, dictating my every move and stifling my ability against the same freedom granted to my male counterparts. The constant policing of my actions, decisions and interactions reminded me that my worth was not determined by my individuality but rather by conforming to societal expectations if gender did not play a big enough role.

When I mention, “Patriarchy forced me to stay a daughter when all my parents needed was a son,” it defies all the preconceived notions we have for daughters and sons. The preciousness of every child’s bond with their parents is overlooked when gender barriers start playing their role. What is it that a daughter can’t do? What is it that a son can’t do? It is essential to challenge the prevailing narrative that parents need a son to fulfill their needs when all they need is a loving child- a happy family. Tu phir kia beti, aur kia beta?

Breaking free from the shackles of patriarchy is an arduous journey filled with moments of self-doubt and societal resistance. However, possible. It is the only way to challenge the status quo and advocate for equity. The emotional impact of patriarchy is not limited to me alone; it resonates with countless others who have been stifled by its grip. It is a constant battle to prove that gender should not determine one’s value or potential.