South Asia’s Good Girl Syndrome

I was talking to her about fishing for compliments from the men in our lives, and I told her that men are usually clueless, so usually it’s better to just ask them straight away… And said yes I know. I asked him (her husband) too if am I a good daughter-in-law!? And he said yes, you are a good enough daughter-in-law, you fulfill your responsibilities very well. She then proudly declared she doesnt even let anyone in the house drink water by themselves too, she is the one who brings it to them. She’s such a good daughter-in-law. 

Well good for her but I was a bit amused by her description. She was more concerned about her family image than her spousal or personal image. TBH, she’s just like many other married South Asian ladies, for whom being successful in life has become synonymous with being a good daughter-in-law, or so they have been taught to believe. It’s funny that while the focus remains on their marriages and their married lives, it’s more about  being a good daughter-in-law than being a good life or a good mother for that matter. And being a good person,  a successful, open-minded confident, outspoken person who knows what to do in their lives is an odd thing out. 

In a society where the reason for most men to marry is that “mum is getting old, she needs some help”, no wonder the wife is seldom thought about outside her pre-designated circle of duties. A woman is good enough till their is food on the table, ironed shirts in the wardrobe, and the kids’ homework is done on time. The emotional development, the psychological satisfaction and the personal social interaction of the females is a grossly overlooked arena in our so called family set up. 

The good-girl syndrome has plagued our society, where good girls dont question, and dont answer. They bow down their heads to the patriarchy, and often to other women too. And a good girl keeps the sanctity of chadar aur chaardeewari (household). In the opinion of general populace, having a career of her own by choice defies that apparently. If she harbours her own identity, her own financial stability, her psychological satisfaction, or her emotional tranquility, that is somehow bound to affect her status as a good homemaker girl. Because we don’t think our girls are capable enough to handle both. Or worse, we’re afraid they will handle it good enough.

And the irony is that this is not a blanket approach. The majority of the society has different criteria for their daughters and daughters-in-law. We’re talking about good, educated, reasonably stable households. They want both their daughters and daughters-in-law to be educated. But daughters so that they’ve a good future ahead of them, they make something of themselves; and daughters-in-law so they make good part of the family name. Where they’d praise their daughters for being intelligent, hardworking, high achievers and master multi-taskers for maintaing the work-life balance, suddenly the life has too much of work to do to leave room for anything else for the latter. Not even genuine appreciation, as well, this is what every good girl does anyway, doesnt she!? 

The society needs to stop confusing home-making with house-keeping. Marriage is a relation that is to provide a lifelong friend for yourself. Where two people help each other grow together and individually. The warm hearts and relations in the family are more important than the warm food. And a happy girl is a good girl. A better wife, a better mother, a better daughter-in-law. Let the partners in marriage decide for each other’s happiness first. The duties in the house will get decided about and done by themselves. 


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