“What a nice girl, she’ll make such a good wife someday.”
I was nine years old when someone first mentioned the possibility of marriage to me. At nine years old, the only things on my mind were coloring and finishing the Harry Potter series before everyone else in my class, but definitely not becoming a bride. The thought of marrying someone extended no further than the pretend weddings I would throw for my Barbies, but those words were thrown around so casually in my Indian culture that at the time, I didn’t think anything of it.
I only understood the true meaning of this the older I grew. The weddings and family events always came with the questions of my future potential marriage or the comments disguised as compliments such as “What a beautiful girl! She’ll make a pretty bride.”
Why is it that these statements are given so adoringly to little girls, as if all they should aspire to be in life are good wives? Why is it that as a girl grows up in society, everything she does is somehow seen as working toward a hypothetical husband?
The societal norms that accompany the institution of marriage make “compliments” like these incredibly common for young girls.
While this may seem like speculation, it is evident in the wage gap, which is still present in many countries today. In America alone, the difference in the average income of men and women has not proven to be able to close completely with just equal educational opportunities. This is a chain reaction, creating a mentality that allows for these implied roles to continue.
In contrast, as boys grow up, they are not bombarded with these same pressures. Instead, they are questioned about their future career goals, schooling, etc. While I often wished for these questions growing up, these alternate pressures have negative psychological effects on growing boys as well.
Boys are constantly forced in the direction of a “respectable” career which will bring in an income and title that will swell their father’s chest with pride and their mother’s heart with love, even if that is not what they want from life. For young men, it is seen in society that going into a career field that can win society’s approval is more important than a career that brings you joy.
This mentality also ties into the responsibility of familial duties for boys. While their perceived duty differs from that of women (to provide love and attention), they are daunted with the responsibility to generate an income which supports their future wife and children.
The long-standing perception of men as money providers and women as affection providers in the grand scheme of life has negative implications for both genders and feeds into gender inequality. By forcing a certain future on someone, they are squeezed unjustly into a box which they do not fit into. The underlying notion that a woman will become a mother and a man will become a father and follow the stereotypes which accompany those roles limits everyone, and demands replacement.