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How to MAKE a Girl in Ten Steps

April 12, 2016,

For those who don't want to break her in ten steps.
1) Welcome her into the world with the love and care that all babies deserve. Be grateful for the beautiful little human curled up in your arms. Free a hand to backhand slap those who say sympathetically "Don't worry, next time you will have a boy." Pre-dig a ditch into which you can push people who don't know biology 101 and blame the mother for giving birth to a baby girl. Seal the ditch.

2) Give her the same childhood that her brothers enjoy. Don't divide world into inside (women) and outside (men). Tell her that the public spaces are hers too. Hold onto the back of her bike as she learns to cycle for the first time. Smile as she giggles when she feels the wind on her face. Tend to her scraped knee when she falls down and send her right back on. High five those who say keep her inside because the sun will make her dark, ugly, and un-weddable, with an iron brick, with nails, on the face.

3) Create a space where boys and girls can learn tasks and skills without worrying about gender specificity. Don't strictly divide the chores between your girls and boys. Let him wash the dishes and let her help you fix the sink. Your son will be grateful he can cook to survive hostel and your daughter will remember you when she changes a flat tire in the middle of a deserted highway.

4) Make values gender neutral. Flip the norm. Inculcate in your girls the courage to stand up for themselves. Celebrate them when they are brave. Teach your sons to be kind and polite. Bring out their compassionate selves. Teach them how you can stay true to yourself. Put empathy above all else. But also show them both how to upside down kick people who scream "log kya kahenge" (what will people say) from rooftops.

5) Empower her with education. Identify her passion and talents and point to her the spring board from which she can leap, spread her wings and soar. Roll your eyes back into your skull if people tell you "But...but why are you sending a girl to study when she has to get married soon?"

6) Teach her about her body with love, understanding, and tenderness. Give it your all to ensure that she has a positive relationship with her own body. Shatter the concept of an ideal/normal body or skin type. Don't just tell your girls and boys to be comfortable in their own skin, practise what you preach.

7) Shove sickly sweet gajar halwa into the mouths of people who tell your child that he/she is too short/too tall/very fat/so skinny/unacceptably dark. Between the shoving of the gajar halwa, tell your child "Beta/Beti I give you explicit permission to ignore everything this aunty/uncle says because they are absolute morons who don't respect what God created and are still suffering from a postcolonial hangover which makes them hate their own skin. Also, please be critical of the media you consume. " Okay, maybe not in those very words.

8) Talk to her about sex positively. Ensure that your relationship is open and supportive enough for her to come to you with her worries and doubts. Guide her gently through the rough terrains of puberty, adolescence and teenage. Kick shame out of the conversation. Don't rest her honour and worth in her vagina. Teach your sons about the female form and physiology. Show him how to respect women irrespective of his relation to them. Subject those who blame sexual harassment on the victim to a lifetime of Taher Shah songs and Donald Trump videos and tell them they asked for it.

9) Imprint on her mind that she doesn't need another person to make her happy. Enable her to stand for and by herself if needed. Teach her that no man is entitled to her body. No man can control her thoughts. And no man can demand her respect and servitude against her wishes.

10) Invest your time, effort, and resources into her present and future. Don't kill her aspirations in the name of arbitrary age limits by which she is supposed to marry and bear children. In fact, tear up and burn the cultural check list for women thrust upon her since her birth. As a parent, as a sibling, as a spouse, as a friend, be the cheerleader that she has been for you throughout your life.

tl;dr: Remember she is a human being before anything else. Be allies for each other. Don't unload your cultural baggage on her shoulders and make womanhood a straightjacket to control her. Zoom out of her womb. Period. (And don't make that a taboo either)

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