Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why different attitude towards son-in-law and daughter-in-law?

Some time back Chandu uncle (Chandrashekhar Vairale) shared status update by Pallavi Trivedi on my Facebook wall, I liked it very much and from that I got an idea for the subject of today's post, why most in-laws treat very differently their son-in law compared to daughter-in-law? Same can be said about son and daughter but in this case many times difference is not that sharp compared to this case. This is the case observed in most societies and cultures but it's specially true in Indian society. May be this is because I have spent most of my life in India and don't know in detail about other cultures, but still the question is very relevant no matter about which culture we are talking about. Normally son-in-law always gets preferential or even royal treatment whenever he visits his in laws home but similar treatment is not offered to their daughter-in-law (except when she arrives for the first time). Now before people jump with their emotional statements and arguments about culture and traditions I know that this issue is not as simple and straightforward as it looks, there are many aspects associated with it and that's why I want to discuss it on blog and also want to know what other people think about this topic. 

I also know that some people try their best to support this tradition or practice and I am interested in listening to their argument, I am not against all traditions or any culture but want to analyze things which directly or indirectly contribute towards developing attitude of gender discrimination, frankly I don't care from which culture or tradition they belong. I think the one justification people might provide is, as son-in-law visits house of his in laws rarely or on specific ocasions and that's why he is offered such a exceptional treatment but it doesn't make any sense to offer similar treatment to daughter-in-law as she is a permanent resident in her in-laws house. It sounds very valid and strong argument but in today's world when families are becoming more and more nuclear this scenario doesn't exist in many homes, there are not many joint families around because of so many reasons but even then it's expected from daughter-in-law that she should help in household work whenever she visits her in-laws home but same thing is not expected from son-in-law, isn't this a very classical example of difference in attitude towards son-in-law and daughter-in law? Does anyone smell problem of gender discrimination here?? Now according to me this is not the issue of culture or tradition or natural role assigned to man and woman by God/society/nature (or whoever else people might want to attribute it to), but this is a simple case of gender discrimination, this is convenience offered to men by themselves, because of presence of male dominated society for centuries we have many rules specially favoring men and biased towards women and this one seems to be one of them, it's a human design to favor particularly one gender.

Second point which people often raise is that most of these rules and restrictions are forced on women by women themselves not by men (ideal example is issues between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law), so it's not fair to blame men for everything bad happening to women. Again, it sounds very fair and valid argument, very convincing and there is some truth in it but this is not entirely true. The issue here is not about who is implementing or forcing the rules or traditions but who designed them and why designed them?? Most bullets fired on Indians during freedom struggle movement were fired by Indian police men but we don't blame them for this, all blame goes to British officers which gave that firing order. But some how in this case it seems it is justified to put entire blame on women just because some autocratic activities against women are performed by other women, but very seldom people want to look into matter carefully and understand the actual reasons behind it. I am not saying that women are not responsible for some of these acts, they are very much at fault, but at the same time we need to consider social conditions which force these men and women to behave in certain way, and I feel those conditions (which involve everything from religion, culture, traditions, etc.) are main reason for this type of behavior from both the genders, and burden of blame rests on shoulder of men more because they designed most of these rules because of their dominance in society.

Gender equality is need of today's world, men and women are equal in today's society, we need to change our attitude and modify all traditions and rituals which openly discriminate based on gender, race or any other thing. I am sure there will be resistance or even uproar against this change but without struggle there will not be any change. Son-in-law or daughter-in-law both are same, there is no superior or inferior here, they should get the same treatment, if everyone understands this simple fact then I don't think any sensible person will oppose this new tradition of equal treatment to both, let's start this new tradition and let's begin it from  our own home.

Thank you for reading and please share your views on this topic. 

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing)


  1. Hi Vinay,
    Yes, it’s unfortunate to see the ill-treatment meted out to some of the daughters-in-law in our society and yes, the sons-in-law have traditionally been enjoying royal treatment. Our society is still very much male-dominated. This scenario is apparently undergoing a change, or so it seems from the surface. But dig deeper and you can still find shades of gender discrimination even today.
    Traditionally, the daughter has been considered as a burden on her family, especially on her parents. The hackneyed phrase ‘Aurat ek paraya dhan hota hai’ says it all. The parents therefore tried to ‘get rid of’ this burden as soon as possible. Marrying off girls at young and immature ages is an obvious corollary to this ‘crooked’ thinking. Add to this the dowry and marriage expenses and the burden was apparently too much on the girl’s parents. Once married, therefore, the girl was expected to stay with her husband to the end (barring of course the girl paying occasional visits to her parents on festivals and the like). And the most hated fear that haunted the parents was their daughter’s divorce. Divorce would have meant the girl returning back to her parents and bringing along with her a still greater burden: social stigma. And this was the last thing the girl’s parents ever wanted – being looked down upon by the society. The daughter was therefore always advised never to leave her husband: be he a scoundrel, a wife-beater, an alcoholic or an adulterer. Irrespective of how unfair a treatment was meted out to her the girl was always advised to bear everything and be the underdog. She was supposed to forgive and forget and be the paragon of suffering by never speaking out a word against her husband or in-laws.
    Needless to say, the girl’s family therefore held her in-laws’ family in much regard and gave the son-in-law a royal treatment. If you dig deeper you can see the girl’s family doing all this only to shy away from any future responsibility towards the girl. On the surface it seems to be a grand hospitality but generally such buttering up of in-laws, especially of the son-in-law, smells strongly of this shunning of responsibility towards the daughter, and more so of the shunning of social stigma that would follow in case the daughter’s marriage goes wrong in future. That’s why all the pampering of sons-in-law, I guess.

    1. Thanks a lot for visiting the blog and sharing your views on this topic. I have to agree with most of the things which you mentioned in your comment. Many years of suppression of particular class and gender in our society has resulted in some wrong traditions and this in turn developed deep rooted fear in people's minds who then hesitate to question these things and are not ready to go against them.

      Once we become aware of these things I think it becomes our duty to question them and try our best to change them, it may not be easy or may not happen in our lifetime but our duty is to try to change the system, this blog is very small effort towards that direction. I am glad to see that there are people like you who understand the problem and are willing to raise their voice against this system. Through these small steps only we are going to challenge it and one day change will come, it's bound to come. Thanks again for sharing your views.