When it comes to women empowerment, it is important to explore the psychological underpinnings of cultural influences, and parenting styles on the development of gender norms.
Parents, particularly in the South Asian culture, tend to restrict their girls’ opinions and silence their voices, in the name of “niceness”, “respect”, and “obedience”, fearing societal shame, and attempting to uphold an unrealistic image of perfection, especially when it comes to the family unit.
From a young age, girls are not allowed to freely be themselves. They’re discouraged from expressing their thoughts and emotions. Any questioning or critical thought is silenced. After years of feeling restricted and not accepted for who they are, girls often feel anger and rebel against their parents, their upbringing, and their culture, acting out in aggressive or passive aggressive ways – which is saddening because parents are usually coming from a place of love and want the best for their children.
However, this kind of restrictive or authoritarian parenting style can cause girls to grow up with a sense that it’s not okay to be themselves or to have a voice. It can take years of therapy and healing to recover from this.
So, I teach parents to challenge unhealthy cultural and gender norms, encourage their girls to think freely, engage in critical thought, speak their minds openly, and voice their opinions at home by creating a safe space for them, talking to them, and consistently checking in with them about their lives, school, friends, thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
When girls learn their opinions and voices are accepted and valued at home, they’ll go out in the world and freely do the same. Moreover, they’ll teach their daughters, and granddaughters, this creating lasting change that will hopefully sustain a new chapter of empowered women.
-Faiza Haroon, MACP, RP (Qualifying)