Being a Daughter is Never Easy

Irmia Fitriyah
Posted September 18, 2010 from Indonesia

A friend of mine is on marriage crisis. She said, “I’ve finally found it’s wrong to speak out our mind”. But, of course I disagree with her. I said to her, “it is better to speak out our mind, rather than we have to repress our feeling that might explode some day, and ruin everything”. My friend finally agree with my opinion, but (surely) she’s still on that crisis.

I understand. With the social-culture construction attached to us as man and woman, there are so many things, which are not easy for us, particularly for woman.

My friend is one of many women who are trapped on that social image. She grows up in a family who believe that telling story about problems on marriage is taboo. She could cope with that rule on her first years of marriage, but then she can’t stand it anymore. At last, after six years of marriage, she explodes! She tells her big family that for years, she’s the one who feed her little family. Her husband is busy with his own world. He’d rather playing computer game, than thinking how to fulfill family needs.

My friend’s husband is not an unemployed. He works for IT Company, but he’s got his salary to pay his debts. My friends just know it recently. They had a big fight about it. Six credit cards and additional credit card on behalf of my friend’s name (without her permit) have made her no longer have the ability to cover her marriage –as if they were okay. She’s in deep anger. She’s extremely angry to know the fact that her husband does nothing about it. She gives him advice many times, but he never listens to her.

Well, man is grown up to be the decision maker. So, he decides what he wants. The problem is: what he decides gain nothing. He always fails in his business he starts. Meanwhile, my friend is a successful business woman. Though, my friend still has no good financial management system, but she has enough money to fund her husband (failed) business. Unfortunately, he accused her not to support him. My friend (for sure) got more (extremely) angry!

My friend said, her husband is always good to her. He’s never hurt her physically. Even, he does the household works. But his silence hurts her heart.

My friend is exhausted to fight alone. So, I said to her, “it’s not good to keep that situation, especially you have a child”. Then I suggest her to talk to my sister’s friend whom she knows well. My sister’s friend, she, was on her situation, and now has officially divorced. She also has one child. But my friend said, “It’s a son”. I wonder why, “still, they are children”. My friend them smile cynically, “you know I have daughter. If I divorce, who will become my daughter’s guardian when she gets married?”

Though, I felt annoyed about that, but I just kept silence. I know it’s not that easy to give progressive view to my friend about the issue of (marriage) guardian for bride at that time.

I know it is the common sense. Most Muslims in my country believe a daughter needs her father as her (marriage) guardian, while a son needs no guardian. * I am also a Muslim, and I disagree with that.

This is what made me want to do terrible thing (well at least to throw a sandal, or perhaps a shoe) to the people who express their condolences to my mother (when my dad passed away last May) while saying (in a symphatic way), “Poor you are, you still have two burdens”. Well, it refers to the fact that my late-30-year-old-elder-sister and I (a-30s-something-woman) have not still got married. We(the daughter) are still considered as the burdens of our parent (mother) –though in fact we finance ourselves, but (of course) it’s not counted because we’re still single. We have to get married some day. And, a father should be our our (marriage) guardian. That’s common (happy) dream of every daughter. So, those people believe we’re in pathetic situation. Our (RIP) father has no longer be able to be our (marriage) guardian.

So annoying!

It’s never easy to be a daughter. But this fact has challenged me. Challenge me to fight the injustice, the inequality. Also, challenge me to inspire many women to realize and try to make them aware that they deserve to have their self-integrity as human.

Our self, our body, our voice, our mind, belong to us.

I believe we always have choices, and power to decide.

Surabaya, 18 September 2010

Comments 3

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  • Andrea Bailey
    Sep 18, 2010
    Sep 18, 2010

    ...your post really resonated with me. One reason is that I have been thinking about the role money plays in our relationships, and how money is such a gendered issue, still. I want to get together with other woman and have a frank discussion about money some time. What does it mean to you? What did your parents teach you about money, directly or indirectly? How do love and money fit together? Your perspective and your stories are really interesting. The other reason is that you talked about daughters being viewed as burdens. I know when my father left the family, my mother was happy to have us with her, although of course it was hard to suddenly find herself in the situation where she had to care for us alone. What if the daughters are self-reliant, supportive, independent beings - are they still a burden? Maybe the two pieces actually fit together - if women have a chance to get savvy about finances, they will be empowered to stand on their own and also one day be viewed as supporters and providers, not as burdens. What do you think? I am still at the very beginning of exploring this idea, so if you have any critical questions, I would much appreciate them.


  • Irmia Fitriyah
    Sep 19, 2010
    Sep 19, 2010

    Hi Lilith! (what an interesting name! :) )

    All your questions are discussed in the book I mentioned above. It is really an interesting book! You should read it :) And, yes you're absolutely right about parental issue regarding money! According to the book, the way our parents teach us about money will influence the way we treat money :) Just like any other type of child development issue, it then becomes unconscious mind :)

    And about daughter as a burden, it should be treated as part of a culture (which means the issue may vary among culture). Anthropologically, children (in the context of parental) have two values, i.e. positive and negative. The positive value of children is for instance when parents think they bring happiness, and the negative one is when parents feel them as burdens. This parents' treatment to children are social and culturally constructed. Further, referred to Beauvoir, women are considered as the second sex. So, I think in most country in the world, women are treated as the second citizenship, which then lead to the fact that less space for women. Just like what happened in my country. According to the research I've ever done, daughters are considered as burdens because of tradional belief, which put woman as man's companion (in rude word, to be the less-wage-maid for the man, and they don't have to work to finance herself because there's a husband who'll finance her). Parents (for surely) teach women to be the real women (the one who can please their husband without considering their needs because it's not important since the husband is the one who finance them). Well, you can imagine if you find out a woman from a poor family. Her parent won't be able to support her financially, so it's better for her to find a man who'll support her financially. The logical consequence attached to it is the chance for her to be trafficked, or become the victim of violence is high. In the context of trafficking, most survivors I met said that they were trapped in the trafficking because they felt not good to burden their parents, so it was better for them to find a job with the expectation they would improve their family's financial (but the problem is they have less information, and not well-educated).

    On the other side, living in a (let's say) middle-class family where a woman can get better education and access to better job, it doesn't mean she's not treated as a burden. In my country, socially, a single woman has lower status than the married one. It (surely) affects the parents. It'll become like a 'sin' for parents whose daughter is not married yet. In the context of middle-class family in my country, the perfect age for marriage is around 25-27 for women, but for men around 27-30. If you're above that age and still not married, people will feel strange about you. This is what happened to my friend. She's married to her husband to fullfil that social status (with hope that she won't become a burden to her mom; her father died when she was still in high school).

    So, actually talking about the burden is not always financially but also socially. And I believe, financially empowered doesn't mean a woman is empowered. It's more than money to be empower. It is our mind and heart, that can make us empowered. Money (for me) is only a support material. It is important, but not enough to give us freedom :)

    Hope, I can give you clear explanation :)

    In friendship, Mia

  • Yvette Warren
    Sep 23, 2014
    Sep 23, 2014

    I must say that I believe we all need those who "have our backs" in negotiating relationships as all-encompassing as marriage. I wish my father had "had my back," rather than automatically siding with my husband, in my marriage.