Issue No. 19 • Spring 2018
I was raised in a community that firmly believes that having a son is more exciting than having a daughter. The members of my family hold the same belief, and although they’ll of course love the child no matter what, there is always a sprinkle of disappointment in the moment when they find out that “It’s a girl”. Having a son brings joy to the family, the block, and ultimately the conjoined population of Forest Hills, Rego Park, and Jamaica Estates, entirely infected with Bukharian Jews.
My father always says, “It’s not that we prefer having a son over a daughter, it’s just that a son can carry on the name!” (Hyphenating wasn’t a thing in Soviet Russia.) It’s quite unfortunate that my older sister and I were both supposed to be boys, and turned out to have the lesser reproductive organ. My father’s mother always wanted my Mom to try again, “Maybe you’ll get lucky this time!” Thanks, grandma.
This belief is deeply rooted in our community, and the preferential treatment of men over women only sprouts at the moment that a mother finds out the sex of her unborn child is female, when suddenly everybody’s slightly less interested. Once the child is born, things will be average until her Bat Mitzvah is substantially less exciting than a Bar Mitzvah, then later when she finds out that she isn’t allowed to stay out too late simply because “she’s a girl”, and when she can’t go away for college it’ll be a real shit show. Even something as simple as wanting to sleepover at a friend’s house — “Bukharian girls sleep at home. End of conversation.”
My parents are more modern than others, and my father proudly says “We raised our girls with the same expectations as we would have if we had two boys.” So although we never had sleepovers, my sister and I were always expected to excel in each aspect of our lives, be it education or work. We knew that we had to make up for not being men by achieving a professional title that would be as respected as “Mr.”And at least we were given the opportunity to do that, as opposed to the other parents who treat their daughters like investments: they’ll feed her, raise her well, teach her to cook, clean, be silent, and then marry her off to the richest man that’ll have her so that hopefully she, at one point, will reimburse them by having a son of her own.
So is that all that bukharian girls do? They never leave the nest, hope to find a suitable match within the community and hope to have sons? Where does that put my sister and I if we refuse to remain in the nest, and do not hope for a suitable match within the community? Does the “-ova” at the end of my last name no longer hold any significance since I neglect my “duties” as a bukharian girl? Since I do not identify with the characteristics of a bukharian girl and an insufficient amount of genetic material resulted in me being a woman, where does that leave me? I aspire to be so much more than that definition of a female in my community, but I was raised in a community that firmly believes that having a son is more exciting than having a daughter.