Sexism at home: What happens when a woman experiences this with her parents? What should

Lakshmi, the clinical psychologist from The Center for Psychology, added: “Many a time, women come into therapy feeling unseen and unheard despite giving their all in both their career and at home. They feel like they are doing their best but are not given the same recognition that men receive, especially at home.

“Women also tend to start developing higher standards for themselves despite all the effort they are already putting in. This leads them to being more pre-disposed to anxiety and depression,” Lakshmi added.

When counselling couples, psychotherapist Yang said she often uncovers deeper issues related to the couple’s expectations of each other, shaped by their respective gender biases and the lack of communication about their role expectations in the relationship, she said.

Sexism is a double-edged sword that can be as limiting to men as well. “Societal expectations of masculinity can restrict men from expressing emotions openly or engaging in nurturing behaviours, especially when they transition to becoming husbands and fathers,” Goh, the counsellor, explained.


To begin, it is important to bear in mind that our parents and relatives usually do not mean any harm.

“They may not even realise that they are perpetuating outdated gender norms as these are the expectations and stereotypes that they may have experienced themselves while growing up,” said Goh. “Hence, it would be helpful to centre conversations with family members with the intention of educating them, rather than making highly charged, emotional accusations.”

One good approach is to start by listening. Yang suggests that both daughters and sons allow their parents to share their expectations of the role of a daughter or son.

Make an effort to understand the elder relative’s perception, reflect your observations of their perceptions to them, and share how you feel after hearing their views, she advised.

If something said or done makes you uncomfortable, choose calm moments to initiate a conversation – this will create a more receptive environment, said Goh.

She added: “For example, one may say to an elderly family member who has expressed the expectation of women having to stay at home to take care of the household: ‘I understand that this arrangement has worked well for you in the past, but it is increasingly challenging to raise a family on a single income in today’s times’.”  

“In responding to criticisms and unfair statements, using ‘I’ statements can be very effective. For example, one may say, ‘When you make comments about my weight, it makes me feel insecure about my body’,” Goh suggested.

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