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Do You Understand The Difference Between Sex And Gender?

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By Sonakshi Samtani:

When humans lived in caves, men brought the wood and women cooked. Then we moved out of the caves and thousands of years later we have seen a new order of unconventional genders spring up. While some have made their peace with it, the majority is still discontent.

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Ours is a society where a career oriented woman who doesn’t wish to be a mother, would fetch all sorts of degrading remarks, because apparently, she is going against the law of nature by asserting the freedom of will. It is also our society which looks down upon even the concept of a house-husband for it is the job of a woman to cook and take care of the family. It is astounding how we are conditioned to believe that a woman’s life is incomplete unless she has borne a child and also that a man is rendered useless if he wishes to stay back as a homemaker.

The Indian society is greatly gender rigid, for we have prescribed unbending roles to both men and women and experience great discomfort if any of those established roles are compromised with.

It is important to know the difference between gender and sex. While sex is biologically determined, gender is socially construed. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, attributes and activities that are considered appropriate for men and women.

These gender roles aim at governing everything, from our behaviour to our sexuality. However, it doesn’t come as a surprise that our largely patriarchal society has inherent prejudices constituted in its gender roles. In theory our country has progressed, but the fact is that we are still caught in the shackles of patriarchy. The female population is still facing numerous socio-economic hurdles in gaining access to quality education. It can be clearly attributed to our orthodox mindset which deems fit for women to accept their role as home-makers. Even the educated employed women are under the glass ceiling preventing them for getting higher posts and equal pay as their male counterparts.

Gender stereotypes are further strengthened by the countless matrimonial ads, television commercials and cinema which remind us how women should be homely, soft spoken, petite and timid. Sex which is already a taboo in our society is considered even more distasteful when spoken of from a woman’s perspective. The virginity of a woman is equated with the honour of the family she hails from. Sadly, most of us have made peace with the irrational assumption that women don’t need to express their sexuality, at least not until they’re married. Numerous deodorant ads reinstate the assumption that sex and pleasure can pass off as acceptable for men, but never so for a woman.

So, when a woman gets raped, the society goes ahead to attribute it to her behaving in a brazen manner, for a man is a sexual being and can’t keep it in his pants if a woman provokes him by dressing in a certain way. While one can go on and on about what the repercussions of the gender rigid culture are, it is important to first realize that the society cannot govern our freedom of expression and choice, each of us as an individual has the right to decide what is normal and acceptable for us, a right that shouldn’t be compromised with.

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  1. Khyati Thaker

    I agree with the Gender discrimination. In INDIA ,in most of the cases, once a girl completes a Bachelor Studies , She is expected to get married and settle. If she wants to pursue Higher studies and achieve her dreams and do something in Life for herself, her family and even society, She is given the tag of Rebellious. If a girl is not ready to get married even after the 26 years of her age and mingles with the Male friends or colleagues, she is been called as Loose and Easy. And this is not only seen in Low Background or less educated people,it is also believed by some highly educated people in the society. Do we have the solution for this? How to change the mentality of the people in the society today??

    1. Raj

      Oh please, there is gender discrimination against men too. When was the last time the society was OK with house-husbands who sit and take care of the home while the wives work themselves to death providing for him and the kids? Would the society even allow such a man to get married? When was the last time the society said “Oh too many men are getting killed doing dangerous jobs like mining, the police and the military. Let’s get women to do share this burden and also get killed in the process?”
      How to change the mentality? By destroying these traditional tribal structures and re-affirming individuality. A person should be allowed to exist for his or her own sake , not as a sacrificial animal to be sacrificed at the whim of the society.

  2. Raj

    Your article had a decent and neutral title about sex and gender but you turned it into a one-sided anti-male harangue which victimizes women and conveniently leaves out men. What about male stereotypes? What about the gendered roles that men are still stuck with? What about the society’s brainwashing of young boys to disconnect themselves from their emotional selves and turn them into violent, aggressive and cold creatures whose job is to fight and kill for the society and to die providing for the wives and kids.How about some discussion about that?
    Sad to say, but at the core, your article reeks of bigotry towards one gender, not unlike the hindu fundamentalists who victimize hindus and blame muslims for everything.

    1. Sonakshi Samtani

      I agree with you on some of the points that you’ve made. I don’t believe that the society is entirely fair towards men either. However, one can’t ignore the fact that women face the wrath of the orthodox customs and beliefs far more than men. Living in a country like India, you can’t run away from the reality of the largely patriarchal society. I did mention a bit about house husbands too. However, given the present social conditions it is imperative on our part to sensitize the masses about gender roles and the prejudices against women.

      However, it wouldn’t be right to say that the society is brainwashing men to disconnect themselves from emotions and be violent and aggressive. Yes, there are certain rigid definitions of ‘masculinity’ in our society but they don’t tend to imply that men are emotionless or violent, aggressive and cold creatures.

      It would be a bit of an overstatement to say that men are meant for “fighting and killing for the society”. We don’t live in the medieval ages, entering the Indian Army is a matter of choice and is out of patriotism and a desire to serve the country.

      Thanks for your feedback!

    2. Raj

      What is this patriarchy you keep referring to when the vast majority of them men also suffer due to the actions of a few men at the top? There are prejudices against men for all kinds of reasons including for being men.

      Our society tries its best to make their sons into warriors and fighters who will risk their life and health in order to serve the family and the society. The only way this can be achieved is to disconnect them from their feelings and convince them that their role is to serve. Of course we do this a lot! Almost all crappy jobs are done by men. If not , we wouldn’t have so many men (and almost no women) serving in the army etc.

      And why aren’t there any women doing the fighting and killing for the society through the Indian Army? How come women’s rights groups never demand this honour? Aren’t women patriotic enough?

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