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.
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.