By Nishtha Relan:
“At one point, she’d wanted to hurl the whole breakfast at the wall. And then she’d remember why it was that men had temper tantrums and women didn’t: clean-up.”
â€• Kristin Hannah, Angel Falls
“Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”
â€• Charlotte Whittona
I found these quotes not just witty, but very intelligent too, with the way they lay bare the banality and quaint internalization of the gendered roles our society has injected in us so inconspicuously, so much so that we are blinded to the most outrageous stereotypes and prejudices that have cropped up.
Months have passed, but some of us still feel the sting of one of our honorable minister’s son, Mr. Abhijit Mukherjee, denouncing and dismissing the female at India Gate protesting for justice for the 16th December gang rape victim as ‘highly dented and painted ladies’. His was the voice of a mentality that believes in victim-blaming, and points out objects like chowmein, short clothes, exposed skin, porn, alcohol, and our guts to step out, unfeminine behavior and why the rapists say “she asked for it”. The advocates of morality, our police inspectors, politicians and Khap sarpanch, all perpetrators of patriarchy, might as well blame the girls for having breasts and vaginas, or in fact, being born at all! The idyllic notions of beauty, chastity and virtue still arrest our minds, where we call girls ‘whores’ to insult them. A female employer is still seen as uncommon, other than to titillate the mind. A woman may be a teacher, an astronaut or a defense officer, but she will always be secondary to the husband, because he is ‘the man’.
It is interesting to note that the gender stereotypes do not only apply to the females. It is almost like the stereotypes and prejudices dictate men to be cruel, harsh, indifferent, outgoing, and treating women (other than their mothers and sisters, of course-they are divine figures, as says our culture) as their inferiors, as the weaker sex that needs to be taken care of, which makes males the Alpha protectors. They have to earn the bread and cloth, they have to make sure their wives don’t break out of the conventions, otherwise they won’t be men enough, will they? Gentleness is taken for uxoriousness, and a man who is sensitive is “so gaayyyy, dude”! As if being a homosexual is a crime. Sounds just like us, doesn’t it?
So now that we have realized where the problem lies, wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we could try and edit the lessons we have been given to inhale? The change starts with us; it runs at the speed we can carry it with. Our parents were burdened by the strict ‘values’ that their elders taught them, but they can see the threads of society changing colors. We have the liberty to differentiate between ‘moral values’ and irrational prejudices. And we know that grazing in a herd is so passÃ©! We can break down the gender roles, and see that girls can love death metal music as well as some guys can, that they feel insecure only because they have been trained to question their own importance. Imagine for a moment your future life with a possible partner. Wouldn’t you rather have a brainy, confident, accommodating partner rather than a culturally shaped specimen of patriarchal design?