Men don’t cry. A pregnancy is the end of a career. Women are bad drivers! These age-old ideas – telling us what a man and woman can and cannot do – are known as gender stereotypes, and are quite rampant in our culture. We list out a few for you, along with the efforts being made to challenge them.
This one is a bit new for India, but we are latching on to it fast. As soon as the baby arrives aunties and uncles start gifting pink or blue things. We have adopted this rather foreign concept so quickly that even our women-only autorickshaws and banners in the metro are also pink. Pink is fast becoming a ‘feminine’ colour with boys even being ridiculed for wearing it.
Thankfully, some of the hottest Bollywood men – Abhishek Bachchan, Ranveer Singh and Saif Ali Khan regularly wear pink shirts and totally rock it too. Pink is also a part of our traditions – no wedding is complete without the pink saafa. So here’s wishing an exit to this fad, much faster than it arrived!
We have no one to blame this one on. Motherhood is as integral to women’s lives in India as water is to ice. Most women too, believe that parenting is a God’s gift bestowed only upon them. It is a popular notion that only women are good at raising kids and men can just ‘help’ them with it. Feeding, changing nappies, waking up at night are all on the mommy’s task list, while daddies go out and earn money for a child’s future.
However, an advertisement by a famous diaper company has tried to break this stereotype beautifully. It shows a number of daddies feeding, changing and putting their babies to sleep with total elan. The advert ends with a beautiful message – it takes two to bring up a baby and that the gender of the parent is immaterial.
This is a natural precursor to parenting’s only for women. You can either have a baby or do business deals, not both together. Pregnancy cuts a woman’s career short. But this is not just a notion. It is a reality for women across the world and worse so in India, where the workplace is still largely a men-only club.
A recent advert featuring Radhika Apte turns this notion on its head. When her boss, a woman, pacifies into ‘focusing’ on her child and baby, Apte cooly shows the boss her new office proudly announcing the start of not one, but two beautiful beginnings.
So starts a new advertisement featuring India’s Olympian wrestler Geeta Phogat. The advert goes on to list a host of others do’s and don’ts for women. Women are meant for housework. Women don’t wrestle or play sports. Women are not physically strong. And if any woman steps out, she will bring a bad name to her family. Enter Geeta Phogat, breaking every single of these notions and bringing only glory and laurels not just to her family but to the whole country.
Oh yes, women are not the only victims of stereotyping. Men get it too and the worst of all is the pressure not to cry, not to show emotions, the pressure to be strong and the pressure to be ‘manly’. As soon as they cross the toddler age, where crying is acceptable, they are told by parents, teachers, siblings, doctors, coaches: “Boys don’t cry!”
And so what do the boys do? Some pass the test – they don’t cry. Others internalise it and feel the pressure through their lives. A few take it out and make others – especially women – cry. A short film ‘Start with the Boys’, featuring, Madhuri Dixit, makes this point rather poignantly. Yes, men do cry and the most successful ones have done so openly and publicly – US president Barack Obama being the most famous of them all!
We can bet that all of us have cracked a joke or two on women being bad drivers. Imagine a scene on an Indian road. A huge traffic jam. Two cars have banged into each other. One driven by a man, other by a woman. Who does everyone around lay the blame on – must have been the woman!
One look at YouTube and you will see video after video featuring bad women drivers. But are women causing all the accidents in the world? Purely going by statistics and given that men around the world generally have more access to a self-driven vehicle, in all probability men are causing more accidents around the world.
Just because someone isn’t putting all those videos on YouTube does not mean that men are any better than women. Women are flying planes, running trains, commanding submarines and so there ought to be something wrong when a four-wheeler is considered not their thing!
Men propose, women accept. Men pay for dates, women just smile. Men kiss, women kiss back. We all have been brought upon on Bollywood and Hollywood films showing the women just waiting for their man to free them from the castle, taking them away from their homes (mujhe le chalo Raj, remember DDLJ!), being all ‘honourable’ and ‘chivalrous’ doing things for their women.
Whatever happened to the girl that perhaps wants to initiate a kiss, propose to that cute kid in the class and take her man out on a date. In a short film, “Go Dutch” Gul Panag slays all these stereotypes in – ironically – on an arranged date. A lot of this is perhaps odd, new and quite unsettling. But won’t it be so much more fun if all the doing pressure was not just on men!