Saturday, October 6, 2012

Are We All Sexists?

My new post for IBNLive....


Courtesy - memegenerator.net
 
How often have you walked down the aisles of a toy store and picked up a “Barbie” for your adorable nephew? Never, right! It’s not as if we have anything against that statistically challenged, perfectly coiffured doll. Why, we have always bought them and their million accessories for our little girls! Smiled indulgently as we watched them spend hours dressing and undressing Barbie and cooking imaginary meals for a party. Now, imagine your son doing the same. Wearing a crown on his head and pretending he’s Ms Universe! You’d be horrified, right? Pray that this too shall pass and he will come back to his senses.

How often have you sniggered at a man wearing yellow shoes and a pink shirt! Asked your son to stop crying and be a man. Called your friend henpecked when you saw him cooking and cleaning up after dinner, while his wife sat with a glass of wine in her hand. Dismissed the overtly assertive woman in your office as a bitch. Honked at the slow moving car and mumbled – only a woman can drive so badly!

What if someone came up to you and called you a sexist? You’d be shocked out of your wits. Protest loudly and sputter that you believe in equality and have respect for members of either gender.

Bullshit. The truth is we are all sexists.

I don’t blame you. It’s the way we have been brought up. Colour conditioned since childhood with the ‘pink is for girls and blue is for boys’ mentality. Girls were meant to look pretty in their frills and boys were meant to look cute in their dungarees. We went to toy stores and didn’t bat an eyelid before picking up trucks for boys and dolls for girls. Watched umpteen movies where the beautiful girl gets rescued by the swashbuckling man and rides with him into the sunset. Found ads where the woman cooks and cleans and worries about her husband’s growing waistline, perfectly normal.
 

These are essentially roles men and women are meant to play in a normal society – the woman as the care giver and the man as the caretaker. That’s how our hairy, cave-dwelling ancestors lived. Papa caveman hunted and mama cooked and bore cave-papa children. She was loving, compassionate and ever willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family’s happiness. He was strong, independent, and always ready to put up a fight for the sake of honour.

I agree times are changing. Traditional ideas about male and female qualities have shifted to serve different purposes and in line with different roles. We have women heading multinational companies and uber successful chefs who are men. A man can change diapers with as much ease as a woman who plans business strategy for her company.
But let’s admit it, a man behaving like a woman or woman cussing like a man, makes us uncomfortable. We expect our daughters to be ladylike and our sons to be knights in shining armour. We are happy playing roles society assigned us. When a woman is in trouble she knows she’s expected to fend for herself but still expects the men around her to come to her rescue. When they don’t, she feels let down. The definition of honour for men and women is completely different. A woman with multiple partners is a slut. A man with multiple partners and a fickle mind is George Clooney.

Men burp loudly and crack fart jokes. Women don’t.

Many of you will argue that you brought up your girls like tomboys. You encouraged them to ride cycles and climb trees. But how many of us will brag about sons who loved dressing in frocks and loved playing house-house.

Pity, that we are happy with our girls acting like boys and not otherwise.

Pity that to be a feminist you have to play the victim and diss men.

We still have a long way to go to be a seamless society where your gender doesn’t define the roles you can play.

Till then we will let our prejudices colour our perceptions. Indulge in lazy stereotyping – crack dumb blonde jokes, think calling north-easteners is our birth right, insist all Punjabis are loud and boorish. We do it because it suits us. Because we are too lazy to question what has been handed to us for ages, why black cannot look like purple, why feminine and masculine should be gender specific.

And those of us who dare to think and behave differently are regarded as anomalies. It takes decades for the rest us to realize they were not stupid but right.

Rights and wrongs evolve with knowledge. Rigidity will get us nowhere. And till realization dawns upon us, we will all continue to be sexists.






70 comments:

  1. picking up a barbie for my nephew would be great but he'd throw it away. Not because its a girl thing but because his innate traits are of the opinion to move out of the house with a plastic bat and continue with his favourite game. Point is, he doesn't have the patience and the ability to entertain himself by combing a doll's hair. So you can now complain about the Creator being a sexist.

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    Replies
    1. Not all boys are destructive,not all girls are caring. Such traits are more individual rather than gender specific.

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  2. Nine out of ten boys do not play with dolls or soft toys. They like to break stuff instead. That leaves one little guy being slightly different than the others. He will grow up to be a sexist later of course. Even if we buy pink clothes and mittens for a boy he will not start becoming a girl.Even categorizing pink for girls and blue for boys is not sexist, really. Girls like pink, boys dont appreciate that color much ...its an innate attribute, not induced by society. However coming to more serious scenarios, when a woman is not expected to speak or laugh aloud, and when a woman is not expected to hang out with her friends post marriage and has to tag along with her husband..- people who are advocates of such things are sexist I must say.

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    1. Anita, it's all about letting your gender define how you should be behaving. Times are changing. The definition of normal is continuously evolving.

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  3. My sons played with Barbies and kitchen sets. They also played with GI Joes and huge dangerous looking guns. Boys prefer to line up the wall with Barbies and blow them up with their toy guns. Cest la vie ... But both boys love to cook so kitchen sets were prized toys. And no, it did not bother me much if they liked girlie stuff too. They would get henna on their hands when little ... and stopped when other boys teased them. I guess my sons are metrosexual and I am ambivalent about gender segregated behavior

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    1. A lot has to do with parenting. Pity most of us are scared of letting go of our kids. Letting them discover themselves through their own trails and tribulations.

      Only a confident parent will let her child be.

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    2. I played with my sister's kitchen set and she played with my plastic animals and hotwheel cars. I used to sew new hair on her plastic doll's head with a large needle and wool. Then she would wet the hair and comb them. Thankfully, my parents never stopped any of this. It was more of a creative fun for me. And I stopped eventually not because someone laughed at me but because I found new interests. I have always believed that you should let your child find his/her own interests and that should begin at a very early stage.

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    3. And looking at you now! Getting tattoos and trying to be all macho :P

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    4. *gasps* That is such a sexist statement! :P

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  4. you have a point there....

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  5. Having an elder sister, my son adored and followed whatever she did, even play with dolls and kitchen sets. When he got a little older, he saw other boys playing with cars and super heroes and adapted to it. He loves watching MasterChef, though he doesn't cook. He used to paint his nails too...Its only when other boys his age started taunting him, he changed his ways.
    But, we are sexists in a way.

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    1. I completely get that. The necessity to blend in because you don't want to be the odd one out.

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  6. My son made me buy him a kitchen set that he played with diligently. More than me dictating what they play with, they decided what they wanted to play with. And, the elder one chips in the housework and has learnt making tea. Next on is learning recipes from mom. When mom can drive, work in the home and beyond and do everything a man can do, why can't the sonnies? It all begins at home.

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    1. Absolutely Rachna. A lot depends on mature parenting. Only a confident Mom will bring up sons who respect women.

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  7. Bang on Purba!!! Couldn't have put it better! And yes, I do buy common toys for my daughter and son (much to the shock of many!). Rules made at home are what shapes them for ever!

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    1. Wow! And your kids and their future partners will thank you for that.

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  8. not just day to day things even in picking profession we have stereo types... remember Junior B as Nurse in Dostana, how funny was that... surprising part is some professions that are womenly when not paid become manly when paid e.g.. Stitching at home is a women's job but master tailors are all men, same goes for cooking at home it is a women's job but in 5* hotels most chefs and staff is male..not just sexist we are also hypocrites....

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    1. But I feel realization is the first step towards reform. At least we are accepting that our thinking is flawed and needs to change.

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  9. I believe that there are some intrinsic qualities in both boys and girls that makes them chose guns and Barbies respectively.

    In my own house, my husband cooks, dries clothes and folds clothes and does other stuff which typically a woman does. My husband's uncle is a house husband by choice and his wife works.
    Things cannot be put into neat little boxes and labelled as sexist any more. Things are changing and so are attitudes.

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    Replies
    1. It's so heartening to see men defy conventions. I believe, love plays a big role in it.

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  10. Great publish, very informative. I'm wondering why the opposite experts of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I am confident, you've a huge readers' base already!|What's Going down i'm new to this, I stumbled upon this I've discovered It positively useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid different customers like its helped me. Great job.

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  11. Most girls have inherent motherly attributes...watch them play ghar-ghar and its obvious when they put their dolls to sleep or do their hair.
    However, I was pleasantly surprised observing my sis-in laws seven year old daughter getting ready for office and ordering her four year old brother to take the baby doll to the dentist...I am not sure whether the boy would listen to her sister once he is nine or ten, but roles are reversing and children quickly imbibe what they see.
    Very pertinent questions and a great article Purba.

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    Replies
    1. And when you come across such instances, you know things will change for the better :-)

      And thanks so much, Alka.

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  12. Thankfully many of these attitudes are now changing. While it is not right to impose a certain gender-centric behavioural code on children, there are certain traits which are different in a girl and a boy. My daughter, despite my constant egging and pushing, doesn't have the slightest interest in playing with cars and prefers those horrible pink toys (barbie et al).

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    1. Hahaha...if she's happy being girlie, so be it. At least later she can't turn around and blame you from keeping her away from cars and guns!

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  13. Well it is the way a child is brought up. What we talk is what the child imbibes. If a boy touches the utensils in the kitchen instead of correcting him, he is told he is not a girl. He can also be told that ma or whoso ever washes the dishes will have extra work or some other way distract him. No, we do not do that because that's how we have been brought up and that's how we shall raise our child
    It is a pity but barring a few all tend to have a herd mentality !!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A child will learn from what he sees. And like you said, with patience and reasoning we can instill the right values in him.

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  14. Purba,

    Hard hitting but factual.

    Take care

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  15. So well put. I realise that even I am a sexist, but this helps me to cure myself.

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    1. Yes! there's nothing that's too manly for a woman. It's all in the head :-)

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  16. Purba, I strongly disagree with your premise. You are judging a society by the innate male or female traits. You are mixing up issues here- not playing with barbie or not cussing in public cannot be compared to having multiple partners or being CEOs of leading companies. The natural instincts cannot be equated to something that is quantifiable intelligence or a life choice.

    I would think Indian society is better than Western societies in this regard. We may be just take the Barbie away, but won't bully him being gay for playing with a doll! We also won't start calling women "soccer moms" just because they are doing the "man" job of driving their kids around for games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't expect everyone to agree. That's beauty of challenging conventions, you always get to learn new things.

      What I'm simply trying to state is - it's time we stopped equating masculine and feminine with gender.

      Not all women are nurturing and caring. Not all men are fearless brutes.

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    2. I do agree with lack of desire to be agreeable to everyone! :)

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  17. There is something beyond social conditioning, which is more instinctive and inborn. As Alka has observed, roles can be observed and learnt, but traits cannot. We then only need to fight with Nature for making us so. Also, come to think of it, if there is no difference in the way men and women are, what is the fun in life? We are always ready to imitate the undesirable actions and behaviour of the other sex and call it equality. Cussing, smoking or having affairs are by no means great things to imitate, are they? However, a woman CEO is another matter altogether.

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    1. And that's one of the points I have raised. Why is it acceptable to raise our girls as boys and not the other way round?

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  18. Upbringing can be conditioned but not the biological roles. Learning to help at home for men and working in office for women are the demands of modern times and a part of evolution with time!This is what the change is all about,Purba:)

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    1. Absolutely, learning to change with the demands of new age living is my idea of progress.

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  19. I agree to your post and most of the comments too.. I have a 9 yr old son and 3 yr old daughter. I donno if it's natural instincts or whatever, my daughter plays all the girl games like cooking, feeding the toys, cleaning etc..and my son used to jump and break things in that age. And none of it is taught by me or anyone. But that's true...a girl could be a tom boy and no one finds wrong but a boy could never be a barbie doll. Atleast in India, I could wear pink shirts for my son, here the colros are defined pre-birth..However, a very good read.

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    1. I'm sure by the time we have grandchildren, it will be cool for boys to play with Barbie who goes to Office and orders boys around :-)

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  20. I dont agree to ur Post ..not even a single sentence..the things which you wrote happen..but u hav made a complete different meaning of them..that meaning which has no meaning n is incorrect...simply examples or instances which happen doesnt prove tht a point is right...u hav to understand why they happen.. like if u drink water and eat grain that doesn mean u r a bird

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  21. The title may put us off but we can't help agreeing with the contents. 100% that is! A unique angle..brilliantly presented!
    Thank you Purba for this food for thought!

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    1. Thank you for bearing with me and my idiosyncrasies :-)

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  22. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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  23. well I wear a yellow and pink shirt sometimes :) so does it mean I am not a sexist :)

    and bang on the last two lines in the article.. rigidity will take us no where, although I have my doubts on the education too..

    lets hope for the best is all i can say ..

    Bikram's

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    1. And you keep wearing your yellows and pinks!

      Delete
  24. In Calcutta Rituporno is challenging these assumptions big time. Since a lot of people like his films, they're very confused!

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    1. It take immense maturity not to snigger at him and his sartorial choices.

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  25. My younger son has a lot of girl friends (he's 4) and he loved playing with their dolls etc till his sexist 8 year old brother told him under no circumstance was he to embarrass him in public any more!! LOL!! I was really pissed of with that! I made it a teaching point for my older son, but the damage was already done.
    I love your post and you are quite right; even when we believe that we are fair, we invariably do resort to stereotyping others.

    For the record, I absolutely do not believe that pink for girls and blue for boys is an innate preference; that's just ridiculous!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are all a combination of feminine and masculine(yin and yan). The Nataraja is half man, half woman.

      A well balanced person is one who embraces both without inhibitions :-)

      Delete
  26. Interesting post and super interesting comments.
    Was reading a few pages of A Billion Wicked Thoughts by Sai Gaddam (INK Fellow 2012) and it said that social environment has very little influence on the male brain. A 2 week old male child suffered an injury on his external genitalia, the parents consulted a urologist/sexologist and through a surgery made it into a vagina and through a series of psychological sessions right from the very beginning, the male child was raised as a girl. Girly toys and girly things didnt excite that child, a skipping rope was used to tie his brother or that he preferred playing with guns and cars. And much later when he got to know of whole thing, he realised why he felt the way he felt...
    So most of it is innate and some of it is due to changing roles!

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    1. Your comment is the most interesting. Can I have the link please?

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    2. Here it is ... http://www.billionwickedthoughts.com/sample.html

      Delete
  27. When we were young we used to watch this show 'who the boss' where the male protaganist was the house keep and the woman a head of a big office. It felt odd then a lot, But that is actually turning into a reality now.

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    1. Times are changing and so should we :-)

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  28. I was suggested this web site by way of my cousin. I'm now not positive whether this publish is written by him as nobody else recognise such distinctive about my problem.You are wonderful! Thanks!

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  29. I don't know if this sexism will ever ever disappear cause it's too deeply etched and imbibed in our minds. Wonderful post.

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  30. I don't know if this sexism will ever ever disappear from our society. It's too deeply etched and imbibed in our minds. So deep that I'm not even sure if I've ever realized it's not okay.
    Wonderful post. Keep going.

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    Replies
    1. We have been socially conditioned to accept what we see. A man behaving like a woman is subject to ridicule. But I feel a lot has to do with the exposure we get. How much we imbibe from what we see around us.

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  31. speaking of children and bringing them up .... I am still not sure if these ways of bringing up kids are also the right ways:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13581835

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9028479/Couple-raise-child-as-gender-neutral-to-avoid-stereotyping.html#

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  32. You realize thus considerably when it comes to this matter, made me personally believe it from so many varied angles. Its like women and men don’t seem to be involved until it is something to accomplish with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always care for it up!

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  33. as OSHO puts it .. when crying is human then why it is wrong for men to cry .. even men have emotions .. why crying is only associated with women and not men..so we are sexist in a way !

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  34. I completely agree with you. We are not made like "something". It is teh society's prejudices for sure. Will I find my son funny if he plays with barbie and laugh abt it without shame? Sure!
    No one is conditioned to tendencies, to situations - yes..
    Loved the post! :)

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  35. Guilty as charged. i do like girls a little soft and boys a little tough:D

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  36. As always nicely written.
    But, I agree with this stereotyping. I don't think there is anything wrong with it. I think, its this stereotyping that has given birth to chivalry. And the fact that girls behaving boyish is less "looked down upon" than boys behaving girlish is because of the popular belief that women are a weaker sex(no offense).

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  37. It matters not that we proclaim ourselves to be unbiased, that we claim WE will not burden our children with h=gender based way of living. We will encourage, our boys and our girls, to go ahead and do what they fancy, and to be what they want irrespective of the gender bias. It matters not because, large it is not true.

    Here's why. We may not openly admit, even to our own selves, but ever so subtly do things. We're conditioned that way. It would make us uncomfortable to see a little boy in a frock, playing with barbies all day long. You see, it's not natural. We'll call him gay, we'll take him to a doctor and demand that the doctor cures his girlish behavior.

    A very, very long way to a gender neutral way of looking at the society. And a very determined effort needed to condition ourselves again, to rebel, what's now in our subconscious.

    Well written, really made me think.

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  38. Sorry for the typos, I was as you see, in much haste to comment.

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