A recent comment of one of the umpteen reality shows on MTV India - Teen Diva, left me flabbergasted. One of the judges told a girl, and I quote here, “You did not dance like a woman. Your dance moves could give a complex to a man.”
Now, will a man tell me how it is to behave like a woman? What the judge really meant was conform to what the society and culture, put in place for years by men for their own advantage, define and dictate how a woman should behave like. You know the kind of declarations your great grandma’s generation made – “Girls should only be seen and not heard”. Well dear, if you wish to see the pretty sight I make, you jolly well learn to hear me!
So what is really expected out of you when you are asked to be feminine?
Using a small flowery handkerchief in the worst of your colds instead of the more practical and convenient “gent’s” white one; Delicately eating small quantities at a candlelight dinner even if you are famished while your date takes the bigger morsels; Smiling ever so softly, barely hinting at your dimple at the funniest of jokes when you would rather laugh out loud showing all your teeth; Screaming at the slightest of cuts in public, forgetting the fact that the waxing last night was more painful than the worst of hurts you have ever had; And of course, feigning ignorance on subjects of science and economics and business and sports if the group of male species that you are in has only superficial knowledge ... aah I could go on...
Fortunately (:)) or unfortunately, men also have “Be a man” statements hurled at them, which I am sure must be suffocating for them as well. They need to foot the bill at a date, they cannot be scared of lizards and cockroaches, and they must know not only how to drive but also how to get around every city they take their girl to.
Many women, and men, are proactively trying to break this kind of gender stereotyping because it limits both sexes. If the minute a baby is born, he or she is compartmentalized into pink and blue, how is the baby supposed to develop its own unique identity? If the society has already cast the mould the personality of the new born must assume, we run the risk of endangering new thought and creative innovation. We have to empower our kids early on to make their own choices – real choices, because we lose the power of distinguishing our own choice and our conditioned choice as we grow up.
My mom always tells me how some relatives used to raise their eyebrows when as a kid I preferred playing with building blocks and cars rather than dolls – she had to shield me from being called a tomboy. I wasn’t. I loved frilly frocks and all colors pastel, but I did not love dolls. That’s my next point, just for the sake of going against what the society pronounces as normal, we need not consciously change ourselves to define an identity unique to the social construct. I need to choose and select what I genuinely like, and I should be allowed to do so.
Many people mistake this kind of an attempt to break free as gender war. The latter is completely different. Even though certain female stereotypes originate from a male-centric psychology, at this point, I only wish to focus on the confining aspect of the typecasting of genders for both males and females.
So, ladies and gentlemen, here’s my take on the age-old rhyme:
Sugar and spice and everything nice,
That's not really what all little girls are made of.
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails,
That's hardly what all little boys are made of.
There’s more to your little boy and little girl,
If only you could let their true selves unfurl.