Of breaking molds and barriers

gender

We’re brought up to believe patriarchy eulogizes men and downgrades women. It considers men superior to women!   I’d grown up thinking our society is unfair to women alone.  We are expected to be ideal wives and mothers, daughters-in law and doormats that don’t let out a whimper despite the demands made on us. Women aren’t given equal opportunity, nor pay parity.  Ironically it is women who are not only the perpetrators of the myth of male superiority even as they are the biggest victims. But are men really meted out any preferential status? Even though they are raised with a sense of entitlement and are labeled as the preferred gender, they too are slotted in fixed moulds early on in life and are expected to toe the line.

Men really are in no better position in our country. They are pulled in diametrically opposite directions when they have to choose between giving up their dreams to meet societal and familial expectations. A patriarchal mind-set enslaves men just as it chains women to zany ideals and exacting standards of how they ought to behave and act. With time and experiences I am willing to believe that the masculine ideal is as exacting of men as it is denigrating of women.  If women have to conform to ideals of beauty, men too are forced to fit into the ambiguous macho image. If society expects women to be soft, feminine and mild it encourages its men to fit into stereotypes of being the strong, resilient and silent ones sans emotions. If women are expected to put their career on the back-burner and meet familial responsibilities men are thought of as nothing but primary providers and are balked at if they ever display an instinct to nurture and care. Things are changing but most people still remain wedded to the ideas of traditional gender roles. The only legit emotional expression in a man is often anger and in a woman silent acceptance of her circumstances and calm even in the face of the biggest storms.

These gender stereotypes are thrust into our faces early in life. Gradually they seep through the layers of our skin and embed themselves in our impressionable minds and malleable little souls. We become clones of people in the generations before us. They start early on in life, when we dress our boys in blue and girls daintily in pink.  When we give our daughters a Barbie to hold and tell her fairy tales that endorse the fact she needs to be pretty and her life’s sole purpose is to wait for her Prince Charming ( Who is more often than not a prince harming in the Indian context!)  Or it stealthily creeps into our psyche when we give our sons cars and guns and overlook their rowdyism and aggression with the done to death and rather blanket ‘boys will be boys ‘expression. Or when an eyebrow is raised when our daughters and sisters are boisterous and all hell breaks loose at home if our sons are sensitive enough to express emotions or shed tears. They get crystallized when we praise our daughters for their beauty and our sons for their achievements.

Stereotypes perhaps came into being for us to slot people easily based on gender or race, because we can’t comprehend and are intimidated by anyone or anything that we can’t label or put in a box.  But they are at their very root judgemental and burdensome. They dilute our individuality and compel us to subscribe to a set of pre-conceived notions and societal expectations.They are tied intricately with our complex social fabric’s need to maintain status quo.

Of course we have the odd rebels and the  far and few thinking intellectuals who often break barriers and defy societal stereotypes. But such people are far and few.  When we’ll stop judging and alpha female or a woman who is a go-getter at work and stop praising men for pitching in at home or participating in parenting is when we’ll truly overcome these traditional societal typecasts.

For people who mock feminism, it’s time to see it in a new light. Feminism isn’t the opposite of patriarchy, rather it is based on a balanced and healthy world view. It puts individual before gender, people before labels and demands equal opportunities immaterial of gender. Women’s liberation not only empowers women it also liberates men from bearing the cross of traditional gender roles. Unlike patriarchy feminism works with the assumption both men and women have equal rights and that they are humans before being ‘Men’ and ‘Women’.

Why should we let our men cry

There’s this sensitive video’s been floating around on What’s app and social media about how right from childhood boys are told not to cry. It is a short clip, but it compels you to think about how years of being conditioned to hold back and not cry or display emotions turns our men into monsters. It ends with saying we should teach our men not to make others cry instead of telling them not to cry. Set me thinking, because all along I felt our society judges women alone harshly, but somehow it dawned home men were equally affected.

We live in a society that subscribes to stereotypes in the true sense of the word. We condition our men to be strong and silent, our women to be helpless and dependent creatures who need a man to protect them.

Yet ironically enough our women grow up to be resilient and men emotionally vulnerable. They just learn to conceal this vulnerability under a mask of anger and aggression. Years of repressing their emotions and years of internalizing violence, anguish and fear turns conventional Indian men into volatile volcanoes waiting to erupt at the slightest of provocations. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am. Apart from being the perpetrators of patriarchy, men also happen to be its’ biggest casualties. They are bound by the shackles of being providers and protectors.

We’re a society that subscribes to stereotypes to the tee, especially gender stereotypes. We trap our men and women in such air-tight notions of how they ought to be and how not, to the extent that it can be suffocating. We make no allowances for deviations and have typical roles carved out for both the genders. There are pockets of our society that have managed to rebel and rise above archaic notions and traditions. Yet such people are sadly still a minority and are mostly seen as aberrations by self-appointed social moral police. But what is encouraging is ripples of change can be felt, men no longer shy away from being seen as sensitive, they have become more comfortable with display of emotions. But we still have a long way to go….

Celebrating Womanhood

Don’t see my
courage in it
It’s a conspiracy
of silence

My endurance
is no virtue
Its a defense
against years
of conditioning
and violence

Don’t worship
me while
you bruise
me in
spirit and womb

Don’t walk
all over my being
and
put me on
a pedestal
or engrave my name
in a temple or tomb

Don’t see my
patience as my strength
its a veneer
a sheer facade

Inside I’m as
real as you are
I’m human
and all flawed

Don’t attribute to me
the glory in being
worshiped as
a goddess

I too crumble
under pressure
and duress

Don’t
think my
love is
unconditional and
so is forgiveness

I too need
love and care
when life’s a mess

Don’t give me the labels of
an emblem of perfection
or a multitasking wonder

I am entitled to succumbing to
impulses and committing
a blunder

Don’t give

me a day to express

myself

And then an year

on a dusty shelf

Don’t burden
me with medallions
and tags
these were
never true

Just love me
accept me
and walk
with me

I’m as good
as bad;as real as you

This is for http://www.womensweb.in/articles/celebrating-girls-celebrating-women/

The Outsider

From the very beginning she knew

She had a mold to fit into

She had to don the role

A part she couldn’t misconstrue

She was to be a taciturn spectator

Silence was to be her haven

Silence could be her only weapon

She could be seen not heard

Couldn’t ever muster the courage

To voice her opinion or get a word

She could do as she pleased

As long as she bent and appeased

There was an imperceptible wall

Which she couldn’t ever thaw

She could call nothing her own

She knew it was her destiny to stride alone

When the cobwebs of time settled on her soul

Her mind hardened like dusky coal

She lost her desire and candor

To possess and connect with the world outside

She was happy being a solitary bystander

Choosing her own pace and stride

Who Is She ?

With her head held high in pride

She sails through life’s bumpy ride

Her enigmatic face

never betrays a shadow or grimace

She leads a fearless full life

She is a cherished daughter, mother and wife

She does the tight rope walk with a rare ease

Does her own thing yet manages to please

She fights on all fronts and multitasks

Yet she  never sits pretty on her laurels or in glory basks

She wears several hats with a rare grace

So much to do yet she has a smile on her face

She knows what she wants from life

She gets their without friction or strife

If you’re still wondering and want a clue

She’s the woman of today yes its even you …

 

 

 

Of Drawing Boundaries

What is it that stops us from standing up for ourselves ? Why are we so scared of asking for something that is rightfully ours ? I’ve noticed this more among us women . We have no qualms about standing up for others, but when it comes to our own selves we seldom gather courage to speak up..Why don’t we draw boundaries around ourselves and not allow people around us to violate them.. Talking to a few friends and acquaintances gave me an insight into why we women react like this.Most of them thought drawing boundaries was akin to creating walls for them which they can’t dream of doing.. Others were of the view we women are taught to nurture relationships as a result we lump a lot whether at work or in our personal lives .. Why don’t we realise we’re doing nobody a favour with this sort of passive approach.If we don’t learn to stand up for ourselves who would .Where has this learned helplessness come from ? It’s obviously a lot to do with the way we are reared.. and a lot to do with stereotypes that are reinforced- Girls should be patient, shouldn’t be aggressive, they should be feminine and the onus is on them to keep a family together.If a girl is at the receiving end of eve-teasing , she must have invited it with her behaviour .Why is it in all these cases the onus is on the woman, the men seldom have any responsibility ( no wonder men in our society seldom grow up!). I wonder why no one says the same thing for men..Their anger is justified, their outbursts have a rationale..for them its ok to be angry…Are women superhuman beings? Why does our society make womankind carry the burden of such unrealistic and unhealthy expectations ..Women too have a right to express their anger and stand up for themselves…if only we could shed these sky-high expectations and treat women and men on an equal footing the world would be a better and brighter place