A few weeks back, before the lockdown, when people could socialize without fuss, I was cooped up at my friend’s house playing video games. During one of those moments when your attention wavers due to no explicable reason, my mind shifted from the video game I was playing to a conversation that my friend’s mother was having on her phone a few feet away from us. Apparently, some friend of hers was asking her to suggest a birthday gift for her young nephew. Before giving her answer, my friend’s mother said something very interesting – “is it a boy or a girl?”. It might seem like a very mundane question to ask, but to the conscious few, it betrays the presence of an environment deprived of gender neutrality. Why does one need to know the gender of the intended recipient before choosing what gift to buy?
Gender divisions have become so deep-rooted in Indian society that they have become a part of our psyche, with even highly educated people unknowingly falling prey to societal norms that have forced them to think that it’s wrong or unusual for boys to like what girls like, and for girls to like what boys like. Eyebrows are raised whenever a boy sheds a tear, wears a pink tee, speaks in a soft voice, keeps long hair, does household chores, has less facial hair, etc. and whenever a girl gets a short haircut, speaks in a gruff voice, plays a sport, doesn’t know how to cook, etc.
These small stereotypes tend to have bigger and more dangerous consequences with continued practice. Once anti-gender-neutral practices become the norm, gender equality takes a hit. One gender is seen as being more entitled and more powerful than the other. Apart from that, the significant LGBTQ population suffers too. Homophobia is considerably prevalent in the country. Any gender category apart from that of males and females is seen as non-existent and people claiming to belong to such a category are considered freaks and usually outcast from families and societies. One’s gender starts to determine how one deserves to be treated and what one is allowed to do to and what one isn’t allowed to.
Having entered a new decade this year, I think its time we shed these gender divisive stereotypes and norms, right down to the smallest possible level. No one was ever harmed by a boy wearing pink. Or a girl sporting a short haircut. Just let people be, and the world shall be a lot more liberating, happier and definitely a better place!
Stay Tuned, Stay Relevant!